Terry Myerson, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, recently made a big change: He left his job managing the Microsoft Exchange Server business and moved to oversee the Windows Mobile team. I had the opportunity to interview Myerson last week about this change and its impact on the Exchange and Windows Mobile businesses.
First, I asked Myerson what he viewed as his biggest success in his seven years with the Exchange team. His reply was simple: “taking the Exchange business from a messaging underdog to a market leadership position. Exchange is now running in 81 of the Fortune 100 companies and is considered one of the most mission critical systems within corporate IT. Over the past seven years, Exchange has earned the reputation of being a rock-solid messaging system and that is something I, and the team of extremely talented people within the Exchange product, are very proud of.” He followed up by saying that the biggest success of Exchange overall is the team that builds the product. “Internally and externally, the Exchange product team is known as a high-performing team, and we take great pride in this,” Myerson said. The Exchange team has a consistent record of engineering excellence, from its early adoption of automated error reporting to its pioneering Best Practices Analyzer tool, so I think Myerson’s enthusiasm here is well justified.
What about the iPhone? I asked Myerson how he responded to the common argument that Windows Mobile is doomed by Apple’s rapid expansion into the mobile device market. He had a strong riposte: Although Apple has sold nearly 10 million iPhones since its launch, Windows Mobile sold more than 18 million licenses during the fiscal year, and Microsoft’s partners introduced more than 30 new Windows Mobile phones to market in 2008.
Myerson also pointed out that the buzz around Google’s Android platform and the iPhone help to raise awareness of smartphones and why they’re better than the simpler phones from vendors such as Nokia and Motorola that now dominate the worldwide device market. I tend to agree that there’s still huge room for growth in the smartphone market; interestingly, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ remarks during Apple’s third-quarter earnings call claimed that the iPhone outsold RIM’s BlackBerry line in the quarter. The fact that Jobs, who is notoriously cautious about what he says during earnings calls, mentioned this fact certainly makes it sound as if RIM is the real target for Apple’s growth, giving Microsoft a bit more maneuvering room.
Next, I asked Myerson where he thought Windows Mobile could grow and thrive, considering the recent market success of the iPhone. “Microsoft’s strategy for Windows Mobile has always been to nail tough business requirements while not forgetting that all of us go home to our families and friends,” Myerson said. “And we want people to carry a single phone that crosses those two worlds seamlessly.” He mentioned Microsoft’s acquisition of Danger, the maker of the popular Sidekick line of mobile devices, as an example of a move that Microsoft’s made to benefit mobile users. Given that we haven’t yet seen any Microsoft products based on the Danger acquisition, I interpret that to mean that we’ll see some Danger-based stuff in the forthcoming Windows Mobile 7 release.
Finally, I asked about “co-opetition,” the practice of both cooperating with and competing against third-party vendors. Exchange has long been an example of this behavior. By licensing Exchange ActiveSync to Windows Mobile competitors, Myerson did something that was good for the Exchange bottom line but was not well-loved by the Windows Mobile team. I asked how Myerson thinks Exchange will use co-opetition in its future product strategies, especially with respect to hosted Exchange offerings—a new area for Microsoft but one where the company already has established partners. His answer was direct: “Exchange will continue to do what is right for our customers—when you are at the heart of unified communications you have an obligation to do so. This means working with competitors when appropriate and growing into new businesses like Exchange Online.” He continued by saying that “Microsoft is a partner-led company, and we will continue to rely heavily on and work closely with our partners, be it in a server or online business.”
One of Myerson’s legacies in Exchange is his reputation as someone who gets things done; he’s not afraid to make decisions and act on them. I think this is exactly what Windows Mobile needs, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business (MCB) unit evolves under his leadership. What do you think Windows Mobile needs to do to thrive against its competitors? Post a comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know.