Ballmer to retire < 12 months. Waiting for new successor

Discussion in 'Windows Operating Systems' started by NSanity, Aug 24, 2013.

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  1. NSanity

    NSanity Member

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    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2013/aug13/08-23AnnouncementPR.aspx

    Gates is part of the team choosing the successor (almost obviously?).
     
  2. FiShy

    FiShy Member

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  3. ni9ht_5ta1k3r

    ni9ht_5ta1k3r Member

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    this is certainly a surprise with the launch of the xbox one and windows 8.1.
     
  4. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Not a surprise at all. Ballmer is incompetent, and shareholders have been calling for his head for a long time. Here's a thread from 2011 where, after Ballmer told shareholders to put up or shut up, people started to question if he was the right leader for the company.

    [edit] Re-reading that thread, he actually was telling shareholders to go shove it as far back as 2005! [/edit]

    As I said over in the Windows 8 thread, this is the best news for Microsoft in a long time. After many years of being nothing but a "me too" company, they've got a massive opportunity to push ahead once again and do something amazing. Gates fucked up when he thought the Internet was a passing fad, and Ballmer has just been stuck in the 90's. A new and modern boss is the best thing for the company.

    I'm very excited about this news, and the future potential for Microsoft.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2013
  5. karnophage

    karnophage Member

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    Would you take the job if given the opportunity Elvis?
     
  6. OldnBold

    OldnBold Member

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    Quite right .. Ballmer has also just presided over the worst Microsoft release ever (Windows 8).
     
  7. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    I'm about 20 years short on relevant experience (and nor could I ever be a CEO of a company that large - you dedicate your life to that sort of job, and I don't value my work enough to put it ahead of everything else and work those sorts of hours). I can think of at least 10 human beings off the top of my head who would all do an excellent job, however.

    I had high hopes for Ray Ozzie while he was at Microsoft, but their restrictive culture and slow-as-molasses movement finally got to him, and he bailed to form his own company. I can't blame the guy, but of all the new blood at Microsoft in a post-Gates era, he was the one I'd hoped would stay and bring about positive change.

    Craig Mundie was the other replacement for Bill Gates when Gates stepped down (and his role was ultimately split in two between Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie). Mundie was a total tool, much like Ballmer, and spent all his time just coming across like a total idiot (Forbes Magazine ran an article "What's Craig Mundie Been Smoking?" not long after he started, calling him "dim-witted").

    Vanity Fair ran their story called "Microsoft's Lost Decade" which detailed the long list of failures and complete lack of excitement about anything Microsoft has done in a post-Gates era, running as nothing but a "me too" company. Defenders of Microsoft said things like "But Bing!" ("we copied Google badly"), "But Windows Phone" ("we copied iPhone badly, and then got stomped by Google again"), "But XBox" ("we copied Playstation, and got stomped by Nintendo too").

    My biggest concern right now is that some tool with an ego who wants to make a name for themselves is going to swoop in and screw this up. Take a look at HP over the last few years, and the complete clusterfuck they've made out of picking their last 3 CEOs. What gives me a little hope is that Gates himself is going to choose Ballmer's successor, but even that worries me a little. For all his sins and imperfections, Gates was quite an amazing CEO in his time. However I still think he's somewhat stuck in the 90's as well. There was a real thinking shift in the last few years among successful companies that saw them embrace their competition and work together, rather than take the hard approach of wanting to dominate everything. Gates still has that "shark who smelled blood" mentality somewhat, and I sincerely hope that he isn't going to find a clone of himself, but truly someone who can take the company to great heights as the world shifts from PCs on desktops to an infinitely connected world where software is a commodity, and people have more choice than ever when it comes to how they use computers.

    People know me as a big Linux guy, and a bit anti-Microsoft. The truth is I used to be a huge Microsoft fan. I started my career setting up large Microsoft sites, and eventually the frustration of not being able to do what I (and more realistically, my customers) wanted to do without bleeding cash became too much, and I switched to Linux. I now roll out highly customised and specialised systems on Linux for people with niche requirements that Microsoft can never hope to meet. And the reason they can't meet them? Not because Windows can't do what they need it to do, but more realistically that Windows can't do it quickly enough without interfering with their business. The sorts of things I can make Linux do in mere minutes takes days on Windows because of painful licensing and ludicrous environment requirements to do simple, commodity things. One only needs to look at the kings of scale - eBay, Google, Amazon AWS, Rackspace, etc - to see why Linux is exploding in those markets. Markets where "software and services" is the sold product (precisely where Microsoft wants to be, understands they need to be, and has failed to get there courtesy of Ballmer).

    I'm not anti-Microsoft. I'm anti-Ballmer. And now that that clown is stepping down, I'm optimistic again about the company for the first time in a long time. A company with the bulk of Microsoft was never going to change for the better as long as people like him were at the top. Lord knows, some good people have tried their best. But it's clear that top-down change is needed.

    And clearly the shareholders agree - just look at the MSFT share price hike at the very moment that the announcement was made. That's the best news they've had in a while.
     
  8. broccoli

    broccoli Member

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    Surely when they have no control over what it runs or even whether it runs, they'll have less choice?

    It'll be interesting to see what happens.
     
  9. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    The point is that Microsoft dominated the desktop PC. At one point, if you wanted to get on to the Internet, you needed a desktop PC, and for the average Joe that meant needing to use a Microsoft product without choice.

    Question: How does one beat Microsoft on the desktop? Answer: you don't. Along comes the iPhone/iPad - a new way to get on the Internet. Along comes Android - like iPad, but vendor-independent, giving people an even cheaper way to get on the Internet.

    Microsoft's loss of "mind share" (while not as tangible as market share, it's something companies need to worry about when it comes to selling to the next generation) happened because they dug their heels in and refuse to budge from the desktop.

    Do people have the sorts of choice I'd ultimately like them to have? No, they don't. But the fact is that people can now get to anything on the Internet (whether it's as important as their netbanking, or as banal as celebrity trash fashion blogs and Facebook) without ever going near (or through) a Microsoft device - something nigh impossible just 10 short years ago.

    People don't have great choice today, but they have far better choice than ever before, simply because of mobile devices that other companies have done a much better job at producing, marketing and selling.

    And for the record - there are as many Ubuntu desktop PC users today as their are MacOSX desktop users (and many of them are businesses using Ubuntu on the desktop - I work for one). While not nearly as significant as the sorts of market share that even WindowsXP still holds, it's a far cry from personal and corporate Linux desktop use when Gates was at the helm.
     
  10. leck

    leck Member

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    I think i'm actually in the minority in thinking that for Ballmer being utterly insane and all, he actually didn't do a bad job of housekeeping at MS in the last few years and bringing in some pretty big changes. It's been time for him to move on for a while though as unfortunately, he is genuinely insane and they need, as elvis said so well, a modern thinker for the current business models. With the size of the company, there wasn't many 'good' choices and ballmer at least had company history on his side.

    A lot of their products are stepping up quite nicely, as well as playing nicer with third party/os which is a definite step in the right direction.

    developers developers developers, ahh the good ole days.
     
  11. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    "Housekeeping" isn't what a CEO does. A CEO leads. Housekeeping is the realm of a CFO or COO.

    As for "big changes", I fail to think of anything utterly amazing that happened under Ballmer's term (things that started under him, not things he inherited and continued to allow through). The few things that did were, once again, "me too" products where Microsoft had to make a presence in the market that was already being dominated by others.

    And as I've mentioned before, the general public only gets a glimpse from time to time of some of the amazing things that happen behind closed doors at Microsoft R&D, and yet we rarely see these things turned into commercial products (and when they do, we get second rate shit like Surface RT). You've got to wonder what the hell is wrong with the leadership of a company with nearly limitless resources who squash every new and great idea generated under their own roof.
     
  12. broccoli

    broccoli Member

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    It may have had windows as OS, but others could write software for it. That won't be an option any more. You'll get what you're given. There may be a choice of supplier, but less choice overall as to what you can or can't do.
     
  13. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    On Apple devices, sure. Let's also remember that Android is outselling iOS worldwide, and allows users to install any software they like from any source (grab an APK from anywhere or use alternative stores to Google Play Store).

    I'm free to run Firefox on Android to access my netbanking. Likewise I can run an app direct from my bank to access netbanking, and Google (or Apple, or Microsoft) don't have anything to do with it.

    A far cry from the days where Windows+IE was "the only way".
     
  14. OP
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    NSanity

    NSanity Member

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    Microsoft Research is definitely a skunkworks... pity they don't actually get to put products to market.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2013
  15. leck

    leck Member

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    I'd disagree with most of that (not simply for the sake of being difficult). A CEO, aside from being captain of the ship, is where the management buck stops and MS was in all sorts of trouble especially in the immediate pre/post gates period. A few badly placed legacies (ignoring mobile/web) and rapidly changing market forced them to rethink and re-implement their entire core business moving forward.

    Shareholders were looking for the same exponential growth and market share they had enjoyed previously in a rapidly changing landscape (as you mentioned with mobile devices, better OS alternatives) and MS were completely geared towards client/server, slow releases, long product life cycles and limited web focus, unattractive licensing models etc, which almost overnight became hindrances crippling them in the market. That's the inflexibility you mentioned. Add the inevitable 'loss' of an industry icon from the helm and having no real marketable alternatives at the time meant they were in for some damage control and direction change..

    There's been a lot of big changes which are reflecting out into their products. Their 'developer developer developer' focus has paid off in spades with a huge market share enjoyed by a mature .net platform, Windows azure is huge and a good example of the internal focus shift coupled with a viable alternative to gmail/google apps with office365 and the retirement of SBS ties a few of their brands up nicely. Big shifts to subscription models, much cheaper and more accessible software, continued evolution of the core products (office/windows etc) and throwing out a lot of trash. On top of that they managed to play at keeping up with the Jones' to avoid being shut completely out of emerging markets (explosive app stores etc). Also It's been a tough decade for business with various tech busts, gfc and generally shitty market conditions across the board and still managed to stay highly profitable in a market where everyone laughs at them. Not a mean feat.

    Ballmer was never going to be a heavy thinker/industry leader, but he was probably one of the safer bets for the job, had some (bad) public exposure and had been with the company forever. He also managed to not lose the company during his tenure. All in all it is time for him to go but his team has laid some good groundwork for some innovation :). For his rampant insanity, I think he did ok.
     
  16. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    If you said all of that in a world were Amazon AWS, a million mature, open source web frameworks and Google all didn't exist, I'd agree with you. Instead, everything you mention in context to what I mention here is all more of the same "me too" that Microsoft has become synonymous with.

    I completely agree that Microsoft cannot continue to deliver the same exponential share price that they did in the 90s, and that at some point they need to stabilise and be a more mature company. But under Ballmer, they stagnated. What was once an exciting and progressive company has become yet another corporate dinosaur.

    I find it exceptionally ironic that Microsoft has always had a chip on it's shoulder about IBM, and the fact that IBM were the dinosaurs and Microsoft the young new kids on the block. Looking over the last 25 years, all Microsoft have proven is that they've followed in IBM's footsteps all the way to the end. Starting out as exciting and innovative, going through the "big corporate bastard who dominates all" phase, getting kicked in the teeth by the next generation of more progressive companies, and eventually petering out into a "services" company with a good revenue that are just boring and uninteresting.

    Likewise, Microsoft used to be *the* place young software developers longed to work. Now all you read is a steady stream of people leaving Microsoft for more exciting places like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Imgur, Amazon and the like (worth noting that none of these companies use Microsoft development tools or frameworks).

    It is possible to provide stability, but still be exciting. eBay are a great example of a company that's been around for a long time, offer a "can never go down" service, and still manage to do very exciting things behind the scenes and keep good staff on board.

    To be fair to Ballmer - he could have done worse. Much worse. But shit, when I leave a company after twenty something years, I'd hope for a bit more than "yeah, he could have been worse, I guess". And lets put it into context - Microsoft are not some struggling nobody. They've got the cash, they've got the developers developers developers, and they've got a massive R&D department that keeps doing amazing things. And yet all we've had in a decade is "me too". Ballmer's ultra-conservative leadership is well past it's use-by date.

    [edit] I'm also getting a strong sense of de ja vu here. The last few threads over the last few years where articles have been posted suggesting Ballmer should go feature the same list of "positives" about him - the fact that Microsoft brought out Xbox, Bing, Azure and Office 365 under his tenure. Ironic that XBox still isn't making profit (it almost did, but the 360's chronic RRoD problem made sure it missed that mark and could have been avoided if they didn't cheap out on the design/construction process). And the rest of those products are all doing less than average in their respective markets, with competitors offer more features sooner and at less cost, representing far greater value.

    And then there's Vista, Windwos 8, Surface/Windows RT, and Windows Phone. They speak for themselves.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2013
  17. OldnBold

    OldnBold Member

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    Let's not forget that Android OS is Linux based, as well.

    Microsoft has not been reading the runes particularly well, lately. Partially because of Ballmer but also an inability to read the market.
     
  18. leck

    leck Member

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    gawd I can't believe i'm actually defending ballmer/microsoft but anyway, its an interesting discussion and I'll take one for the team.

    Most of the current OS web frameworks weren't around in any meaningful way when ballmer took the reigns, and neither was the web comparable to its current state. MS have been slow to innovate in regards to the larger market but they have brought their users products up to date in a big way from what they were beforehand. They now have strong revenue streams and competing products in just about every area that others are excelling in and they have the money/time/devs to keep reinforcing them over the long term.

    I think one of their biggest struggles is they were (are) simply too big with management processes out of tune with current times to innovate in the same way that the smaller agile startups can. Because of that, MS (and IBM) = glacial, opinionated (often incorrectly) and omnipresent = not cool to hipster young developers (the innovators/fresh eyes) who instead are attracted to the bright lights of the *next big thing*.com and the web market as a whole, being where the explosive growth is. IBM/Microsoft both still make absolute tonnes of money doing what they do and both invest heavily in r&d, startups, education etc, which cannot be a bad thing for the industry as a whole.

    The simple reality is the worlds changed an awful lot in a very short space of time and all the bigger companies are adapting slower than they need to. I think MS are transitioning quite well and they have spent the last ten years diversifying heavily into markets that simply didn't exist before then. Operating a big services company for easy, guaranteed profit is nothing to be ashamed of either, even if it is boring. Someone has to fund the failed yahoo buyout attempts and buy all these clever little startups only to shut their doors to the world while filing more patents ;)

    Agreed Ballmer could have done a lot better but he didn't do badly as a custodian ceo, which was my original point. He tripled revenue, doubled profit and changed the company focus and process dramatically. They're well placed now for a progressive leader to build on their presence in many market areas.

    As to the last paragraphs, I'm not quite sure what you expect from them. All the things you list are evolving products, which have strong user bases and in some cases whole industries behind them, all bearing the MS name. Xbox RRoD was a huge fuckup but no big hardware maker is immune to that and/or would have handled it differently. Consoles are all about market share as opposed to profit anyway and xbox has plenty of that so it's meeting its purpose well.

    Probably the last MS point is I can't really think of the last time MS innovated anything. Their entire business focus since day one has been on bringing other peoples innovations to the broad market. That's where they made literally all their cash. Now they have so many products across so many diverse markets and have such a monstrous capital base i don't really think they can be regarded as stalling because they haven't pioneered time travel yet. They have still had the rug pulled from under them because the market now vs the market 20 years ago is completely different, and their business processes are changing too slowly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013
  19. IKT

    IKT Member

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    An "awful lot in a very short space of time" because competing companies rose out of a lack of innovation on Microsofts front. It appears as though they were more than willing to just suck the milk out of Xbox, Windows and Office through to 2050 if they could, but that blasted Apple came along with ipod, iphone, ipad, OSX etc and Google came along with what appears to be everything and the kitchen sink.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013
  20. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Ballmer laughing at the iPhone pretty much sums up how out of touch he is. That one product makes more money than his entire business.

    Correct. And it's long overdue that the old management goes, and someone more in touch with the modern world is at the top.

    Ballmer's use by date was 10 years ago. His leaving is the single best thing that has happened to Microsoft in a long time. I sincerely hope Gates has the awareness required to choose a better CEO that fills in the shortcomings of both himself and Ballmer, and doesn't just pick yet another college poker buddy to stick at the top.

    [edit] New York Times: "Needed at Microsoft: A Catch-Up Artist".

     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013

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