Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodbye Steve Ballmer, Hello…?

Last Friday evening I was surfing the web on my non-Microsoft based tablet when I suddenly read the news about Steve Ballmer’s retirement within the next 12 months.

Soon the first articles came out all about this topic. And quite a few of those weren’t all to nice on Steve. Another significant signal was the jump of the Microsoft shares in the opening trade of Wall Street: a rise of 7%! So apparently some stake-/shareholders out there weren’t unpleased by this news.

In the last few days I have read dozens of articles all about this topic. Some were outright bad (written by anti-Microsoft people, or people who were biased in any kind of way) and others mediocre. And just a few of them were really good and contained good information.

Even though I already shared most of them by Twitter, here is the Top Ten of the articles which I personally liked most:

    Just a day before the news of Steve Ballmer’s retirement, GIGAOM posted this article, all about ValueAct, a shareholder activist, likely to spark a shake-up and gain a seat on the Microsoft board.

  2. ZDNET
    A two part interview Mary Jo Foley had with Steve Ballmer and lead Microsoft board member John Thompson (part 2). Go here for Part 1: Microsoft's Ballmer on his biggest regret, the next CEO and more. Go here for Part 2: Microsoft's Ballmer: Why Microsoft doesn't want to be IBM (or Apple) and more.

  3. The Seattle Times
    Advantages, challenges for new CEO at Microsoft

  4. Bloomberg
    Six Opportunities Steve Ballmer Missed at Microsoft 

  5. Slate
    A Microsoft Breakup in 2000 Could Have Spawned Amazing Innovations
    The Poisonous Employee-Ranking System That Helps Explain Microsoft’s Decline

  6. TechRadar.Pro
    Ballmer leaves Microsoft. But in what shape?

  7. CIO
    Only an outsider CEO can help Microsoft

  8. The Guardian
    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire as company faces needed shakeup

  9. TechCrunch
    On itself not an article with new insights but yet it contains this quote which I highlighted for myself: ‘'…That’s why today’s news is even more surprising after Ballmer achieved such a big change for Microsoft. If his successor doesn’t like the ‘One Microsoft’ vision, he or she will have to do another reorganization…’
    Article to be found here.

  10. The New York Times
    Ballmer Exit Brings Microsoft a Chance for Reinvention

For sure, all these articles do have overlap. And yet when combined they tell a good story and as complete as it can get for outsiders like us.

My personal thoughts on this topic: there is much to say but the bottom line is that Microsoft isn’t that sexy anymore like they were about ten years ago. Why? To sum up a few items:

  • The PC is loosing ground fast. Ten years ago and even less, all the ‘screen time’ a person had to spent was his/her pc/laptop. Now with the smart phones and tablets, for many situations a pc/laptop isn’t required any more. However, the pc/laptop is still the bread and butter for Microsoft.
  • In the mobile space (smart phones/tablets) they’re not playing a key role right now. The Surface could/should have changed that but the premium pricing and the poor app store closed that door for them.
  • Why not bring a REAL version of Office 201x to Android/iOS based tablets? Not like the software they’re trying to ‘sell’ now? I love Office and would be happy to pay for a grownup version running on my non-Microsoft tablet.
  • Windows 8 on itself is a good operating system but forces people away from the start menu. Even though many complaints were made, Windows 8.1 isn’t going to change that. The negative criticism and feedback is killing a good product, which is bad.
  • Microsoft is loosing support on a huge scale. Developers are working for other platforms (iOS and Android mostly) since those platforms deliver the best ROI.
  • The decision to retire TechNet has started a fire among many system engineers and other people who work with Microsoft technologies on a daily basis. This is causing Microsoft damage on a scale which is far bigger than the gains the retirement of TechNet is supposed to bring. They’re loosing the heart and minds of a very powerful community which helped Microsoft to get where they’re today.
  • The Cloud-First strategy combined with the high development cycles are causing issues. Last Patch Tuesday 6(!) patches had to be recalled.
  • SMB companies find themselves in a situation where they’re almost forced to opt for the public cloud offering. But they don’t want it (yet). And don’t forget PRISM. Microsoft didn’t invent or invoke PRISM but it will hamper the cloud adoption rate even more. So SMB are almost forced to look outside the Microsoft product/services offering. Wondering how long it will take before someone fills that gap…

But is Steve Ballmer to blame for all of this? I don’t think so. It’s more like a whole chain of processes and culture which put Microsoft into the position it’s in today. And yet, Steve Ballmer being the CEO of Microsoft is also the one who takes up the responsibility for it all.

For myself I don’t know whether a new CEO will bring the required changes to Microsoft. Only time will tell. One thing is for sure though: these are exciting times!

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