Should Microsoft sell Windows and Office? This former exec believes so

Microsoft Redmond Office
(Image credit: Microsoft)

A former Microsoft executive has offered up some advice for current CEO Satya Nadella: spin off Windows and Office and focus on Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing crown jewel. 

Ben Slivka, a 14-year veteran at Microsoft who left in 1999, gave the unsolicited advice to Nadella in an interview with CNBC, saying: "The right thing probably is to bet the future on the cloud." 

“People running the Windows business put the mobile OS people in a box and constrained what they could do,” Slivka said. “They had their little ‘Start’ button and all this other bullshit. Microsoft rebooted its mobile strategy three times. Finally cellphone manufacturers and developers just gave up.”

Microsoft's wild ride

Satya Nadella took over the reigns at Microsoft in 2014 at a perilous time and has done an exceptional job, equal to – and perhaps even surpassing – Tim Cook at Apple

Since then, Microsoft's stock has risen from around $36 to $315, where it sits today, having  gained 51% in 2021 alone, outpacing the S&P 500's 27% rise. 

To achieve this turnaround, Nadella refocused Microsoft on rethinking how Office and Windows fit into its overall services business; gone were the one-time payments, replaced with recurring monthly (or yearly) fees to access Windows and Office 365.

On top of this, Nadella invested heavily in building out Azure and other enterprise-focused offerings to compete with Amazon's AWS and Google Cloud. By some estimates, Azure hold 20% of the cloud market, below AWS' 32% and above Google's 9%. 

Would spinning off Windows and Office work? 

According to analysts that CNBC spoke to, spinning off Windows and Office would make very little sense. Nadella has built significant and much-needed synergies between Microsoft's various businesses, in such a way that the rise of one boosts the others. 

Removing two of Microsoft's most longstanding and important products from the mix would likely have a negative impact on Azure and other services, which can be bundled together and sold to companies. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.