Microsoft CEO Ballmer to be bounced in 2010? No way

Summary:I don't make a habit of commenting on other pundits' prediction lists. But I am going to make an exception and call out Newsweek's claim that Microsoft will oust CEO Steve Ballmer in 2010, the year of his tenth anniversary as Microsoft CEO. Do you agree?

I don't make a habit of commenting on other pundits' prediction lists. After all, a prediction is just a person's opinion, and who knows what might happen in a year or 10....

But I am going to make an exception and call out one of Newsweek's 10 Tech Predictions because I am 99.999 percent sure it's out and out wrong. Newsweek claims Microsoft will oust CEO Steve Ballmer in 2010, the year of his tenth anniversary as Microsoft CEO.

Newsweek lists a number of valid criticisms about Microsoft: Its late-to-the-party arrival on search and MP3 players; its tanking Windows Mobile marketshare; the Vista "fiasco." And yes, Ballmer was the top dog during all of these debacles. Newsweek claims "investors must be getting restless" and will soon will "be calling for a shakeup." (As readers aof this blog know, there already are a number of very vocal Ballmer critics, including a number of you, who've been agitating for a shake-up for a while now.)

But a Ballmer ouster in 2010? That's click-bait, pure and simple. Ballmer has said he intends to stay on as CEO for close to another decade. The Microsoft board, headed by Ballmer buddy Bill Gates, would have to fire him to get rid of him. And who would the board put in place? The in-house choices aren't very appealing (as my podcasting partner in crime Gavin Clarke and I recently noted during our year-end Microbite episode). And Microsoft is notorious for being an unwelcoming and hostile place for outsiders to succeed.

Lots of shareholders -- including many Microsoft employees -- have been unhappy with senior leadership for the past few years, especially because of Microsoft's stagnant stock price. But Ballmer took some steps in 2009 (axing 5,000+ employees, trimming travel budgets and reining in other costs) that Wall Street liked. Windows 7 has been well-received by users and company watchers. And Ballmer escaped making one of the biggest mistakes of his career by not buying Yahoo, and instead convincing that company to sign on for a partnership, which if approved by antitrust authorities, will get Microsoft what it wanted without the Redmondians having to pay $50-odd billion.

I'm not defending Ballmer out of favoritism. I haven't been allowed to interview SteveB for more than 10 years. ("He's a busy guy," I hear, as each request I make is denied, and he's shuffled off to talk to the same group of folks for the umpteenth time.)

I do think Ballmer is blamed for many decisions that were put in place by Gates. As more and more Friends of Bill are pushed out and/or move on -- replaced by Friends of Steve -- we'll see a different Microsoft emerge. The coming decade will have SteveB's stamp on it more than the previous one did. And, for better or for worse, that will mean a Microsoft that's more driven by MBAs than geeks.

What's your take? Is Ballmer on his way out? Should he be? [poll id="37"] Anyone come to mind who would make a better Microsoft CEO than Ballmer? Softie or not... who would be good at steering the good ship Redmond through the next set of challenges?

Topics: Operating Systems, Banking, Browser, Enterprise Software, Legal, Microsoft, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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