It's presumptuous of me to give advice to Microsoft. After all, when was the last time I pulled in $16 billion in a single quarter? The only thing that makes me worthy of such a stunt is that you, the loyal Redmond readers, are vocal about your opinions and are some of Microsoft's biggest customers. Here are some of my ideas and a couple of yours.
Strengthen Skype. I can't claim this as my idea. Half of it came from a cab driver in Atlanta when I was at the recent TecháEd show. When he heard I was in tech, he talked about Facebook and how a new company will reinvent social networking. That's when it came to me -- Microsoft could use Skype as the core of a new social-networking technology. My guess? The folks at Microsoft, who in most cases are far smarter than me, have already thought of this.
End the Google/Apple Obsession. Back in the day, Novell was obsessed with Microsoft. Instead of branching out into uncharted territory, Novell tried to match Redmond's every move -- as it did when it bought WordPerfect. Big mistake. Novell only really came back when it went where Microsoft wasn't: the Linux market.
Microsoft is doing the same thing with Google, trying to counter whatever Google does. The best you can hope for with this strategy is to split the market. How about inventing new markets?
Microsoft is also overly obsessed with Apple, going after the iPod with the Zune and the iPad with Windows tablets -- and now Windows 8 looks more like the iOS than it does Windows itself.
Unleash the Research Hounds. Microsoft has brilliant pure researchers but isn't good at turning research into ground-breaking products.
Fix Windows 7 Problems in Windows 8. Windows 7 is good, but not perfect. Microsoft should focus first and foremost on fixing glitches -- and, only after those are fixed, on new features.
Brag About UC. The Microsoft unified communications (UC) lineup can revolutionize how your office operates. Microsoft should brag more about this winner.
Set Your Execs Free. For most of its history, Microsoft execs really let fly. They spoke freely and passionately. In recent years, it seems only Steve Ballmer is allowed to really tee off.
Make Licensing Easy. Trying to unravel Microsoft software licensing is like mapping the human genome -- you need a supercomputer and Ph.D. to get the job done.
Simplify Windows. Reader Gerald wants "to see a much more streamlined version of Windows that's stable, secure and not flaky -- and made available to those that want it (Windows Minimal, Windows Basic, Windows X or something like that)." I agree.
What would you do if you were Steve Ballmer? Answers welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.