Microsoft CEO Ballmer to be bounced in 2010? No way

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Agreed

    Not often I say this MJ but I agree with you 100% :)
    Ballmer should stay - and he WILL stay.
    • Why do you think he should?

      His MO has been to milk every product for all it's worth. He's said those words to business students at more than one university.
      While "milking" his products, technology has moved on past him as newsweek noted.
      Whether that was the doings of Bill Gates behind the scenes or Steve Ballmer, he's the CEO and has to take responsibility for it.
      He should step down immediately and MS get a strong tech minded person at CEO.
      CEOs are not there for their accounting accumen. They are there to provide leadership and direction for the company and it's a technology company, not a financial services firm. He's failed miserably and any triumph he's had was only due to a lucky recovery from a situation he put them in, in the first place.
      Ballmer must go.
      • Give me proof!

        I bet SteveB hasn't said anything dumb since his
        infamous "iPhone won't sell" remark almost 3 years
        ago. Give him credit, he learns from mistakes.
        • You're giving SteveB too much credit

          I watched an interview with him where he was pooh poohing both Google
          and Apple as if those companies have not accomplished anything.
          Anyone listening to that bit of the interview would have thought this guy
          to be an idiot. (His head turned an interesting shade of purple when
          those "other" companies were mentioned.)

          The attention MS is getting lately due to them coming up with cool stuff
          is very little. (Yes, Bing was one.) A lot of the attention they get tends to
          be negative.
        • He didn't learn from his primary mistake...

          Microsoft still thinks they're in the business of selling shrink-wrapped software. People like ballmer are the reason they're refusing to adopt to a modern business environment.

          He has encouraged nothing new save a bunch of woefully misplaced mall stores since bill gates left, his entire tenure has consisted of riding the wave of projects that had yet to be finished prior to gates' departure.

          He's entirely reactionary, and while he is one of the most brilliant project managers in the industry, he is not executive material.
          • Mall stores now with fat, dancing idiots

            Ballmer, the metric is called BMI. Impose it.
          • Last time I was in one of their stores

            One of their experts had a bad case of BO.

            Didn't Ballmer order his employees to use deodorant? Unless he doesn't use it himself...

            Wintel BSOD
  • I agree, but...

    Ballmer will stay to preside on M$'s firesale as a consequence of not adopting OSS.
    And unlike Sun, nobody will ever touch its stinking code bloated corpse.
    Linux Geek
    • RE: Microsoft CEO Ballmer to be bounced in 2010? No way

      @Linux Geek

      There exist so a lot of motives in lieu of <a href="">xanax online</a> en route for not acquiesce along with you.
  • The whole Gates Crew should Go

    Way too many years for a group of people to control a company. You need fresh blood and ideas and as I have read, Ray Ozzie may not be long at MS because of the entrenched, unassailable Gates/Balmer way of doing things. It is time for a reset. Push that button!
    • I totally agree. What kind/size ego does it take....

      to stick with a formula that has long been outdated, and see the consequences of that, but to believe it's still the road to take?

      It's unbelievable. They just don't get it and never will....get new leadership in now. Windows could be SO much more if Ballmer had not milked it for so long...the entire product line for that matter.

      The last 2 versions are more like it, and yes that includes Vista, but they should have gotten there long ago in terms of what modularity they were able to pull off. I give the developers kudos cause what a mess they started with.
      • @xuniL_z

        The whole Vista debacle shows the contempt Microsoft had for it's
        customers. They could have done much better and Windows 7 proves it.
        • Except not.

          Your logic is very, very flawed.

          "They could have known their mistakes before they made them."

          I suppose that is true, in a totally improbable way. You sound like an academic (read: someone who has never heard of a deadline).
          • Except

            [i]"They could have known their mistakes before they made them."[/i]

            Except I don't see that quoted in Axsimulate's post, which it looks like you're responding to. So you either didn't read it properly or you don't know where to respond in the tree.
            Wintel BSOD
          • @Spiritusindomit

            Take off those rose colored MS glasses for a minute and really take a
            look at Vista then look at Win7. You may think Vista is/was great, but
            the world don't agree with you. Microsoft knew what they were doing.
            Just go back and read interviews from MS officers and see how smug and
            arrogant they were about Vista. Then when Vista flopped, they got off
            there butts and produced Win7, which has overwhelming good reviews.
            Vista was the product of a smug and arrogant company treating it's end
            users with contempt. Only when the users voted with their wallets, did
            Microsoft get off their butts and Win7 is the result.
    • Agree.

      I've been saying that for years. I make a large portion of my living supporting, implementing and developing microsoft technologies. Ballmer and his associates have absolutely no vision or direction.
  • Very well said...

    I will also add that they have continously climbed in server market against Linux, Sun, IBM etc.. They are also in a heated battle with VMWare and are doing very well. Add on other server product staples such as SQL, Dev tools like Visual Studio and a brand new search engine in Bing and I would concur they are doing well.

    I think the slant of the article (here and in Newsweek) is around the consumer market. I think the consumer market is slightly overblown personally primarily because purchases by that segment can often by impulsive or influenced by other factors such as "what is cool" or what someone saw on TV. Enterprise purchases do not suffer this fate, and the enterprise is where Microsoft thrives.

    They are starting to focus more in the consumer space which is a good thing since there are lots of $$$ there and I see them doing great things in the digital home area (convergence of XBOX, Media Center, Netflix streaming, etc...) so don't count them out by any means. If anything, I see Microsoft coming on strong in 2010 with continued Windows 7 momentum, hopefully a new version of Windows Mobile, and project Natal!

  • So have most other stocks

    Maybe he should go.

    Ballmer is not even on the list. Check the MS stock price chart near the bottom.
  • Yeah, wonderful short term gains

    Wonderful short term gains for day traders, but what if you've been
    holding MS stock for the past 10 years? The company's stock still hasn't
    even recovered from the 2000 dot com bust. Compare their recovery and
    growth over the past ten years to Apple ...wait, if you're a long term MS
    stock holder, you better not, it's just too depressing ...
    • @jaypeg

      Yep, about 10 years ago Apple stock sat at a little over $7 a share. Now
      is sits at close to $200 at share (the last I looked) and it has split at least
      twice that I know of. That means if you invested $10,000 then you would
      be a millionaire today.