At Trade Show, Microsoft's Absence Looms Large

Microsoft did not make an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2014, nearly absent from the trade show for the first time in many years. Audie Cornish talks with David Linthicum, a blogger at InfoWorld, about where things stand with Microsoft.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish and it's time for All Tech Considered.

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CORNISH: The party is over at the Consumer Electronics Show, the electronics industry's annual mega-gathering. Cleanup at the Las Vegas Convention Center is well underway. Now, observers noted the absence of Microsoft, which for years had a major presence. And there was talk about who will replace Microsoft's outgoing CEO, Steve Ballmer. In an interview, Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company, said he will not take the job, as had been rumored.

David Linthicum blogs for InfoWorld and joins us to talk about Microsoft. Hi there, David.

DAVID LINTHICUM: Hey.

CORNISH: So let's talk about Microsoft's absence at CES. It's not the first time so how big a deal was it?

LINTHICUM: Wasn't a big deal because I think that a lot of companies, Apple included, have found that there is diminished value in going to CES - which has largely become kind of an innovative, consumer oriented, electronics show. The, you know, laptop, the tablet computer market, the phone market just moves too quickly to just catch up one time a year.

CORNISH: And then this other issue in the news, the CEO of Ford Motor Company deciding not to go to Microsoft. Can you talk a little bit about why people thought he'd be such a good candidate?

LINTHICUM: Well, Microsoft needs some new leadership obviously. They've gone off course on a few things and their revenues are down, and they're not as innovative and creative as they were in the past. And so, people have been looking for a new leader to come in there and take the company off in a different direction.

And the CEO of Ford, obviously a very polished - more what you think of in terms of what a CEO is. So him not taking the job really means that it's going back out to more people that are more like Steve Ballmer and more like Bill Gates, which...

CORNISH: Meaning programmers or...

LINTHICUM: Meaning people who are technology people; people who understand their own systems and really aren't polished CEOs.

CORNISH: So let's talk a little bit more about the technology. What are the key things that a new CEO is going to need to focus on? And in this, I want to get a sense of how things have been going for Microsoft, especially on the consumer electronics side.

LINTHICUM: Well, they've had some successes but mostly it's been fairly underwhelming. So, you know, you can certainly point to the success of the Xbox. And that is certainly a huge consumer product that's very popular out there, almost a religious following.

However, in the tablet computing space, in the operating system space, in the phone space, they haven't been making the splash I think they thought they would make. And they've been missing a lot of the creative and innovative aspects that Microsoft has really kind of dominated at in the past. And they've become kind of a fast follower in the space.

And so they wait to see, you know, who's going to be innovative in that area and try to get in there and compete with them. And while that used to work maybe 15, 20 years ago, it doesn't work now.

CORNISH: So at this point, but when do people expect to hear some sort of announcement about a new CEO?

LINTHICUM: I'd say it's probably going to be within the next 30 days. It has to happen sooner rather than later because, typically, the new CEO is going to set the direction. He's going to bring in his own set of innovators and leaders, and start moving the company in new areas and new spaces. And that needs to occur now in order to have any kind of impact within the next year.

CORNISH: David Linthicum, he's the senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners and a blogger for InfoWord. Thanks so much for talking with us.

LINTHICUM: Thank you very much.

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