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Microsoft Businesses

Forbes Names Microsoft's Steve Ballmer Worst CEO 444

Posted by timothy
from the best-aim-though dept.
New submitter _0x783czar writes "Microsoft haters gleefully have latched on to the latest scoop that a Forbes columnist has named Steve Ballmer the worst CEO. It seems that the article has leveled some strong accusations of irresponsible and ineffective business practices; claiming that Microsoft has not progressed over the last 12 years of Ballmer's leadership. (Full disclosure: I'm not a Microsoft fan myself and tend to agree with this piece.)"
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Forbes Names Microsoft's Steve Ballmer Worst CEO

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  • Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimmerz28 (1928616) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @08:49AM (#40004115)
    Really? Even worse than RIM?
  • Re:Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:02AM (#40004237)

    I think the mayor point isn't that he's failed to keep a monopolitic position, but rather that he has failed at all to capitalise on it. Like it or not, the CEO's of the banks who bankrupted the world made bundles of money in the rise, and are now making bundles of money in the fall. They managed to capitalise on a crisis, where Balmer has failed to capitalize on the position of Microsoft. Look at Apple, all it took was a small investment in R&D and suddenly they turned their computer buisness into one of the most sucessful MP3 companies, and then Phone companies. Microsoft tried to throw it's weight after these areas but failed. They even failed to win large in the console market after spending quite a bit of money in an attempt to kill Play-station (But Nintendo won that one).

    Really Microsoft has been one huge investment in one field after the other, always waiting for others to be the first movers, and this has left them failing again and again.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:03AM (#40004249)

    Exactly. While Steve hasn't changed the world and Windows is still a toy OS, under his supervision Windows has become again quite nice and clean, usable package.

    Fun fact: in Finland, Ballmer's nickname is sometimes "Pallomeri [wikipedia.org]".

  • Re:Worse? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fooslacker (961470) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:12AM (#40004325)
    I'm not a fan of M$ these days but still I agree. There are a ton of companies that have outright failed, lost a huge lead, or even gone down in a blazing inferno due to incompetence or outright corruption. There have to be worse CEOs. Microsoft is still massively profitable.

    FTA..."Without a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today."

    Clearly the author is engaging in hyperbole and histrionics to gain attention for his piece. The article is about CEOs who should have been fired already which is probably a fair assessment of Ballmer but the over the top "worst CEO" stuff is silly.
  • by dnaumov (453672) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:12AM (#40004331)

    Now, I don't like Steve Ballmer, but to say that he is an incompetent CEO is absurd. Under his watch, company revenues and profits have increased VERY significantly and that's what the CEO is responcible for. I can sympathize with the shareholder gripes that MSFT stock price hasn't really gone anywhere over the past decade, but that's because the starting point (10-12 years ago) was a completely ridiculous overvaluation of the tech boom. I can easily name several other major companies whose stock has gone nowhere for a long time despite company earnings growing consistently and their future looking as bright as ever.

  • by 23940823908235908 (940365) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:21AM (#40004391)

    Ballmer's concept of business is stuck in the Windows XP days, when competitors feared Microsoft's entry into a market. Back in those days, Microsoft could get away with releasing half-baked products, and competitors would run off, knowing that MS's resources would demolish them. Microsoft's mindset was to prevent competitors from entering markets.

    The problem now is that it's not 2001 and Microsoft is no longer in a monopoly position. Instead of leveraging their Office and OS market share, they have to enter new markets and win new customers. And they're really struggling at doing this. To win from the ground up Microsoft products would need to have compelling advantage over their competitors, whether it be price, features, or relationship with customers.

    How Microsoft went about Windows Phone 7 is an example of their old, "monopoly" playbook failing to work in a new market. Microsoft saw that a market existed, and went to enter the market using the old approach: build a 'good enough' product and hope that competitors give up in fear. The results (which Microsoft refuse to publish out of embarrassment) speak for themselves. Microsoft didn't compete on price - their phones were at mid-level prices, their features were lacking compared to the competition, and any relationship with customers (e.g. enterprise customers using Exchange and Active Directory, etc) failed to materialise because MS didn't implement critical security 'lock down' features on the phone. Microsoft technical staff have the know-how to do these things - but they just don't seem to happen. Is it the management structures? the reward mechanisms? or the corporate strategy? internal politics? .. certainly it's a combination of factors. Thigns are systemically wrong with the whole organisation.

    In short, Microsoft is failing at a strategic level. No-one is excited about Microsoft products anymore. No-one thinks their products will be better value or cheaper than the competitors. No-one feels that Microsoft is listening especially closely to anyone except themselves. Microsoft's actions are decidedly tactical, rather than strategic: a new user interface here, some more features there. But without a strategic - CEO - level change, I can't see their situation improving. Having diversified so much, Microsoft will not collapse overnight, but it will continue to slide into irrelevance.

  • by Apuleius (6901) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:25AM (#40004429) Journal

    16 years ago, the mere mention of Gates or Ballmer would be enough to get me foaming at the mouth.

    Today?

    Gates is on track to wipe out polio. And Ballmer? What's to hate? Anti-competitive practices? Apple's a far bigger concern.

    What else?

    Pollution? Political corruption? Financial malfeasance? Mistreatment of employees? Microsoft does none of this.

    And to boot, their product line continues to improve. Can't get the hate going anymore.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:27AM (#40004439) Homepage Journal

    If Forbes is using STOCK PRICE as a barometer of how good the CEO is, well, then every company on the S&P500 is the worst CEO of all time.

    For the last decade, the S&P500 has remained essentially flat, while CEO compensation has gone up 500% -- Companies may be getting more profitable, but that value is going right into someone's pocket, it's not going to share value, it's not going to re-investment, and it's not going to jobs.

    Forbes is drinking the kool-aid, and is missing the big picture. In fact, this article is probably fluff to distract us from the *REAL* story, that the market itself is failing.

    Take Friday's big relevation that a certain big bank lost $2 billion is a bad trade. Do any of you actually believe that hogwash? We're talking about a company big enough to manipulate the market in their favor, every time. We're talking a bank, an organization that can't lose money because of the way the entire game is rigged -- only an idiot could lose money at a bank.

    No, that money's not lost, it's in someone's pocket.We're just being told it's lost so no one goes looking for it because we're the ones who were robbed.

    Steal $100 and go to jail. Steal a billion and cover it up properly, and you retire in Bolivia.

  • Re:Where's Elop? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @09:40AM (#40004603)

    > I can't believe Stephen Elop of Nokia is not on that list.

    TFA "credits" Ballmer for the destruction of Nokia and others in the Microsoft ecosystem. Since Nokia is now a Microsoft subsidiary in all but name, I'm not sure it's much of a stretch.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:09AM (#40004905) Homepage

    That's exactly what I get from this, too. Microsoft's stock price - while fairly high - has remained constant for ten years, while many of its competitors have seen enormous growth (even excluding Apple). Ten years ago, Apple was struggling, and Microsoft had the cash reserves and market share to sell any quality product they wanted. That would have been an ideal time to dump money into meaningful R&D (more meaningful than a fancy coffee table) and produce the next product that would end up in every home - but Microsoft, under Ballmer's guidance, didn't. Microsoft hasn't really moved forward at all, releasing only newer versions of the same old products, and only making half-hearted attempts to establish new markets.

    That risk is important. Apple risked everything on the iPod, and risked a major stake on the iPhone. As the entire company's future was on the line, the entire company was committed to making the risk work. The software team made good software, and the hardware team made good hardware. At Microsoft, there is so much internal conflict that only minimal progress can get the support of the whole company. As I've heard, project managers will actively attack other projects, so they all look equally bad. That's not the kind of environment that fosters innovation, and when you're already at the top, innovation is the only way to grow.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Creepy (93888) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:33AM (#40005175) Journal

    Did Nintendo win the console wars? Sure they have the highest percentages of consoles, but Microsoft really isn't that far behind. But that doesn't show the whole picture - remember that consoles are sold at a loss, which they make up for by a surcharge on software (known as the Gillette razor model). For console software in 2011, the market trailer, the PS3, sold the most according to what I've heard (doing a quick google search, I come up with this [wikia.com], which validates what I heard from a game magazine editor I'm an acquaintance with - don't really see him enough to say he's a friend - a friend of friends).

    If you count just Japan though, Nintendo wins hands down - PS3 and XBox360 are tiny shards of market (around 10% I think - Nintendo was over 70%).

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:33AM (#40005177) Homepage Journal

    I was a POM for 6 of the Ballmer years.

    It was like being in the bowels of the Politburo.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:39AM (#40005233) Homepage

    Nokia is an intentional destruction. That is different from incompetent leadership. What you see happening at Nokia is a very calculated and though out plan to completely destroy that company.

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:54AM (#40005341)

    The only place I can think of where MS has become successful where it initially had no market presence has been the Xbox gaming console, and even there MS leveraged their experience with desktop PC technology and in some ways co-opt existing developers who developed for the PC platform, as well as subsidizing the platform for years before they began to make any money.

    In every other case MS has been merely building on existing platforms while failing to create any new areas of market dominance -- Windows OS, Exchange, SQL, MS Office.

    Phones? WinMo had some traction when ActiveSync became established, then was in some ways abandoned, leaving the market to BlackBerry and ultimately Apple and Android. Windows Phone doesn't look like it will be more than a niche player. Bing? Fail. Zune? Fail. Etc.Etc.

    I wonder if the real reason for this is actually the success of their core products -- anyone who's actually talented, especially at the management level, wants the easy money of the core products and also resists any innovative products in other areas that might threaten them.

    I sometimes wonder if MS might have actually been more successful if HAD been broken up by the DOJ and forced to actually innovate vs. just collecting rent from their monopoly positions.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:59AM (#40005425)

    More so now than in the past. There have been some good people at Microsoft. They were either seduced in by the idea that the biggest s/w company must somehow be the best. Or they went in with their eyes open, hoping to put up with the culture for as long as it took for options to mature to build their nest egg for their own idea.

    With MSFT stalled at around $30 (for years), the nest egg idea is dead. People that actually want to do something with their lives are getting out now (or already have). The time will come when having Microsoft on one's resume (CV) will be a negative (there are a few other companies around here like this). Then, the stampede for the door will commence.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @11:18AM (#40005635)

    How had that been working out for the car companies prior to 2008? If you build a new car factory you don't build it in michigan or ontario if you could avoid it. You build it in the south or another country and leave detroit a wreck of a city.

    GM's biggest value would have been its patent portfolio, and probably a handful of engineers. Everyone else would have been on the unemployment rolls because if you have to build in the US, you would rather build in the south, if you don't have to build in the US you build in mexico, japan, china, germany etc.

    As it was GM did go bankrupt, the government managing it meant it was a relatively orderly transition, workers took huge pay cuts, without hugely long periods of unemployment, and the factories were kept where they were rather than being abandoned so people didn't have to move to try and find jobs etc.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @11:28AM (#40005747) Journal

    BS. Ballmer took over in 2000.. the XBox was released in 2001.

    No 1 console worldwide.. 49% marketshare [technet.com]

    If that doesn't count, then what would?

    Two things:

    1) The XBox still has yet to realize ROI - Twelve Years Later, and pulled in no profits at all until 2009 or so. The XBox program may finally reach ROI in 2015, but there's the fact that they'll have to start sinking even more money into R&D for the next gen console before then, so even that date is an iffy proposition. Most tech companies would have called that a miserable failure by now, if they had managed to survive such a massive loss. Nintendo had OTOH made a pure profit off of their line and usually reach ROI for any given console line within a few months of release. Sony is a bit tougher to see because their primary goal was not just selling consoles, but selling Blu-Ray players.

    2) Ballmer was officially CEO in 2000, but Gates held the Chairman of the Board slot for quite some time after that - and if you don't think Gates called the shots during that time with Ballmer as a figurehead-in-transition, you're either naive or lying.

  • Re:Worse? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @11:31AM (#40005787)

    Microsoft was imploding long before Gates left; it is revisionist to tHink otherwise. I remember in 1998-9 talking to a MS employee and how he was excited that the MBAs were starting to take a back seat to the engineers and how that would turn the company around from a "good enough" company to a true innovator.

    I can't be certain if his view was realistic or accurate, but I do remember the lack of progress from Windows 95, and that the antitrust trial began in 1998.

    Gates left a sinking ship. Balmer stabilized, then simply squandered opportunity. If he can't capitalize on Windows 8, he really needs to step down. They have another golden opportunity that started with 7, but if they blow it...

  • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @01:52PM (#40007537)

    > Ballmer has ignored the trends and innovations of other companies until success in the marketplace forces him to mount a too-late response

    I hope one day Ballmer writes a book and talks about what he was thinking.

    To me, it seems like Microsoft tried to predict where Apple was heading with iOS and I think they predicted a merging of their desktop and mobile operating systems. I really think that's how Microsoft ended up developing the dog that is Windows 8 / Windows RT. Their near future strategy seems totally bizarre to me and I can't figure out what it is they think they are going to accomplish.

    In my day job, I work on a large Windows desktop application and we every change we've made lately has been to decouple us from Microsoft. I've always advocated choosing the cross-platform solution to a problem even if it is the more difficult path. Up until about a year ago, I've usually lost those arguments.

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