Undoing Ballmer

Steve BallmerI first saw the news in a tweet from my friend Mark Twomey (@Storagezilla): Microsoft have just written off the entire Nokia handset business Steve Ballmer bought – citing this news article on Bloomberg

As usual, Mark digested this news like a surviving wild west gunfighter: shoot fast, shoot straight and without trying to untangle the “fancy talk” in Microsoft’s press release – attributed to CEO Satya Nadella:

We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family,” Nadella said. “In the near-term, we’ll run a more effective and focused phone portfolio while retaining capability for long-term reinvention in mobility.

Here’s my take on it:

1) The Windows Phone business is hopelessly behind Apple and Android with no way to catch up. Nadella has known this for some time but has not been able to make this move until now.

2) Windows Phone has been a huge distraction and productivity-limiter inside Microsoft where there was a culture house of cards win phoneencouraging employees to use Windows phones at work – and discouraging them from using Apple and Android phones.  For a company with a strategy to enable mobile computing, this was a major problem because many of Microsoft’s employees were behind the mobile curve using app-deficient Windows phones. This statement is likely inflammatory, but I stand behind it.

3) There are other Ballmer screw-ups that will be under the Microscope, including Surface. This is a much bigger problem because Surface tablet PCs are decent products that have some strong customer loyalty, but have been a big disappointment financially for Microsoft. The bottom line is that nothing has done more to sour Microsoft’s most important partnerships (HP, Dell and all other PC makers) than Surface. Not even the disastrous Windows 8 operating system. Windows 8 will soon be replaced by Windows 10, but the Surface remains as a disincentive for every company Microsoft needs to help bury the memory of Windows 8. As long as this idiotic competition exists, people will question the intelligence and management decisions from Redmond.

4) Microsoft will look at all of its hardware businesses differently, including Xbox. It would not surprise me to see a sale of the Xbox hardware business with the Surface business as a sweetener. Nadella clearly sees the need to focus on dev/ops services, apps and cloud. Hardwarxbox drive repaire, even successful gaming hardware, is a distraction and Nadella knows this. Maybe that will be next July’s bombshell.

Nespresso bliss coffee tech

There are many ways to bliss out on coffee in this world and my newest favorite way to do it is pictured below, the Nespresso Pixie.

The Nespresso makes terrific shots of espresso that you can have first thing in the morning to shake the cobwebs, mid afternoon when things get dull or in the evening when you are just trying to hang in there. Just stumble into the kitchen, drop in a capsule, press the button and watch it do it’s magic.  As they say, it’s all good.  The shots are hot, but not tongue searing and they have a nice layer of crema (aerated coffee foam) riding on top. There are a number of machines that will do this for you, but a lot of them cost a lot more or require you to mess around with the coffee a lot more. Nespresso is flat out the easiest way to make a great cup of espresso.

Nespresso is made by Nestle and it has a definite European mojo to it.  The unit is small, the capsules are small, the cups it pours are small and the buzz is definite but not harsh. You get a decent lift for a small amount of java and if you are like me, that’s important. What the heck, I wouldn’t bother  if it was just for decaf – I’d go for beer instead, but beer and coffee point me in opposite directions and there you have it.

The only hitch with Nespresso is that you have to get the capsules from Nestle, either over the web, or if you are lucky enough like we are to live near a boutique that sells them you can walk in and pretend you are in Switzerland. As far as I know, nobody else makes them. The business angle is pretty clear, get a customer to buy one and they buy coffee from Nestle the rest of their lives.  The capsules look like little space ships – they are metallic in a mix of gemstone colors and there are a 16 regular flavors all with ridiculous European names you will never be able to remember if you are over 45 – regardless of how much coffee you rev up your head with. Ristretto, Livanto, Volluto, Indriya, Rosabaya – they sound like Urugayan reindeer. Anyway you can buy these things by the hundreds and get fancy accessories like they probably had on the Orient Express. Here’s a picture of the one we have to help us pick out the perfect capsule:

They also have limited-time special flavors that you need to order before they run out. The corner drug pusher has nothing on these guys.

The idea is that you drop the capsule down into the miniature bowels of the machine like you are making a tiny orc or something. The mechanism for opening the front is cantilevered where you rotate the handle up and the front of the machine pushes outward where the handle had been. This in itself is a really cool little design detail that I appreciate every time.  When you pull the handle back down, the capsule seats in the machine where it is ready to have pressurized steam blown through it.  Three small holes are made in one end of the capsule and a grid of punctures go on the other end (the cup end). These apparently are the blow holes that the steam gets blasted through on the way to your cup. You push the button and the compressor kicks in. It doesn’t shake the house but it could wake up dog and shortly thereafter the desired result is in your hands. The next time you open the handle, the expired capsule drops into the receptacle of wasted capsules below.  It took either Swiss or German engineers to come up with this compact mechanical wonder.

In addition to the espresso machine, Nestle also makes Nespresso milk frothers for making lattes, cappuccinos and any other drink where foamy milk is used. Darn, if they don’t turn out great too. In addition to coffee, I’ve been using it to make milk for chai lattes and the results have been excellent.

We’ve had our Nespresso about a month so we don’t know how long it will last, but the quality of the coffee drinks has been top notch. Highly Recommended.

This blog post was 100% produced on my Microsoft Surface -all words and pictures.