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Microsoft Businesses

Steve Ballmer's Head On the Block? 410

Posted by Roblimo
from the if-I-go-there-will-be-trouble dept.
mix77 writes "Influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn has called for Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to step down, saying the world's largest software company's long-time leader is stuck in the past."
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Steve Ballmer's Head On the Block?

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  • by Bai jie (653604) on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:38AM (#36262084)
    we're talking about that damn elephant in the room.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:42AM (#36262114)

      Geez, the guy ain't THAT out of shape.

    • Time to do an Apple and bring back Gates?

      • He wasn't much better.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The most successful IT CEO in history "not much better." Interesting.

          • by guruevi (827432)

            Successful in terms of bringing in large amounts of cash - probably if Apple doesn't surpass them in the next couple of years. Successful in terms of bringing in talent, new ideas, worthwhile products... not so much. Microsoft made it big because others made big mistakes themselves marketing products that were very good, stable and ahead of the curve but for such an immature market (in the '90's) overpriced (WordPerfect, between-Jobs Apple, BeOS, OS/2, Sun, SGI)

        • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Elbowgeek (633324) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:01AM (#36262338) Journal

          The problem with Ballmer is that he's a strictly corporate type, with no real vision of his own. All of his decisions are informed by corporate thinking, which means he looks at already established and emerging markets and reacts to them. Unfortunately, by the time MS has created a product in reaction to the market the market is already dominated by someone else and/or the public rejects the MS product due to the perception of MS being uncool.

          MS has had very little forward-thinking tech make it to the mainstream in the past 20 years considering the size and and intellectual resources at its disposal, and I believe this is what Einhorn is addressing. What MS needs is a leader who can leverage the best and brightest in the company and allow the best ideas (and there's a lot of great ideas floating around in their labs) to see daylight and be marketed properly.

          • by FudRucker (866063)
            yup, Apple has been kicking everyone's ass in the innovation department (even if they are hated by many for closed & draconian proprietary business practices), iphone, ipad, iTHIS and iTHAT...

            somebody with brains & imagination needs to step up to the plate and kick Apple's ass for a change...
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Actually, most of what Apple has brought to market with a little i in front of it is their own locked down version of something somebody else has invented.

              Creative beat Apple to market with the media player, Sandisk had some really nice offerings in the early days as well that easily competed with the early iPods. Palm beat Apple to market with the smart phone. Microsoft beat Apple to market with the idea of a media-center PC (which they were copying from programs available in Linux).... the list goes on.

              Ap

              • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by paimin (656338) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:53AM (#36263064)
                So, by your argument, Apple beat Palm solely based on superior marketing and not based on any innovation in the iPhone's design versus Palm's offerings at the time. This is completely and utterly false. The iPhone defined smartphone design NOT because of marketing but because the design was in fact extremely innovative. People like you look at feature lists and say "this one did it first" or "this one is better than that one". Where you fail is that design and engineering !== feature lists.
                • Innovative in ease of use and hardware design, perhaps, but even today there are things you could do on a PalmOS PDA that you still can't do on an iPhone (although the iPhone has had copy and paste and HTTP download for a while, good for them!). Running an alternate browser, a compiler/custom written app, port scanner or tethering client, for instance. I also used to have a proof-of-concept true multitasking app, although PalmOS only really supported "fast app switching with saved states" like iOS today.

                  Tec

              • Apple frankly sucks at innovation. They are reasonably good at improving something somebody else has already invented, but where they truly excel is at marketing.

                Granted, Apple does position itself as the premium product... They market and price their goods appropriately... But it really isn't just about marketing.

                Apple takes a holistic approach to product development that very few technology companies do. Sure, lots of folks had MP3 players out there before the iPod... But Apple provided a player with a very simple, approachable interface, and provided a simple piece of software for both syncing the MP3 player and purchasing music. Apple may not have been the

              • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:56AM (#36263098)

                If Apple's only real strength was marketing then they would have failed long ago. Apple's modus operandi since Jobs came back isn't rocket science. Take geek gadget. Polish and refine it so that average consumers don't need to refer to a manual to use it then sell as many as they can.

                Marketing isn't MS only problem. The Kin was a buggy dumb phone with smart phone prices. This was at the estimated cost of over a $1 billion before they killed it. The Zune was decent but was always behind the iPod and didn't offer many compelling reasons to switch. Again a few billion dollars down the drain. The Xbox has great market share but it has a long way to recover the billions it lost in the first years of its existence.

                MS still makes tons of profit on OS and Office. Their expansions into other markets have not been financially successful. Investors want growth.

              • by cpuh0g (839926)

                Who gives a shit who had the idea first, that means nothing if you cant capitalize on it. The tech highway is littered with carcasses of shitty companies like Palm and Sandisk and Creative who had a good idea and had no idea how to market it to the masses and dominate the market. Love them or not, you have to give Jobs credit for having an amazing team of visionary designers and engineers who can take someones poorly implemented idea and turn it into gold.

                I dont care who first invented the hand-held m

              • by iluvcapra (782887)

                The "Apple never innovates" argument usually requires that you accept that a dozen or more companies over the past decade were sitting on goldmines of profit, and that they let it all slip away because maybe they invented something amazing, but they didn't patent it, didn't actually know what they had, and they had no vision for how people could use it. I just find this scenario very unlikely.

              • Creative beat Apple to market with the media player, Sandisk had some really nice offerings in the early days as well that easily competed with the early iPods. Palm beat Apple to market with the smart phone. Microsoft beat Apple to market with the idea of a media-center PC (which they were copying from programs available in Linux).... the list goes on.

                The problem with such thinking is that it views innovation in terms of gadgets and standalone products rather than as interfaces to digital media systems. Ev

            • somebody with brains & imagination needs to step up to the plate and kick Apple's ass for a change...

              Google are already doing so with Android. Their business model isn't exactly sunshine and puppies, but they do make good products. But really it isn't any one tech company that is doing us good (though I'd give bonus points to Mozilla, Ubuntu and Google for their contributions in the 00s). Given a monopoly they would eventually screw us over out of laziness, or greed. The great thing is having everyone try to outdo each other.

          • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rudy_wayne (414635) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:08AM (#36262430)

            The problem with Ballmer is that he's a strictly corporate type, with no real vision of his own. All of his decisions are informed by corporate thinking, which means he looks at already established and emerging markets and reacts to them. Unfortunately, by the time MS has created a product in reaction to the market the market is already dominated by someone else and/or the public rejects the MS product due to the perception of MS being uncool.

            MS has had very little forward-thinking tech make it to the mainstream in the past 20 years considering the size and and intellectual resources at its disposal, and I believe this is what Einhorn is addressing. What MS needs is a leader who can leverage the best and brightest in the company and allow the best ideas (and there's a lot of great ideas floating around in their labs) to see daylight and be marketed properly.

            The problem is not a lack of vision -- the problem is a lack of a strong competent leader.

            For example, a group within Microsoft developed a tablet before Apple came out with the iPad. When the head of the division went to Ballmer for funding to bring the product to market Ballmer killed it. Why? Because the tablet ran a version of Windows and Microsoft's Windows group complained that the tablet group was infringing on "their territory". It's this type of thinking and management incompetence that has caused Microsoft's problems.

            • by yarnosh (2055818)

              I think the timing of the tablet was also important. You needed smart phones to get people used to idea of touch devices being used more like general computing platforms. Before iOS and Android, tablets were just not seen as useful devices. Nobody could place them. They were marketed as laptop computers with no keyboard or mouse. Nobody wanted that. But a smart phone with a huge screen, on the other hand...

              This, of course, highlights Microsoft's failure in the mobile arena. They keep trying to cram a desk

              • I'd rather them try to cram a desktop experience into a mobile device instead of being like many others who are now trying to cram a mobile experience into a desktop device.

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  You should be so lucky. With Android for example it's possible to have a whole Debian install on your phone, so you can have your GUI and ignore it too. Meanwhile, when you just want to bring up the browser, POW!

                  Linux distributions have been trying to make Linux easier to use forever. We've been demanding it all along. Now that some distributions are trying to make it actually happen everyone is screaming bloody murder.

                  • by 0123456 (636235)

                    Linux distributions have been trying to make Linux easier to use forever. We've been demanding it all along. Now that some distributions are trying to make it actually happen everyone is screaming bloody murder.

                    There's a difference between not having to edit RC files directly and removing any feature that a moron can't understand. Linux used to be the OS for competent computer users, but the recent GUI changes have been aimed at making it the OS for people of no clue.

              • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:47AM (#36263002) Journal

                Microsoft has been behind the pack consistently over the last twenty years. Instead of innovation, it had market clout. It nearly missed the boat on the Internet, and its solution was to repackage the Windows for Workgroups TCP/IP package into Chicago/Win95, making possibly the worst TCP/IP stack in the history of networking. It only overcame WordPerfect in the office world because WP stumbled badly over its Windows version. The same applies to Lotus (although rumors still float about that Lotus's failure were hardly all Lotus's fault). The browser war it won by giving away IE, but even with near-total dominance in the browser world for a decade, it still couldn't get its various iterations of MSN web presence to catch on, and in fact, basically let its browser team almost wither and die and did nothing. Yes, it had its dominance with Office-Exchange, and certainly I give it credit for Active Directory (although its not that innovative, just a variant of LDAP with some automated registry alteration built into), but look at Exchange, it's a fucking behemoth, massively overlarge and difficult to maintain.

                But the mobile/tablet world is killing it. It's so far behind the big players it really isn't worth mentioning. Apple and Google are kicking ass right left and centre. As to web presence, well, Google is still champion and Microsoft continues to flounder, which only adds to the disaster that it's facing in the home market. It still has its business/corporate market and there I suspect it will remain dominant, but now that smartphones, subnotebooks and tablets appear poised to gut a good chunk of the PC market (even Intel is figuring out it's got to start building chips here), Microsoft is about to lose a huge chunk of that linkage between PC, operating system and office software that has made it king since the 1980s.

                Microsoft needs new leadership badly. It needs someone willing to decouple its business and development divisions from Windows, to port Outlook to ARM-based operating systems, and not just move Windows into a market that it has little enough ability to penetrate. It has to admit that the way that it became supreme 25 years ago is gone, rather than just smacking its head against the same old wall.

            • This. A lot of the oltop Microsoft execs are people that were there when Microsoft hit it's apex and thus still seem to think that their biggest competitor is themselves. You can see this in Microsofts product lines. 3 different, incompatible phone OS's were in development simultaneously. 2 different types of DRM, and let's not get started in how inconsistent the GUIs are both within single products and across product lines. If Microsoft wants to stay relevant they need a strong leader who realizes it'
          • Re:Finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by wisty (1335733) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:11AM (#36262466)

            The problem with Ballmer is that he's a strictly corporate type, with no real vision of his own. All of his decisions are informed by corporate thinking, which means he looks at already established and emerging markets and reacts to them.

            What the hell? That's all Microsoft has ever done. Copied DOS, copied Apple's copy of Xerox's work, copied Java, copied WordPerfect, copied that spreadsheet app ...

            Their only problem was, they stopped copying the right products, or copied them too late.

            Unfortunately, by the time MS has created a product in reaction to the market the market is already dominated by someone else and/or the public rejects the MS product due to the perception of MS being uncool.

            No, MS has a great image. Not amongst techies, but that's nothing new. Microsoft is seen as great by most people in education, small business, big business, and government. Bing didn't suffer for being "uncool". It suffers for being 10 years late, and having no way to lock people in.

            MS has had very little forward-thinking tech make it to the mainstream in the past 20 years considering the size and and intellectual resources at its disposal, and I believe this is what Einhorn is addressing. What MS needs is a leader who can leverage the best and brightest in the company and allow the best ideas (and there's a lot of great ideas floating around in their labs) to see daylight and be marketed properly.

            MS has made a lot of innovative stuff. Problem is, it gets killed by cross-fighting from established products. How does it fit in with Windows and Office's plans? It doesn't? Bye bye.

            They should just copy stuff, and not worry about synergies with their other knock-offs. Their main synergy is their stable of excellent engineers, testers, and managers; and their brand name.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              What the hell? That's all Microsoft has ever done. Copied DOS, copied Apple's copy of Xerox's work, copied Java, copied WordPerfect, copied that spreadsheet app ...

              There's an interesting double standard (not necessarily held by the person I'm responding to) that when Microsoft copies someone else's work and improves on it it's copying or unoriginal, but when, say, Apple does it it's innovation.

          • I don't know if ballmer was involved, and I am certainly no fan of microsoft, but the kinect really was innovative. I'm not sure I could attribute anything that novel to apple. They came out with a better smartphone after Nokia, I thought sony beat them to the music player, tablets existed before apple's. So apple does a great job of polishing. Granted, microsoft should have more innovation, but thought apple just passed them in stock value, so shouldn't they have many inventions where you think, oh, apple

          • by denobug (753200)
            What Microsoft needs is a rapid concept development team that can bring the concepts from their research into marketable products. What that team needs are talented people with enough drives to push the envelope to get things done and get it out in the market. Some of them need to have hard knuckles for corporate food fight.

            Then Microsoft needs a new CEO that has enough clout to bring every department in-line and give that rapid concept development team a chance and enough resources to make their goal
      • by dc29A (636871) *

        Time to do an Apple and bring back Gates?

        Bring back the man who had to be begged by J. Allard to take the internet seriously? Gates has as much lack of vision as Ballmer.

      • by S.O.B. (136083)

        I hear Darl McBride is looking for a job.

    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mad Merlin (837387) on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:50AM (#36262224) Homepage

      I'd really rather that they keep him indefinitely. He's doing an excellent job of running the company into the ground.

      • How is he running the company into the ground when they produce record profits (almost) every year
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:40AM (#36262108)

    Soon, a chair found stuck into Einhorn's head (dann, ein genauer Horn).

  • He's just clinging embarrassingly to others' visions of the future.

    Hey, MS, you made it big with a smart desktop. Don't follow Google and return us to an era of dumb terminals for hire, please.

    And not every one of us is taken in by Apple's overpriced shine. Work out why you have 90%+ desktop marketshare instead of turning your back on it to chase the remaining 10%.

    Thanks.

    • by Albanach (527650)

      And not every one of us is taken in by Apple's overpriced shine. Work out why you have 90%+ desktop marketshare instead of turning your back on it to chase the remaining 10%.

      You seem to presume that 90% of PC owners are actually making a choice and selecting Windows.

    • Personal Computing Speed/Price vs. Bandwidth/Price.
      80's Mainframes with Dumb Terminals, 90's Desktops, 00's SaaS Servers with PCs running as thick terminals, 10's Mobile.
      The Smart desktop had its time and it is not going to die but it will go where the mainframes are. Special Use systems, reserved medium/high computational computing. Laptops are still strong today and will have a decade or so to keep the smart desktop technology in a stable market. But will also soon fade out. Todays mobile devices "Shin

  • Smells (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Grey (463613) on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:44AM (#36262152)

    From TFA (emphasis mine):

    Einhorn's Greenlight Capital hedge fund has been a recent buyer of Microsoft stock, which at under 10 times expected earnings is regarded by many as undervalued.

    So, this guy's company buys a bunch of Microsoft stock, then utters a (probably popular) opinion that the head of Microsoft should resign. Is Einhorn just pissed that the stock hasn't moved, or is he trying to manipulate the price through the media?

    • His company is now a significant owner. He has the right to ask for such things. Nothing wrong with it at all.

      • by Phisbut (761268)

        His company is now a significant owner. He has the right to ask for such things. Nothing wrong with it at all.

        From TFA :

        Greenlight currently holds about 9 million shares in Microsoft, or 0.11 percent of the company's outstanding shares, according to Thomson Reuters data.

        I'd hardly call 0.11% being a significant owner. Doesn't mean he's not allowed to voice his opinion though.

    • Is Einhorn just pissed that the stock hasn't moved, or is he trying to manipulate the price through the media?

      Yes.

    • by Rary (566291)

      or is he trying to manipulate the price through the media?

      Two paragraphs above that:

      Microsoft shares shot up 0.87 percent in after-hours trading, the most of any Dow Jones industrial average component.

      So I'd say "yes", and add "successfully".

  • "...saying the world's largest software company's long-time leader is stuck in the past."

    Heh. Speaking of Steve Ballmer and being stuck in the past, isn't it about time for a flying chair joke?

  • Growth vs Returns (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RichMan (8097)

    Long ago Microsoft pwnd the planets desktop ecosystem space. After that, until we make contact with ET growth is going to naturally be limited. Microsoft should have transitioned from growth mode to stable mode and started paying out dividends to stock holders. The attempts to levarage into other markets are going to a) cost a lot and b) come under anti-trust scrutiny.
    There comes a point when a corporate giant should just be happy with what they have got and give up the raiding, and make their space the bes

    • In general I think you're right. But in Microsoft's particular case they're stuck with very few profit centers (mostly Windows and Office). And those are potentially under attack, or at least stagnating. So I could see their strong desire to diversify.

    • I suspect that their problem with just going stable(aside from ego-driven bullshittery) is that they know that playing defense is hard.

      After all, they took their (abjectly sucky; but cheap) desktop OS, grew a bunch of marketshare during the desktop boom, and then had the momentum and resources to build essentially an entirely new OS(NT) and, through a mixture of interface familiarity and tie-ins to the desktop, begin assaults on both the server side and the handheld side(the former fairly effective, even
  • The only question is location...

    Ballmer seems to be following the Gates tradition of "massive amounts of technology" combined with a complete, utter, lack of imagination and inability to accurately anticipate technological trends. Hopefully, there's someone who can do the latter that isn't just an "I've discovered smartphones!" kind of guy.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      It's not "massive amounts of technology" so much as "shady business practices" that Gates is well known for. This has changed significantly over the past ten or fifteen years, partly due to the anti-trust ruling. Once that has expired, Microsoft can go back to throwing their weight around in the industry again. I don't know if Ballmer is the same level of business genius that Gates was. But he's certainly not moving the company in any other direction though.

      The lack of imagination and technological foresigh

  • where a hedge fund manager made a change of management in a large publicly held company and that company got better?
  • The reason MS has been lagging on innovation is that they are still the dominant player in office apps and in consumer operating systems. MS executives and engineers are used to sleeping soundly at night. Google has innovated because they were a new company and need to come up with something fast. Apple innovated because if they kept on selling OS 9 on Motorola they would have gone out of business five years ago. IBM got out of the retail space and focused on being a computer science company.

    There is not a

    • The reason MS has been lagging on innovation is that they are still the dominant player in office apps and in consumer operating systems. MS executives and engineers are used to sleeping soundly at night. Google has innovated because they were a new company and need to come up with something fast. Apple innovated because if they kept on selling OS 9 on Motorola they would have gone out of business five years ago. IBM got out of the retail space and focused on being a computer science company.

      There is not a lot of room for growth or innovation at the top. Look at GM, AT&T, Disney, Boeing, PanAm and other former industry leaders. They get too comfortable to innovate. Suddenly new players are entering their markets and they are late to see that the competition is better. As for the hedge fund managers comments. I would take them with a grain of salt. He obviously has put a fair amount of his clients money in MS. Is he really long on MS, or just trying to stir up enough controversy that he can dislodge SB and make a few million on the bump?

      If I had points, I'd mod you up. What you are describing is known in business terms as the "fat cat syndrome." Businesses become so successful that future products are evaluated not as to what they can do to benefit the company, but instead how they will cut into existing product lines. IBM was the biggest example of this back in the 70s and 80s.

      For IBM, they purposely held down the PC because it was a threat to their mini computer and later small main frame business. The arrogantly made the statement t

  • I hope there isn't a movement within Microsoft to jump on the bandwagon of dumbing down and "simplifying" their desktop environment so that it looks like it would be right at home on a tablet, netbook, or other mobile devices.

    If being stuck in the past means having a fully featured, straightforward desktop environment then consider me an old timer who refuses to change with the times.

    I do not like Gnome Shell. I do not like Unity. I do not want Windows to move in that direction.

    I think people are seriously

  • WHAT FORTUNE CAN EFFECT IN HUMAN AFFAIRS AND HOW TO
    WITHSTAND HER

    [...]
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    himself with caution and patience, times and affairs converge in such a
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    from what nature incl

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:07AM (#36262416)

    There's a whole bunch of really rich people who are about to rip into each other and I don't want to miss ANYTHING!

  • ...is also about to shell out $200 million for a share of the New York Mets, I have to question his evaluation abilities.
  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:09AM (#36262440)
    I mean that show a smart and sound in investor. Let's buy a share in a team that is a money pit that will give me no say in the operations. He must really be in touch with the current times, because the Mets haven't made any money in years.
  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:11AM (#36262462)

    1. Bill Gates is Chairman of the Board of Directors

    2. Bill Gates is Microsoft's largest shareholder

    3. Steve Ballmer was Best Man at Bill Gates' wedding

    Unless Steve Ballmer gets hit by a bus, he isn't going anywhere.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:12AM (#36262490)

    Don't worry...soon, Steve will reveal that Einhorn is Finkle.

  • I honestly don't know why people publish this stuff.
    Now, thanks to the press, there will be a bump in MSFT prices, and the hedge fund manager is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • You think that Ballmer's position grants him control over the behemoth, but I say he is riding atop a stubborn pachyderm trying to take credit for its good fortune in some times, while drawing attention away from its mistakes and flaws at others.

    The internal politics between departments and projects, conflicts in "the mind" of Microsoft, are more of an issue than the jockey flogging the lumbering beast, IMO.

    Now, a smaller company, or one with less in-fighting will respond better to their leader's comm

  • ... and let him retire to share old war stories with Clippy..

  • It's like saying that Al Capone was bad at being a mobster.

    Microsoft is pretty much defined as a company that started at monopoly position, produces technologically mediocre or plain inadequate products and maintains its control of the market by making those products so bad, interoperability with anything else is nearly impossible. Place a smart person at the helm of such organization, and it will destroy itself by losing this advantage. Gates and Ballmer are perfect people to run Microsoft -- first is driv

  • by drb226 (1938360) on Friday May 27, 2011 @02:18PM (#36265580)

    An investor who put $100,000 into Microsoft stock 10 years ago would now have about $69,000 worth.

    Interesting. Anyone else feel like stocks are just glorified gambling? (Hint: the house always wins in the long run. Where do you think the now-missing $31k went?)

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