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Steve Ballmer's Big-Time Error: Not Resigning Years Ago 357

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-tips-on-whom-we-should-blame-next? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Any number of executives could take Ballmer's place, including a few he unceremoniously kicked to the curb over the years. Whoever steps into that CEO role, however, faces a much greater challenge than if Ballmer had quietly resigned several years ago. Ballmer famously missed the boat on tablets and smartphones; Windows 8 isn't selling as well as Microsoft expected; and on Websites and blogs such as Mini-Microsoft (which had a brilliant posting about Ballmer's departure), employees complain bitterly about the company's much-maligned stack-ranking system, its layers of bureaucracy, and its inability to innovate. Had Ballmer left years ago, replaced by someone with the ability to more keenly anticipate markets, the company would probably be in much better shape to face its coming challenges. In its current form, Microsoft often feels like it's struggling in the wake of Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook." In an interview with ZDNet, Ballmer said his biggest regret as CEO was in how Windows Vista was developed. Opinions are divided on both the nature of his resignation and what it will mean for Microsoft. While the stock price is up, BusinessWeek and others suggest the purpose of the transition is to find somebody better able to anticipate future trends. That would certainly lead to more organizational changes within Microsoft, something employees suffered through just last month. Ben Kuchera at the Penny Arcade Report points out that this could mean Microsoft will try to re-enter markets it has abandoned. He asks the company to "stay the hell away from PC gaming."
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Steve Ballmer's Big-Time Error: Not Resigning Years Ago

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  • Vista (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:15PM (#44658845)

    In an interview with ZDNet, Ballmer said his biggest regret as CEO was in how Windows Vista was developed.

    The aftermath of Vista is precisely when he should have resigned. CEOs of other tech companies have resigned for lesser debacles.

    • Re:Vista (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:56PM (#44659371) Homepage Journal

      Not so much how it was developed, but that it was released before it was really ready and a log of people were conned into buying Vista Ready PCs which had a crappy inferior Intel chipset unable to fully support. Microsoft knew and still proceeded. I still have the PDF with all the emails.

    • Re:Vista (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:03PM (#44659457)

      This. Ballmer had one job: don't fuck up Windows.

      He failed at the modest task which was his charge.

      • Re:Vista (Score:5, Funny)

        by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:22PM (#44659659) Homepage Journal

        This. Ballmer had one job: don't fuck up Windows.

        He failed at the modest task which was his charge.

        Ballmer could have been in a coma and done better.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        This. Ballmer had one job: don't fuck up Windows.

        He failed at the modest task which was his charge.

        Twice.

      • Re:Vista (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday August 23, 2013 @08:28PM (#44661043)
        Ballmer simply didn't have the proper vision.

        His (going up) career was always following visionaries who DID have the vision, while he handled the nuts and bolts of business.

        His (going down) career mistake was in thinking he could handle the vision part. That was pretty obviously "NO" from the start. His SECOND biggest mistake was in failing to snare someone else who did have it, to run new product development.

        Let's face it. Gates was a greedy, selfish, often dishonest businessman. But he had vision that Ballmer does not.
    • Re:Vista (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:11PM (#44661299)

      CEOs of other tech companies have resigned for lesser debacles

      Jobs was kicked out just because the Mac sales were initially a bit slower than expected. I've got no idea what they expected because schools and universities seemed to fill up with those early Macs pretty quickly.
      Meanwhile Balmer has been spending years trying to prove that MS is too big to fail by destructive testing.

    • Re:Vista (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday August 24, 2013 @02:28AM (#44662423) Journal

      Really? Vista was at least fixable and a LOT of its problems came down to Ballmer kissing Intel's behind and allowing the "Vista capable" bullshit to let Intel unload that warehouse of 9xx garbage chipsets they had piled up.

      For me it would have been when Zune shit browned all over the stage and playsforsure was killed for Zune market which promptly puked and died. Playsforsure was frankly growing like fricking mad since it gave users an alternative, instead of having to buy every single song they could have "all you can eat" for a low monthly fee, think about how MSFT could have used that to become Netflix before that company was even a thought, but nope! Ballmer shut down a fricking GROWING market so he could rip off iTunes BADLY. Right then he ass should have been punt kicked like a 30 yard field return.

      The truly sad part? We could debate this all damned day as there is so many "WTF is he doing? Is he on crack?" moments under Ballmer that any CEO that wasn't Bill's little buddy would have gotten a pink slip any time between a decade ago and now, letting Vista get shoved out the door so poorly finished, X360 RRoD, the piles of money wasted on Zune,Kin,Sidekick,buying Yahoo Search and that ad company they had to take a multi-billion dollar write off on, BEING TOLD FOR A FUCKING YEAR THAT WIN 8 IS GARBAGE BY EVERYONE THAT TRIED IT yet not only ignoring that and putting out a half assed product he honestly thought would compete with iOS and Android but blowing several billion trying to sell that turd with ads....fuck I could go on all damned day.

      It has been obvious since the days of the shit brown squirting Zune if not earlier that he lives in a bubble surrounded by yes men. Frankly the only real hope MSFT has now is that they get an actual engineer with a fucking brain that actually uses the products for other than tweeting twits for shits, because if God help us that Larson girl that was responsible for Win 8 and the charms fuckbar gets the big chair? Might as well close it down and give the money back to the shareholders, its done. I mean when I saw server 2K12 and saw the AOL 96...err I mean Metro UI slapped on A SERVER OS!!?? I knew that the marketing droids were running the shop, any engineer that had actually used a server OS would have said "Wow that is fucking retarded!" and been done with it, the fact that they didn't just shows why Ballmer should have been canned ages ago.

      BTW is it just me or am I picking up a the board fired my ass vibe in his letter? The way he talks about when he would have rather stepped down certainly sounds like he isn't stepping down by choice. To me it sounds like the board took a look at the figures, saw Win 8.1 getting roasted over the fire like Win 8, and said "either you retire or we fire your ass, pick one" and he tried to save face while letting the insiders know he isn't happy about it. If that is the case? I'll be happy to buy the board a beer, its about damned time!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:21PM (#44658931)

    Ballmer resigned. Stock went up 7.29% in a big jump of about $20B in value.

    So Microsoft without Steve Ballmer is worth $20B more than a Microsoft with Steve Ballmer.
    That is the legacy of a great man.

    Steve Ballmer the -$20B man.

  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:21PM (#44658937) Homepage Journal
    Which 'splodes first: RMS, or MS?
  • by cod3r_ (2031620) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:22PM (#44658965)
    What challenges do those companies pose for MS?
    • by vux984 (928602)

      amazon is easy: cloud computing, cloud storage etc. Microsoft's Azure stuff has lot less mind share, and is generally behind.

      facebook? I dunno... ownership of the account. Most heavily used Single-signon gateway. (Surprised gmail and hotmail/outlook didn't get there first... microsoft tried 'passport' years ago after all. Or maybe Facebook as more valuable web portal or competitor for advertising?

      Personally I just wish Facebook would get myspaced and the sooner the better, or better still for 'social networ

      • by default luser (529332) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:18PM (#44659615) Journal

        They have a much richer set of offerings and ecosystem for end-users as well.

        Despite years of trying, Amazon has done what Microsoft STILL could not: make solid inroads into the music market dominated by iTunes [geekwire.com]. And every item you purchase on their site (electronic or not) ends up in your cloud player collection, making it a very attractive deal.

        And Amazon has the entire e-book market locked-up, an impressive competitively-priced competitor to Netflix (Microsoft has no such offerings), and don't forget the successful Kindle/Kindle Fire tablets to enjoy all that content on!

        Even though it's not the standard on Android, I have a feeling more people make use of the Amazon App Store than Microsoft's Windows Phone Store. Microsoft can only wish they had made all these right moves years back, instead of letting everyone gallop ahead of Win Mobile.

      • by smash (1351)
        Facebook is becoming a platform. Games are made for it, people use it to chat, send messages, etc. So long as a device runs facebook, there's a massive market there for it, whether it runs windows, linux or whatever. Microsoft don't want that - they want people to use services dependent on windows.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:24PM (#44658983)

    Long ago (around the first IE anti-trust lawsuit installment) I heard the argument that breaking Microsoft into separate companies along the OS, Backofffice, Office, Database, and Internet (this was before XBox) areas would be best for the company's overall innovation and net profit. Ballmer never did that, either.

    The theory was each element would be more free to do what it needed to do for itself, without the weird requirements to interconnect with the software and rules of the other groups, and as separate companies more of an "invisible hand of the market" could guide decisions instead of management. Collaboration and interoperation would still be allowed and encouraged because the sub-companies would all be wholly-owned subsidiaries, but management control would not span any two of them.

    This break-up theory would address a number of things Ballmer seems to have said he was trying to fix over the years.

  • Question is when (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@NOspam.comcast.net> on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:25PM (#44659001)

    The question isn't if he should have been let go years ago, the questions are when he should have been let and what the hell took so long? Defenders like to point out that Microsoft has become more profitable and larger under Steve Ballmer. Ballmer had disaster after disaster at the helm of Microsoft, imagine what the stock would have done /without/ all the disasters the Ballmer created?

    Personally I'm of the opinion he should have been let go after the fiasco that was Vista.

    • by rvw (755107)

      Ballmer had disaster after disaster at the helm of Microsoft, imagine what the stock would have done /without/ all the disasters the Ballmer created?

      I've read that resigning resulted in $20B stock raise. I bet that you can multiply that by 5 if he had left MS 5 years ago, and roughly that could apply to any number of years (like 7 years would result in 7x20 etc).

    • Well if AdQuantive and Surface RT never happened, that would like $8B more dollars MS would have today.
  • Steve Balmer is a wealther man today for not resigning.

    Microsoft's error, on the other hand, is that they did not fire him.
  • At last (Score:5, Funny)

    by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:30PM (#44659075)
    Folding chairs throughout the northwest can breathe a little easier easier.

    .
  • by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad DOT arnett AT notforhire DOT org> on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:32PM (#44659115)
    I volunteer. I'll take his place.
  • Ballmer was fired (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErnoWindt (301103) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:37PM (#44659161)

    No one takes a nearly $1 billion write down and lives to make more humongous mistakes another day. There's got to be a line somewhere, and Steve finally crossed it.

    • by SethJohnson (112166) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:47PM (#44659857) Homepage Journal
      This is one of the most astute comments I have read about Ballmer's departure all day.

      Continuing in this direction, I wonder if the timeliness of his announcement was based on the need to begin production of Surface 2.0. Board of directors wasn't willing to throw good $billions after bad. They got rid of the guy who was signing the checks for more Surface investment and are about to follow HP's example and bring in a CEO that will shut down tablet development and the mobile OS.

      By no means am I agreeing with HP pulling plug on WebOS, but I do think Microsoft might be gearing up for more staggering losses than HP suffered if they continue with these products (Surface & WindowsRT). I expect to see WindowsRT open-sourced and tossed on the side of the road within weeks.
      • I expect to see WindowsRT open-sourced

        I don't. It's almost the exact same code as Windows 8 as I understand it, just with some settings flipped to require that applications be signed by Microsoft and that devices refuse to run any other OS.

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:39PM (#44659185) Homepage
    The retirement announcement impacted Microsoft's stock value so much that Ballmer's now worth about a billion dollars more than he was on Thursday. A MarketWatch story even said Ballmer could buy himself 27,000 gold watches for retirement based on the difference in stock price. Ouch. Talk about not being missed.
    • by asmkm22 (1902712)

      Market fluctuations are pretty normal when a CEO as visible as Ballmer was leaves, gets fired, or dies. In almost every case, it's a temporary improvement or downfall, before swinging back in balance after a few weeks.

      20B is a lot though, and obviously investors have been very happy with the news, but he *is* still in charge right now, and we still don't know who is going to replace him. That very well may create enough doubt in the coming months to cancel out "The Ballmer Effect."

  • In its current form, Microsoft often feels like it's struggling in the wake of Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook

    Microsoft still has 90% of the desktop operating system market share in one form or another. It can afford to make a lot more mistakes yet, desktop machines aren't going anywhere.

    • by sjames (1099) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:00PM (#44659413) Homepage

      Microsoft's problem is that a great many of those desktops are XP. They haven't made any money on them for a while now. What matters to MS today is how many people are upgrading or buying new today. Their problem is nobody wants Windows 8 or Windows phones. That and their customers are starting to wonder if with all of the interface changes it wouldn't be any more disruptive to go with Mac or Linux when they have to upgrade.

  • Yes, Ballmer is leaving behind problems to clean up, but how often does an executive get the chance to inherit the power & reach of a company like Microsoft...and the chance to turn it in a direction s/he wants?

    I'm sure more than a few talented high power types will be eager to apply for Ballmer's spot.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:43PM (#44659227) Journal

    ...Microsoft's future directions are so obvious. Microsoft needs to"

    • Spin off its apps division, because trying to keep Windows/Windows RT as the only mobile platform for Office A. results in fewer sales of Office, and B. is a crutch that partially prevents the OS team from feeling like they have to be the best. In short, the "synergy" only holds both teams back.
    • Radically redesign the RT UI without all the bright pastel buttons that make it look like it was designed for children.
    • Stop trying to unify Windows and Windows RT (though providing the ability to run RT apps on the desktop in a window would be fine) because it just pisses off both communities.
    • Take steps to gain developers on RT by creating better development tools that make it brain-dead simple to build both an RT and native Windows UI for an app and by providing an RT runtime for iOS and/or Android and/or vice-versa so that developers can rework their code once and target both RT and an OS that they're going to target anyway.
    • Give away all those extra Windows RT tablets to developers in exchange for a promise to deploy their app on the platform.

    • Deprecate and remove a metric f***ton of API from Windows, no matter who it breaks.
    • Make Windows RT hardware that is significantly better than an iPad, without compromises. This means that there must be models with built-in cellular service, for starters. The rear camera must be at least as good as the 5 MP iPad rear camera. The battery life must be as good or better. And so on. All of these things are currently significantly worse on the Surface RT; even the iPad Mini has a better rear camera. Yet the price wasn't dramatically cheaper. The only thing it wins on is the number of CPU cores, and that's just not a feature you can sell.

    And so on. All of these things are obvious to a casual observer. Why they aren't obvious to Microsoft is beyond my comprehension. It is as though they have been managed by somebody who has been on vacation for the past decade, left to continue doing what they have always done, in the vain hope that somehow their previous offerings will become relevant again. They won't, and the longer Office is managed under the same bozos, the more likely it is to become completely irrelevant in the same way Windows has in the mobile space.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Sigh. Punctuation fail. My bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fast turtle (1118037)

      On the Deprecate lots of API's, MS really needs to do the same thing Apple did with OS X - include a nice VM that handles the NT/XP apps while completely killing compatibility in the core OS.

      They've started on this path with the XP Mode in Win7 Pro for corporate use, so why in hell not simply take it to the next level and offer it to everyone with Win9?

      Another element they'd better address is not allowing Intel to push anything like the god damn Vista Ready crap. Set the hardware specs to require 4GB or bet

  • by Aviation Pete (252403) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:43PM (#44659231)
    would be good for Nokia to get rid of him and Microsoft will continue it's journey into irrelevance. Double Bonus!
    • would be good for Nokia to get rid of him and Microsoft will continue it's journey into irrelevance. Double Bonus!

      Ironically it wasn't that long ago Elop was a serious name in the hat as a replacement for Balmer. Ironically as well Nokia is now worthless even to Microsoft, after the damage done by selling their phones on the back of Microsoft Product Exclusively. I personally thought it was one of Balmers better moves was to get Nokia to take all the risks. If Windows Phone had been a better product things might be different today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:49PM (#44659291)

    I use to work there and can relate to much of what the article says. It's a good place for a well paying stable developer job but definitely not for innovation. There is a group think there that has saturated the company, and if you are not with the prevailing group think people are dismissive of you and you stop getting invited to the meetings where strategy is discussed. I'm not bitter... The wife and I just started having kids at the time, so I certainly didn't make an effort to rock the boat--I just quietly did what I was told and took the paycheck because I had more important things going on in my life than trying to fight company politics and business tactics.

    A while back, a slashdot commenter made the observation that Microsoft has a generation of leadership now that has never experienced the realities of running a business that faces the risk of failing and going under. I think this is true and it has negatively affected the company. I don't claim to be a rock star developer, but I saw a lot of smart and visionary developers at Microsoft. Unfortunately, however, being a leader and visionary wasn't rewarded--being a fun guy to have scotch and cigars with was the way to climb the ladder.

    • by swb (14022) on Friday August 23, 2013 @08:41PM (#44661103)

      I suspect that it isn't that they haven't faced the risk of going under, it's that they are too worried about going under and losing what they have and therefore unwilling to do anything that risks their current holdings.

      I don't know if anyone has written it, but I suspect there's a great PhD thesis to be written studying the relationship between employee stock ownership, stock options and company innovation and risk taking.

      I would wager that as more of the leadership has stock and options in otherwise successful companies, the more risk averse they are and the more willing they are to resist innovation because it threatens what they have (or may soon get).

      For unsuccessful companies or those not successful it probably has the reverse motivation -- the stock isn't worth anything until they are successful, so the risk is not innovating.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:00PM (#44659423) Homepage

    Okay, so I'm a clearly-labelled "Microsoft Hater." I haven't always been this way. I got really comfortable with Win3.11 and then Win95 came out I experienced a level of computer excitement I haven't had since I started using OS-9 level two. (I am still quite fond of OS-9 though... just been a very long time.) I loved what Microsoft did. The advancements were terrific and long-awaited and all the precious knowledge I had acquired and accumulated over the various versions of DOS and Windows still applied so I was still relevant and loyal.

    But then Microsoft started souring things. They tried to take over Java... tried and failed. They started pulling some extremely dirty stunts with their "partners" and such to the point it harmed so many other out there. I couldn't see those immoral acts without my opinion changing about the company behind the products. Some people just saw money and work. I have always seen more and I can't unsee it. When I see an OS user interface or go over source code or anything that goes into the design and engineering of such systems, I don't just see objects, I see ideas and what people were thinking when they put it all together which invariably results in a sense of knowing something about the people behind the creation of all of these things. For me, it was pretty easy to tell when something was a cludge or if real planning and design work went into things or how much respect one party had for another when parties worked together on a project. To me all of those things were the human element of what came together in creating these things. I may be pretty unaffected by fine art, but when I saw what when into computing back in the earlier days, I found myself quite moved by some of the things I saw. It was my world.

    Microsoft slowly destroyed my world and all the things I loved about it. Microsoft started out making really cool things but when they really started getting big, they were increasingly about destroying others and less about creating cool things. If you want to understand why a Microsoft hater hates, I think my case is pretty clear by now.

    And a new Microsoft could also rekindle all the new and cool things all over again. Sure, it may not be a "wise business decision." Most cool things aren't. But I think we're all ready for something really new and cool. We aren't going to get it from Apple. Google and Android is pretty much levelled off already as far as I can tell. A new Microsoft holds an opportunity within itself to recapture the love and awe it once had. So why haven't they done it already?

    We know why... I just wish they would.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:21PM (#44659653)

      Microsoft started out making really cool things

      Like what? DOS?

      Microsoft were always the cheap, crap option. DOS over Unix, Windows over Unix or Mac. I can't think of a single 'really cool thing' they've ever done.

      With Android already owning the cheap, crap niche in the mobile space and Apple owning expensive and cool, Microsoft have nowhere to go.

    • They tried to take over Java... tried and failed. They started pulling some extremely dirty stunts with their "partners" and such to the point it harmed so many other out there. I couldn't see those immoral acts without my opinion changing about the company behind the products.

      FWIW they were probably always like that, think of the Dr DOS situation. I remember them doing some dirty things with Lotus 123 too, but my memory isn't as good on that point.

      And really, maybe they had no other choice for success other than playing dirty. They were essentially just a contractor for IBM. If they hadn't made an effort to take over the business of their client, they would probably be in the same situation as Symantec today. And that might have made the world a better place.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        No, you're right... they were kinda dirty from the get-go, but I didn't know it yet at the time. Looking back, I see things differently than I did. I was attempting to reflect what I liked about Microsoft at that time more than to create an evaluation on them. My evaluation of them is as it is today -- they are dirt and screw up everything they try to do. I mean seriously. What the hell is Sharepoint supposed to be?! I get that business all over uses it and all that, but geez! It's web but it isn't?

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:02PM (#44659449)

    Microsoft often feels like it's struggling in the wake of Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook.

    That's because Microsoft has basically been a monopoly for so long they lost whatever entrepreneurial spirit they once had. For two decades now Microsoft has been about protecting Windows and Office which to this day remain their big money makers. It's really hard to blow everything up when you are making billions in profit every year. Balmer is a classic example of the and the company seems to be a case study in the [wikipedia.org]innovator's dilemma [wikipedia.org].

    Worse the company has to fight against the law of big numbers as well. There simply aren't that many projects available to you that are going to move the needle for a company like Microsoft. Microsoft brought in around $77 billion in sales last year with a profit of $21 billion. That means for them to grow just 5% a year they will have to essentially build a company that sells nearly $4 billion each year and next year the hurdle is even higher. To do that while maintaining a 27% net profit margin is absurdly difficult.

    They have the bankroll to survive but it is not at all clear how they will find another opportunity remotely as profitable as Windows/Office. It's also not clear if Windows/Office has a long term future. Short term, nothing is going to hurt them but long term things are quite unclear. There are some serious competitive threats to Windows/Office out there. I think Microsoft management is aware of the problem and I think they are equally mystified about what to do about it. The fact that they offered over $30 billion for Yahoo speaks volumes about how empty of ideas they have become. (It speaks bigger volumes about how stupid Yahoo management was that they didn't take the deal) Even when they get the direction right (Surface Pro is a sound concept - integrating tablets and PCs) they tend to screw up the execution. They even tend to screw up when they try to buy their way into a market. It's taken them so much money to make Xbox competitive that I doubt they'll ever actually recoup the investment. Microsoft might be able to grow through acquisitions though I'm not sure they have the culture for it. I really don't see most of their acquisitions thriving. Anyone think Microsoft is going to do anything amazing with Skype? Didn't think so.

    Frankly I think whoever takes over the reigns next is not going to have an easy time of it. I'm not ready to say Microsoft is doomed but turning that ship around is going to be a herculean task.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:05PM (#44659477)

    Ballmer famously missed the boat on tablets and smartphones

    Microsoft didn't miss the boat. They inadvertently helped create the very circumstances which led to them being excluded from the current tablet and smartphones we have today.

    Back in the PDA days, it was a two-player game: Palm vs WinCE (later renamed Windows Mobile to get rid of the awful abbreviation). As with Netscape vs IE, Microsoft competed its heart out until it won, then dropped the ball. After Palm was more or less vanquished, Microsoft rested on its laurel. Windows Mobile pretty much went nowhere (and some would say it even went backwards with Microsoft trying to foist the Windows Desktop interface paradigm onto it). Everyone could see phones and PDAs were going to converge (and those who couldn't should've gotten a wake-up call from the Blackberry), but Microsoft made no real effort to add phone capabilities to Windows Mobile. So in the end PDA features ended up being added to phones, instead of phone capability being added to PDAs. And when PDAs went away, so did Windows Mobile.

    Microsoft was a major driving force behind the Tablet PC. The Tablet versions of Windows were actually pretty good, especially the handwriting recognition. But where they erred was they wanted to make sure every tablet sold was also a copy of Windows sold. So they focused on making sure tablets were high-end PC notebooks which converted into the tablet form factor. While companies were ok with buying a $2500 tablet, regular people weren't. The immense popularity of netbooks should've been a wake-up call that there was a huge untapped market for a small, (relatively) cheap consumption-only device. But Microsoft did its best to steer manufacturers away from these low-end devices which didn't use Windows (and in fact killed off the Linux-based netbooks by making "Starter" versions of Windows). So tablets were relegated to high-end high-cost devices.

    When you manipulate a market like this and steer people away from the direction the market wants to go, you create a lot of invisible pent-up demand. Apple managed to latch onto that demand with a tablet which neither used Windows nor Intel CPUs. Microsoft (and Intel) only have themselves to blame for trying to steer the market in a direction more favorable to themselves, rather than producing what the market wanted. That may have worked in the 1980s when computers were predominantly bought by businesses who could justify their high price by the additional profit they'd help generate. But once people began buying them for home use, the market became much more price-sensitive. I mean what was the point of buying a $2500 tablet PC, when you could buy a $800 laptop and a $500 iPad?

    • Those words were from Jobs. Jobs was just as prone to being wrong as anyone, but those particular words carry a lot of insight. It was not Jobs being dismissive of competitors - it was from direct experience with the Newton.

      The Tablet versions of Windows were actually pretty good, especially the handwriting recognition.

      No, sorry, they actually sucked quite a lot. Really good handwriting recognition is like being pretty darn good at finding land mines. It's a fine skill if you need it but few people ar

  • If the new guy can make 8.2 POSIX compliant, maybe license a better FS from Oracle or some shit, & BRING BACK THE DESKTOP METAPHOR, their problems are 80% solved! Don't get me wrong, Metro CAN work under the right circumstances, but it should be either an extension of or maybe even just a meta representation w/ some HTML5 thrown in for liveliness. (oh yeah, fix IE too) Ballmer said himself DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS (& blew out his voice box trying to get his point across) when windows esse
  • Never seen such a wonderful job of visonless fuck up, rear guard battles,
    and monumental undisruptive monopoly read we'll sing this song till death
    do us part thank you.
    Sorry to see him go,

    Thanks. Mr. Liberty
      -- Linux since 1991 (floppies).

  • Who are they kidding?

    Rule #1 for a large company: you don't anticipate markets with an eye to joining or ruling them. You kill them before they can start. If you can't do that, you play catch-up, or you use legal weight to try to stop them.

    They were behind on phones and tablets in 2010 just like they were behind on the internet in 1995. They got *lucky* in 1995 that they could buy their way into it (at great expense: giving away IE and then all of the legal fees involved for the anti-trust cases in just about every country in the world...).

    They simply couldn't get that lucky now 'cause everybody knew they would try and so could out-innovate knowing that was the one thing they could do that M$ couldn't (and never could, not since day one...).

    Large companies, unless you're Apple (willing to sacrifice one generation of customers for another), or Google (able to get most of the products to drive eyeballs back to your core income stream), simply don't innovate. They simply don't try to take over businesses they aren't already in (except by buying their way in, a-la Oracle). Microsoft had all the brains in the world but would NEVER have actually let them create a new product line if it ever put Windows or Office at risk. Never. Just like Xerox could never market the desktop workstation because the paperless office was a threat to their copier business.

    Microsoft simply would never have been able to compete here. Ever. Internally they couldn't muster it, externally the other companies knew how to handle them.

    • Large companies, unless you're Apple (willing to sacrifice one generation of customers for another),

      Exactly this. Microsoft just keeps piling on layers of code to existing legacy code in fear of losing that Microsoft Word 4.0 user, at the expense of everyone else.

  • ..but also Ballmer peak.
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:26PM (#44659711)
    Mobile was 100% obviously the future 10 or more years ago. If Microsoft had any idea what was going on it would have relentlessly pursued mobile for the last 10 years. Yet everything they did was always a bit off. Windows CE and friends were bizarre experiments on how to annoy developers. Things like Vista were just symptoms of a company that didn't seem to understand that to thrive they need to win hearts and minds, not just strong arm people into complacency. Take MS Office. Most people would be completely happy with office 2000 or maybe something older. Most people would be happy if XP were to have just been kept up to date. I am not saying Windows 8 is bad so much as for most people just don't care. Even things like the Metro interface could just be larded onto XP if that were something desired.

    Just about the only MS thing that I have wanted in years was an XBox. That is pretty poor output for the last decade. But if we go back in time MS did put out useful products one after another. Windows 95 was a huge leap, 98 another, NT 2000 was fantastic, and XP after a service pack or two was solid. But then it sort of went wrong. .Net had so much potential, Vista was a hot mess. The new Windows servers along with MSSQL had such complicated licensing that Linux was the only way for me.

    Now just about the only MS products that I use (until I can find a secure replacement) are Skype and my XBox 360. Even the XBox One isn't catching my attention. I feel pity for anyone with a MS phone and when I hear people using MS servers I just wonder what has kept them away from Linux.

    So quite simply prior to Balmer MS was doing some interesting things. But during the entire time Balmer is there they have done almost nothing interesting. Boring has continued to make them bags of cash because so many companies out there were unable or not interested in switching. So where Balmer has been shockingly lucky is that there has been no real competitor to MS Office. Google docs has been making some inroads, and some people compromise with the various OpenOffice products but the simple reality is that once you get complicated with your documents these other product begin to show their incompatibilities. In a business environment it is just not worth futzing with the software when the MS product can be so readily purchased. But my long standing theory is that if someone comes out with a solid word processor/spreadsheet then MS is then going to begin to die.

    The one that I had hopes for was Apple's iWorks product but that seemed to have been abandoned 4 years ago plus they never ported it to other platforms. Now if they opensourced iWorks for the world to build on then something exciting might happen.

    So my prediction on MS's future is based upon Balmer's replacement's relationship with the Office Division. If the replacement comes from the Office division then MS is dead. But if the replacement recognizes that office is a cash cow but that the company can't rely upon it for ever then there is some hope. If the replacement comes from their R&D division it will probably be exciting even if completely crazy.
  • I am not sure why the Knives are out. He saw the end of anti-trust in Europe when it clearly wasn't deserved. He bought out ISO during the OOXML destroying the reputation of a standards body in the process. He kept the threat of Linux creeping in on netbooks by killing them with Intel(Admittedly leaving a vacuum for tablets). He managed the Xbox 360 failing with red rings, and painted its third place as a success story(Live truly was one). He got Nokia to take all the risks and consequences, as a cost in Eu

  • by sribe (304414) on Friday August 23, 2013 @06:12PM (#44660089)

    He held on to an extremely high-paying job for which he was abjectly unqualified. He got paid hugely for fucking up year after year. Now, tell me exactly how it was a mistake on his part to hang on to that job???

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