Four big takeaways on the Ballmer era at Microsoft

Four big takeaways on the Ballmer era at Microsoft

Summary: While Steve Ballmer has been one of the most maligned CEOs of the past decade and made some critical errors, he also made two key moves that will shape Microsoft's next decade.


Few CEOs have been more maligned over the past decade than Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. It's a thankless job to follow an industry legend and in his 14 years as Microsoft CEO, Ballmer never managed to step out of the shadow of Bill Gates.

Here are four quick takeaways on the Ballmer era at Microsoft.

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  • Maligned implies Balmer didn't deserve the criticism

    he got. I think he most certainly did deserve most of it.
    • No he's right...

      Xbox 360
      Xbox One
      The first genuine Windows products with decent security in Windows 7 & 8
      SMS / SCCM
      Active Directory

      Those all really came about under Ballmer even if Gates was watching over some of them.

      If he were the CEO at a lesser established company, he wouldn't have received half as much criticism.

      As for the iPhone, he was wrong but, Cook and company are trending backwards!
      • how is this good?

        having deep enough pockets to throw billions of dollars at xbox and bing to make them a "success" is good? when you can't lose it's pretty easy to have a winner. buy it.

        finally, FINALLY, realizing they shot themselves in the foot with security by trying to lock out competition by tying programs directly into the OS is admirable? yeah, that only cost businesses and consumers billions and billions of dollars.
        • Doesn't matter

          it is easy to stand here and take shots at the man but, he should have some credit, he's one of the founding members of Microsoft and he helped make some of that money. Their strategy is to stick with their product and yet people yell at them for dropping products like Kin.

          sorry cannot have it both ways.
          • it does matter

            what doesn't matter is that he was a founding member. that holds no water in business. owners are constantly removed from their companies.
            as a manager he has had one policy: throw money at it. throw obscene amounts of money at it.
            he never envisioned anything beyond the status quo. windows and office. he missed mobile, mocked it even. the man had no vision in a changing world.
            again, having deep pockets and bullying does not a good ceo make. how hard is it to watch what becomes popular by others then throw money at getting into the market?
        • Competition

          Is good, maybe Google need to take a drop of the medicine too, with their rather "aggressive" ideas on how the web should be won... And the Apple walled garden approach would have led us all into a world where AOL dictated who and what content could be seen.
          No thanks.
      • He's the King of the Kin

        But the King of the Kin is about to sink beneath the Surface.

        Gurgle, Gurgle, Gurgle.
      • No he's wrong...

        Xbox -money loser
        Xbox 360 -money loser
        Xbox One -money loser
        Windows 7 -score
        & Windows 8 -just plain loser
        Sync -meh
        Bing -major meh and money loser
        SMS / SCCM -WGS
        Active Directory -WGS
    • The big problem: Ballmer is still there!

      In the cartoons, a sheep hook (a shepherd's crook) comes out and pulls a person off stage.

      Microsoft needs a Vaudeville hook to pull Ballmer off the stage, before he does any more damage.

      Ballmer was more inept than the average IT person. In 2007, he held an iPhone and scoffed at it and laughed at it. How could he dream about what the future might be, when he didn't even recognize the future when he held it in his hand?

      Later, he tried to catch up, but disastrously he insisted in Microsoft must have different operating systems for phone and tablet. Now look at the mess Microsoft is in.

      He gave us Zune, Kin, Sidekick and Surface. All failures.

      He continued the bully-boy Microsoft practices. He tried to ram Microsoft's DOCX format through the ISO (standards organization). He bullied other phone manufacturers to cough up money to pay for petty patents.

      Customers didn't like the company's bully practices, but they didn't have much choice in computing platforms. Today, there is more choice, and customers are eager to escape Microsoft's clutch and try other platforms.
      • he's leaving

        Geez, the guy states he's retiring and you guys want him fired. what is with you guy?
        • Not quick enough

          He's still doing crazy stuff.

          He's still bringing out more failed Surfaces.

          He's still making monolithic decisions, like buying telephone handset companies. Trouble is, it won't work. It's more money wasted.

          The quicker he leaves the better. The only problem is, the list of contenders to replace him is also very poor.

          Ballmer: Enjoy watching the football with your children in your Post MS life, with the billions of dollars you will walk away with. But it's better for Microsoft that you stay away.
          • Are you an investor?

            If so, raise it in the shareholders meeting, if not what is your issue, I just don't understand. I see nothing other than your little winky wanky doing trolling.
            Ram U
          • If Microsoft was not makign money on the Surface, it would have been ...

            ... pulled from the market by now.
            M Wagner
        • Actually, Ballmer will remain on the Microsoft Board (as will Gates)

          The only person with more Microsoft shares than Gates is Ballmer. I think the Board would have a hard time getting rid of either or them until they want out. And I think that Microsoft will start slipping when they are gone. Just as I think Apple is slipping now that Jobs is gone.
          M Wagner
      • Ballmer continued the legacy of Bill Gates

        Bully-boy tactics - actually Microsoft pulled back from this behaviour a LOT under Ballmer's watch. At least partly thanks to the antitrust trials around the world, but still.

        He didn't predict the iPhone - you could argue this is a failing, but I would say it's a bit of a tall order to predict the future like this. This doesn't make him inept. It just makes him less than amazing.

        Sinofsky was the one who insisted on different OS for phone and tablet iirc, and he is gone.

        Surface has been slow to take off and has been badly marketed, but that's changing. People are catching on and it's selling well.

        So yeah - for sure Balmer hasn't been a great CEO. Arguably though, he has been a fair to slightly above average CEO. He has been much better for the business/enterprise side of Microsoft and out of touch with the consumer, which is why he generates ire from consumers who want something more out of Microsoft.

        Microsoft DOES need a more home user/consumer focussed CEO, and perhaps one who is a little more likeable, charismatic, someone who can connect with the end user better. But I'm sorry, Balmer doesn't deserve a bagging like this.
        • Agree

          Surface, especially RT was badly marketed. But it's a fantastic tool for travel and for educational (school) use, far superior to the iPad.
      • You live in an Apple jacks dreamland.

        "Today, there is more choice, and customers are eager to escape Microsoft's clutch and try other platforms"

        Sorry, you lose. Now sit back and watch me be right.

        Ha! This is so rich. What a laugh. For decades Window's users have had to sit around and listen to Apple heads explain that people only bought Windows computers because that's what was available; buy a PC you get Windows.

        Now we have a situation where you buy a tablet and its an iPad with iOS. But that apparently means its because people are eager to escape Microsoft????

        What an absolute load of BS. I love how Apple users strive so hard to destroy their own credibility.

        They buy iPads because iPads is all they know much about right now. Give it a few years. Lets see if Windows tablets can eventually break the less then 10% market Apple can never seem to break in the desktop market.

        Lets just see about that.
        • Just a bit disingenuous there

          Speaking of credibility, you have none and win today's dufus award for idiot-speak. Mac share in the U.S. is 13.7% junior, up from 2.5% just a few years ago. PC sales are down 10-15%. Surface tablet market share isn't even 1%. People are not clamoring for Microsoft mobile devices and they will remain a niche. And yes people are moving to Macs from PC's. I'm helping someone right now do that. It's amusing to watch clueless fools like you pretend they know anything and willingly support the equally inept crew at Microsoft.
          • Not if you don't throw in the iPad. MacOSX is a direct competitor to ...

            ... Windows and UNIX/Linux. iPad is a direct competitor to Surface and Android tablets, and iPhone is a direct competitor to Windows Phone and Android phones.

            For personal computers, It is Windows 90%, MacOSX, 8%, UNIX/Linux, 2%.

            Apple still dominates (but not by much) in tablets. Microsoft is a distant third (or maybe fourth).

            Samsung dominates in Android phones. Then the iPhone. Microsoft is #3 (just ahead of BlackBerry) in phones.
            M Wagner
        • Currently, Samsung is having more success with Android than Apple is ...

          ... with iOS - at least in the eyes of consumers. The enterprise is starting to drift away from iPods in favor of Surface tablets. For about $50 less the Surface 2 offers twice as much as the iPad - and it is 100% compatible with a Windows network. The iPad is not even 100% compatible with a MacOSX network.
          M Wagner