Last week, Microsoft Corporation announced its third structural reorganization in a year, bringing its Windows and development tools divisions together into a single unit that will be co-led by vice presidents Paul Maritz and Jim Allchin. The men are as incongruous as their once separate divisions, leading some to wonder whether both of them will see out the year in the new position. But the real question, of course, concerns the point of bringing together these two divisions in a day and age when the U.S. government is accusing the company of leveraging its Windows monopoly to enter new markets. Microsoft says that the truth is somewhat less exciting: It's all about Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), the company's upcoming Web services strategy that's based on the Windows 2000 platform.
"The \[two product teams\] are focusing on NGWS; \[they\] have synergies there and they will be coordinating their efforts,'' a Microsoft spokeswoman said this weekend. "\[Paul Maritz\] is the architect and \[Jim Allchin\] is the builder. \[Maritz\] will look at the business planning and \[Allchin\] will take the decisions they make together, the business planning, and make that a reality."
In the confrontational political environment of Microsoft, however, it's unclear how well these people can work together. Maritz is an ultra-intelligent can-do guy who harbors little affection for fools. Allchin, meanwhile, oversaw development of Windows 2000, a product that took over three years to come to market, causing numerous strategy shifts as the goals for the OS changed again and again to meet customer requirements. With the current reorg, Maritz will plan the company's platform strategy and Allchin will implement it, so it's likely that the two will begin butting heads almost immediately. Regardless, the plan is to bring the power of Windows 2000 to a variety of platforms, including consumer desktops ("Whistler Windows 2001") and Web-based business services (NGWS). And though details of NGWS are somewhat fuzzy right now, Microsoft will reveal its plans for the future in May.
Previously, Microsoft reorganizations seemed to at least make some sense, demarking the company on customer-oriented or product lines. For example, Microsoft had previously organized itself with divisions responsible for Windows, application products, and Internet products. A customer-driven reorganization saw divisions responsible for home and consumer products, business products, and the like. This latest reorg, however, seems doomed to failure, especially when infighting and political considerations are factored into the equation. Expect another corrective reorganization by the end of the year