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Microsoft

At the mention of Microsoft, the first person to come to mind for most would be Bill Gates, however in 2014 John W. Thompson made headlines by becoming the first African-American chairman of the company.

Let’s be clear. You don’t ascend to a leadership role at of one of the most influential tech companies of the age without being someone who can get things done and Thompson has had a storied history in the world of technology.

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Born and raised in South Florida as the son of a teacher and postal worker, Thompson received a scholarship to play the clarinet for a Missouri college marching band before transferring to Florida A&M to study his real passion, business.

The no-nonsense star spent 28 years with IBM in sales, marketing, and software development before being given the role of GM of the Americas business unit. From there, he worked for 10 years at Symantec and resigned as company’s chief executive in 2009.

At 64 years old, Thompson brings decades of experience to his new role, which is probably one of the many reasons Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, sought him out.

Thompson is known around the industry for his tremendous level of strategic insight and as one of the best communicators to work with for his ability to take complicated messages about technology and make them understandable.Thompson_print-857x1200

His ability to make tough decisions may be exactly what Microsoft needs as lately, it has had a very scattered business approach of trying to be everything to everybody, without having a real hit product or service in any one area.

At the time of his appointment, Thompson was largely quiet about his plans to help turn the company around, but has been challenging his new team with questions like, “Is this strategy right, and more importantly is the team executing well against that strategy?”

To be fair, only time will tell where he takes Microsoft next, but we’ll all be eagerly awaiting his next boss move.

-Staff | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

I admit it. I was a Zune owner and not an early adopter either. I waited for the second generation Zune 80, because I wanted to make sure all the bugs were worked out before I shelled out hard earned cash for what was suppose to a better solution than the Apple monopoly. It had everything that I wanted and that the iPod lacked (at the time): a FM tuner, wireless sync, multiple audio formats, easy PC file transfer, a cherry color that would let me stand out among the pod people and a price tag that seemed reasonable for the features.

I loved my Zune until it suddenly died 8 months after I purchased it. I was pretty forgiving when it took the repair center a month to ship me a new one, but was devastated when the replacement died 4 months later. Heartbroken, I crawled back to my old scandisk MP3 player (which still works to this day, by the way) and didn’t invest in a new music player until I got my IPhone 4.

Fast-forward to present day. Microsoft has just released the new Surface RT tablet and yes, it is appealing. It comes preloaded with Microsoft Office, a USB 2.0 port, a micro card slot and a HD video out port. Plus it includes a sleek built-in kick-stand and an optional rainbow selection of thin as a dime keyboard covers. The $499 (plus accessories) price tag is a tad high, but the functionality would allow me to regift my netbook (which is heavier than I would like) and iPad 2 (which isn’t as functional for my business life as I need).  On the surface, the Surface seems perfect (wow I made a pun), but I’m afraid to be taken in by glittery promises again.

I know it will be a long while before the MS App store has a decent amount of apps that I would want to download and although the Surface had gotten some strong reviews there are still some product bugs to be worked out. I might be willing to take the plunge if this was all that worried me. My big concern is what is likely to happen if the Surface doesn’t claim the type of market share that it needs to gain over the next year. If we let Zune be our historical guide; it will be killed off once if it appears that people aren’t adopting fast enough. That makes good financial business sense, but a terrible brand loyalty building tool.

Competition breeds innovation. And, Microsoft has come out swinging with Surface. It is a cool product that offers the right amount of business and play functionality. I would hardly classify this as a David vs. Goliath tale (sense I would classify both Microsoft and Apple as Goliath), but might it might turn out to have a Tortoise and Hare ending.

And, deep down I am rooting for the hare. Maybe Apple has run too many commercials that started out funny, but years into the joke feel a little like bullying now. As for me, I think I will give the Surface a try although I may wait for the January 2013 Surface Pro release. Fool me twice… shame on me right?

À bientôt