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Some of what Microsoft is doing mirrors changes that Apple and Google already have executed.
For instance, Apple put its iOS software for iPhones and iPads along with its operating system for its Mac computer under one executive, Craig Federighi, in a shake-up last year. And Google's Android software for mobile devices and Chrome software for laptops were aligned under the management of the same executive, Sundar Pichai, for the first time during the spring.
Now, Microsoft hopes to mimic the success of its rivals in a world that increasingly revolves around mobile devices and Internet services. Gartner estimates nearly 867 million devices running on Android software will be shipped worldwide this year, up from 505 million last year. Worldwide shipments of Windows-powered devices are expected to total nearly 340 million this year, down from 346 million last year, Gartner forecasts. But those Windows machines are primarily PCs, not smartphones or tablets. Apple will ship about 296 million iOS and Mac devices this year, up from 213 million last year, Gartner predicted.
Part of Microsoft's problem is a matter of perception. Even though it remains one of the world's most profitable companies, its stature has been steadily diminishing in tech and investment circles.
Ballmer's reorganization "should help Microsoft slow its decline, but the question remains whether it will be enough to help it climb into new markets," Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett said.