First, there was the recent management shakeup inside Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, which covers everything from its successful Xbox 360 console to its, ahem, less successful Zune media players and Windows Mobile smartphone operating system. Voluntarily or not (depends who you ask), division President Robbie Bach and Chief Technology Officer J Allard have left the division.
Then, following Bach and Allard's departures, there was the canceling of Microsoft's ill-conceived Kin social-networking phone project. Between the platform's limited feature set – Kin phones can't run third-party apps -- and its fragmenting of Microsoft's mobile efforts -- the Kin project was a pretty questionable initiative from the start. If nothing else, Microsoft deserves credit for pulling the plug on Kin once initial sales, as many predicted, proved terrible.
And now we have news that Microsoft has acquired a license from ARM Holdings
Thus far, ARM's only given out a handful of microarchitecture licenses, with some prominent names being Qualcomm
Countering the iPhone and iPad
The bottom line is that you don't get an ARM microarchitecture license unless you have some major plans for it. And this would sure be a good time for Microsoft to have some big plans for creating low-power ARM chips. Apple's
But a bigger concern for Microsoft, without a doubt, has to be how much thinner, lighter, and less power-hungry the A4-powered iPad is than just about any netbook running Windows. The iPad is in prime position to take a big chunk out of the netbook market, and a successful Microsoft response will require big changes in hardware as well as software. Future Microsoft netbooks and tablets will need to eschew the relatively power-hungry Intel
Will Microsoft succeed in righting its ship? I'd say that there are still a lot of big question marks. But thanks to recent moves, there are at least reasons for investors to think that Mr. Softy is no longer asleep at the wheel.