Devices and services? Microsoft hiring remains software focused

Griffin Securities analyzed the more than 2,000 job openings at Microsoft and found that the lion's share of the vacancies are for software engineers.

Jay Greene
Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
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Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has said repeatedly that the company is morphing from a software company to a devices and services business.

But a new research report that analyzes the more than 2,000 job openings at the company suggests that software development still reigns supreme.

Griffin Securities scanned the job postings at Microsoft's careers Web site "in order to gauge the areas in which they are looking to add headcount as an indication of their product, functional, market or geographical priorities," Jay Vleeschhouwer, an analyst at the New York firm, noted in his report. Vleeschhouwer analyzed the language used in the job postings to see what words came up most often and in context to which products.

The report, first noted by the Wall Street Journal, found 1,620 software engineering openings, but just 199 hardware engineering posts. Of those hardware jobs, 35 are in the Xbox business and another 28 are posting for the company's new Surface tablet computer operations.

The firm also found that the phrase "streaming video" combined with "Xbox" showed up in nearly 50 posts. What does that mean? Well, maybe that Microsoft is working to boost the capability of its gaming console to even better compete with the likes of Roku, Apple TV, and other streaming media gadgets.

There has been plenty of speculation in recent months that Microsoft might offer its own branded smartphone. But Vleeschhouwer found that of the 103 open posts that mention "Windows Phone," none are listings for "hardware engineering." Indeed, 91 of those openings are software-related jobs.

The review of job listings may well indicate a push toward services. The business unit with the largest number of openings isn't Office, Windows, or Server and Tools. It's Microsoft's Online Services division. That group has 620 openings compared to 342 openings in Server and Tools, 308 in Office, and 246 in the Windows group.

Internationally, Microsoft seems to be expanding fastest in China, where it has 339 open positions, followed by India, with 176 vacancies. Vleeschhouwer notes that, in India, there were about 70 positions in technical services and customer services and support compared to 36 openings in software engineering.

The European country with the largest pool of openings is Germany, where there are 136 vacancies, followed by the United Kingdom with 108 openings, and France with 33 posts.

Of course, the report is all tea leaf reading in the end. The data may indicate strategic direction, or it may be a reflection of the current vagaries in the job market. Microsoft, as is its history, declined to comment on the speculation in the report.