Microsoft gets real, admits its device share is just 14%

'We can't stick with the status quo,' says COO Kevin Turner; argues that the small share offers 'a much bigger opportunity than we've ever had'

Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, acknowledged the reality that his company now faces, pointing out that the firm's operating systems power a small fraction of all devices worldwide.

"The reality is the world's shifted, the world's evolved," Turner said in a presentation today at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs through Thursday in Washington, D.C. "We now measure ourselves in the total device space. And in the total device space we have a 14% share of devices, total worldwide devices."

Turner's 14% came from a new forecast released last week by Gartner, which estimated Windows' share of the shipped device market last year was 14%, and would decrease slightly to 13.7% in 2014.

GeekWire first reported on Turner's presentation earlier Monday.

But Turner, the czar of Microsoft's sales, was bullish even in the face of that daunting number. "We have a much bigger opportunity than we've ever had in the past to grow our mutual businesses, but we have to rethink how we look at our businesses," he said.

Gartner's latest projections, a revision of earlier forecasts this year, said that while Microsoft's operating systems on smartphones, tablets, desktop and notebook PCs, and the plethora of hybrids and 2-in-1s, will power an increasing number of devices this year and next, the gains will be smaller than it projected six months ago. Android will dominate, Gartner said, with a 48% share this year, will Apple's iOS and OS X will account for 11.1% of all devices.

Microsoft has historically measured success, Turner said, by its ability to sell Windows licenses to computer OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). But even though it still does that, and successfully -- Windows ends up on more than 90% of all new personal computers, Turner said -- things are much different now.

"We can't stick with the status quo," said Turner. "We have to redefine how we think about the market."

To do that, Turner echoed comments CEO Satya Nadella has made in the five months he has held the company's reins, most recently last week in a 3,100-word memorandum he distributed to employees, and which Microsoft published for all to read. In his messages, Nadella has referenced the challenges Microsoft now faces, although not in the detail that Turner did today.

"When you're in a 90-plus-percent share world, you have a protected, preserved mindset," said Turner. "But when you have a 14% share you have to have a challenger mindset (emphasis in original)."

To get into that new mindset, Turner argued, Microsoft and its partners must practice disruption -- "We have to think like a disrupter," he said -- differentiate Microsoft's products and services from the competition, and be quick about it all. "We have to all have the ability to get there fast. And if we're going to fail, fail fast," Turner added.

"We know we still have a lot of work to do," Turner admitted. "But we are making progress on this transformation. In fact, we're making really, really good progress. We want to go from 14% [device share] to 18%, from 18% to 25%, from 25% to 30%. That's the beauty of this model ... [the opportunity] is much bigger than anything we've had in the past."

Microsoft's operating systems may have powered only 14% of all devices that shipped last year, but its COO trumpeted the opportunity for growth rather than dwell on the small share. (Image: Microsoft.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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