With Ballmer gone, and following its shock acquisition of Nokia, what does the future look like for Microsoft?
Microsoft. A company that for the past two weeks has dominated the tech and business press worldwide - first, with the shock departure of CEO of 13 years Steve Ballmer; secondly, with the news Microsoft had bought Nokia for a whopping £7.2billion.
The two together have created ripples of conversation about whether this may herald the beginning of a new era for Microsoft, bringing it the renewed consumer appeal critics say it has so badly needed.
For some years now, tech-device darlings such as Apple and Google have hogged the innovation limelight, rolling out products and services consumers lusted after, from the iPhone to the iPad to Google Glass and now the iWatch.
Solid, dependable Microsoft has struggled to keep up. Despite staying fairly strong on market share, it was low on hype and attention, illustrated all the while by intermittent dips in sales and profits.
The problem? Despite churning out products and services that did the job just as well as any other (if not better), the tech giant focused too much on the next big thing in tech and not enough on consumer-viability - from how it looked, to how likely it was to be used, to whether or not it satisfied a genuine need.
As a company, it operates too much on a tech-first as opposed to consumer-first basis. This is not to say Microsoft does not produce technically brilliant products; it does. Microsoft's problem is it's not always realistic about the application.
Take its advertising business, for instance. It is unique in that it operates across various platforms, allowing advertisers to connect at more touchpoints than any other software provider - but it is still missing a trick. The potential is not there yet to use these platforms to their full combined potential; it is not yet fully applicable. The same applies with other parts of the business.
At MediaCom, questions have abounded over the past week as to Microsoft's next step - only the day before the Nokia buyout was announced, we were questioning the likelihood of acquisitions and mergers, as I'm sure were many others in the industry.
This, or something like it, was a predictable move. It has been clear for some time Microsoft needed a new lease of life. Ballmer's departure offered the catalyst - and the company has struck while the iron was hot.
Microsoft now owns the device manufacturer that was championing its own mobile operating system, Windows Phone (WP), on its newest smartphones. These devices are in the only area of the Nokia business that is currently growing - but it's a smart move nonetheless. Although WP represents just 2% of the smartphone market, many feel there is space for a third major player alongside Apple and Google.
Could the acquisition of Nokia see Microsoft finally wielding the kind of new product that matches the hype and consumer appeal Apple and Google have till now monopolised?
By making its mobile business as competitive as its Xbox-fronted games console business, Microsoft will certainly gain back considerable ground lost to Apple and Google, reentering the innovation game as a serious contender.
It's not all rosy though - Nokia has been in decline; an issue Microsoft needs to address fast to make Windows-powered devices as desirable as iPhone and Android.
What's more, this continued focus on products and services does lend more weight to the rumour that Microsoft may step away from its advertising business. This all remains to be seen, as does who will take the helm from Ballmer.
To prosper, Microsoft does not need a tech guru to take over, nor an out-and-out businessman. It needs a creative visionary, who will have a clear grasp of what excites and inspires the consumer - of the next big thing.
At this critical time, if it can find the right leader, we may see Microsoft propelled back to the forefront of device innovation within the not-too-distant future.Suggest a correction