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Ballmer Turns To Geeks For Salvation 370

jfruhlinger writes "One of the critiques of Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO is that, as someone who came up through sales, he doesn't really get what running an innovative tech company is about. With the company board starting to question his performance — he didn't get his bonus last year because of the Kin debacle, for instance — it appears that Ballmer is planning to install engineers in high places to turn the company around."
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Ballmer Turns To Geeks For Salvation

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  • Re:lolwut? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luthwyhn ( 527835 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:17PM (#35140604)

    Developers, developers, developers, developers!

  • cartoon gates? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bold_Cucumber ( 458278 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:21PM (#35140670)

    Not tremendously relevant to the discussion, but what happened to the old borg-gates icon? I don't like the new one.

  • Well good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:23PM (#35140698) Journal
    I don't simply dislike MS on principle, there's a few good reasons. Shifty market practices, bloated and unnecessary software, security issues everywhere, slow to innovate...I could go on. But believe it or not I'd rather like MS. If getting a few engineers a bit higher up in the system improves things in even the tiniest way then good. Cynically, I don't think it will, but here's hoping.
  • Re:lolwut? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:23PM (#35140706) Journal

    Nope... marketers, marketers, marketers, marketers.

  • by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:25PM (#35140730) Homepage Journal
    Come on. The icon is retarded and it was several years ago since Gates was with MS.
  • Re:lolwut? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:31PM (#35140820)

    Unlike Ballmer, Jobs is visionary. He has an aesthetic sense, really wants to be innovative, and has the drive to be.

    Ballmer is just a pencil pushing, number crunching marketing drone who doesn't have a creative or innovative bone in his body. Because of this, nothing he does will get MS out of its slump. The MS board can only hope that Ray Ozzie is interested in the CEO job.

  • by arikol ( 728226 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:32PM (#35140824) Journal

    Engineers making decisions?

    Because that worked so well for Nokia....

    Seriously, Nokia was an engineer driven company, which worked fine when all the issues were about new functionality and such, but when it came to fine polishing and figuring out non-engineering based problems they just stumbled around.

    Software engineers suffer from the same basic issue. They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards (inter-face, something which is the area where the user rubs against the technology), when the interface is the personification of the whole system, as well as the public face of the program and the company itself.

    Palm got this for a while, so did RIM, so does Apple (at the moment) and so does that Shuttleworth fellow (Ubuntu). Microsoft has never got this, and giving the engineers more power is not likely to fix the problem. Each specialised class of people is likely to view most problems as being solvable by their particular brand of hammer, and one of Microsoft's problems has been too much engineering/marketing against too little understanding of what the user actually needs to do. Use the engineering hammer to solve this problem and it is likely to get even worse.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Re:This won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:33PM (#35140854)

    Except its largely what google does right now (they have a lot of engineers working in management) - which is what I think this change comes from.

    Any business who's tried to setup a contract with google knows what I'm talking about - they are a much harder company to interface with than Microsoft.

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:39PM (#35140922)
    The only thing worse than people who whine about New Slashdot (waaaah Idle sucks waaaah I hate kdawson waaaah why isn't there a CowboyNeal option in every poll) are the people who whine about Old Slashdot. At least the former group has to come to grips with some kind of change, regardless of how petty or minor, but dude, really, this is what you signed up for. It's not a surprise or a secret. If you don't like it, there's the door. After all, if they ever changed it, it would just be another thing for the other group with no life to whine about.
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:45PM (#35140998) Homepage

    IBM still makes mainframes as well as software consulting. They reinvented themselves and it worked.

    I don't see Microsoft ever letting go of Windows and they'll crash holding onto 'em too. Microsoft's got an R&D division that the people selling product never talk to.

    It costs to much if they do.

  • Re:Well good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TemporalBeing ( 803363 ) <> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:47PM (#35141032) Homepage Journal
    For me to like MS again, not only would they have to resolve the issues you mentioned, but also completely and utterly abandon their EEE mentality; embracing standards for actual, real interoperability sake, not to modify them and make markets hostage to their will. MS could do very well as a company even on a level playing field if they really did (i) allow interoperability, (ii) didn't insist on everything being a MS only world, and (iii) actually started trying to compete on merits and good products as opposed to these cannibalistic tactics that they've employed ever since BillyG, Ballmer, and co founded MS.
  • by alispguru ( 72689 ) < minus physicist> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:55PM (#35141124) Journal

    And he is, except for one thing.

    Google has always been about engineering excellence, with market dominance being a welcome side effect. When it works, you get Gmail, when it doesn't work you get Wave.

    Microsoft has always been about market dominance through engineering mediocrity and barriers to entry. This has led to the teetering tower of kludge whose pinnacle is Windows 7.

    Microsoft CAN'T be engineering-driven the way Google is. Google can change its search engine implementation and strategy continuously and overnight. Microsoft can only change Windows in big increments, with lots of concern for backward compatibility.

  • Re:This won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saider ( 177166 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:01PM (#35141212)

    Inviting them to meetings and giving them authority over the project (and diluting your own authority) is not going to happen easily, even with orders from above.

    It is more than putting some engineering window dressing in the spot. What they need are people who can visualize how the entire system should work. This typically spans various products. This is why Apple is successful. They realize that in order to make the iPhone appealing, they need to have iTunes clients that run a certain way and connect to a large store of data in the iTunes store. Also, Apple is more than happy to have one of their products kill off another. They had no problem letting the iPhone kill the iPod. It is better for your own products to do that then your competitor's.

    At Microsoft, you'd have the device engineers, application software guys and the backend store folks all fighting each other to increase their division's profit and relevance. Old established systems would never die and they would also kill any up-and-coming projects that might unseat them by eating all of their resources.

  • missing the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:20PM (#35141410) Homepage Journal

    It's not about who is nominally in charge of a company. That's always been a secondary matter.

    It's who commands the respect within the company, and who gets listened to when he's got something to say.

    If marketing listens when engineering says "uh, that's actually not a very good idea", then things work out just fine. Oh, btw. - and vice versa.

    Problem with many CEOs, most C*Os and almost all management on the VP/director level is that they think they know everything, that business is a power game and that making your things happen is more important than making good things happen (or being unable to see that these are not identical).

    I've seen my share of these. My general take is that most low management people are heroes, even if they're assholes at the same time. Lots of top-level management is bright and cares, though most will gladly stab you in the back if it gains them anything. But middle and middle-to-high management is where they dump all the idiots, psychopaths and outright dangerous people. If you find a good person there (and they exist, I know a couple!) by all means hold on to them, they're an endangered species.

    So, Balmer, it's not what kind of people you put on what kind of chairs. It's if anyone listens to them, and that takes a lot more than giving them a nicer office.

  • Re:This won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Drethon ( 1445051 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:21PM (#35141432)
    The problem is while engineers look for the right way to do things, business people look for the low cost way of doing things. Engineer led companies go broke but people love their products while business led companies make money but are roundly hated. (ok, over simplification but still).
  • by Lorien_the_first_one ( 1178397 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:35PM (#35141610)
    Ballmer seems more concerned with a "scorched-earth" competition ethos than to actually compete. He seems to sincerely believe in destroying the competition to own the market. The problem is that he doesn't seem to notice that when the dust settles his competition is still standing if not charging him.
  • Re:Tech Company... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @04:00PM (#35141992) Journal

    Technically, the Google Nexus One is a beautiful, high-performing, genius-simple device.

    But as a business it was a total flop. Why? Because Schmidt assumed that if you make a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door; that is, until they realize it's not the same as their previous mousetrap and it doesn't work perfectly and they can't get hold of anyone in your company to tell them how to deal with their issues. At that point it doesn't matter whether it's a Google Phone or an actual mousetrap, the technology part is over and the business part is going to determine if it goes anywhere.

    Meanwhile, over at Microsoft, they're still selling buggy, vulnerable Windows NT in a 7th-generation wrapper and kicking the shit out of every other operating-system company on Earth.

    The moral: You can make a little money off your technical skills, but you can make a lot of money off your business skills.

  • Re:This won't work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @04:02PM (#35142032)

    To "interface" with?

    You mean deal with or talk to or what? It sounds like you have some brain damage from being too near business school product.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford