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Big changes and possible cuts prompt Microsoft to publicly air Nadella memo

Gregg Keizer | July 14, 2014
3,100-word missive part 'Burning Platform' communique, part advertisement, argues one analyst.

Microsoft will announce its June quarter revenue on July 22, when analysts will hear Nadella go into more detail. "I'll say more then on what we are doing in FY15 to focus on our core," Nadella said.

"This is Nadella's first time rolling out a major strategy presentation," said Moorhead. "He obviously thinks it's important to get it to all stakeholders — employees, investors, partners, customers, the media — to signal that there are changes coming and explain why they'll make those changes."

Clearly, there will be changes at Microsoft.

" Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy," Nadella wrote. "Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed."

Many analysts put a spotlight on those lines, and others in the same paragraph, to conclude that headcount cuts are coming.

"The focused mission Nadella articulated does not need 130,000 people. Period. There are absolutely cuts coming, and they are likely to be brutal," said Ben Thompson, an independent analyst who covers technology on his Stratechery website (paid subscription required for Thompson's analysis).

Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, is less sure that Microsoft would reduce its workforce, but believes it's on the table. "There are also hints towards the end of [Nadella's] email about efficiency, streamlining and flattening in the organization, which could be read innocuously as having the same team operate more efficiently but could also be seen as an indication that some cuts may be coming," Dawson wrote on his Beyond Devices blog yesterday.

It's hard to believe other companies, like Apple and Amazon, would want to take an internal discussion public, much less take the time to promote such a move. So what's Microsoft's rationale?

Because it's not Apple or Amazon, said Adrian of Gartner. "Those companies are not undergoing the kind of transformations that Microsoft is," he said.

Nadella's email can be read on Microsoft's website.


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