February 19, 2013, 1:54 PM — You don't expect to hear shocking news coming out of the annual Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Sure, the biggest names in technology put in regular appearances at the conference--the CEOs of Apple and Yahoo among them, this year--but no one ever says anything close to controversial. You don't want to rile the investors, after all.
Microsoft CFO Peter Klein didn't get the memo.
Amid talk about the company's plans to transition Windows' desktop success to tablets and smartphones, he was asked what the company's "Plan B" is if the gambit failed. It's a perfectly reasonable query when you consider the difficulties Microsoft has encountered with both Windows 8 and the mobile arena thus far. Klein's response gave me pause.
"It's less 'Plan B' than how you execute on the current plan," Reuters reports him as saying. "We aim to evolve this generation of Windows to make sure we have the right set of experiences at the right price points for all customers."
Wait, what? No Plan B? I'm a reporter, not a corporate executive, but "no Plan B" doesn't exactly seem like a sound business strategy to me. So I decided to check in with a few experts for a reality check. Their replies were illuminating in more ways than one.
Calling shenanigans on "no Plan B"
"They undoubtedly have a Plan B," says Patrick Moorhead, the principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. Prior to his current role, Moorhead spent more than two decades in various strategy and product management roles within the industry, including an 11 year stint as the VP of Strategy at AMD. "All large companies do, or their strategy team should be shot. It's typically around acquisitions and pivots... basically, saying 'OK, I missed out on this, but what is the next big wave that I can get ahead of and own?'"
Rita McGrath, professor of business strategy at Columbia Business School, agrees that Microsoft has a Plan B pivot or two hidden up its sleeve--though the company may not realize it.