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Microsoft Businesses

Ballmer To Retire 633

Today Microsoft announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will be retiring within the next 12 months. He said, "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. ... My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Ballmer, 57, has been Microsoft's CEO since taking over the role from Bill Gates in January, 2000. The company's board of directors has formed a committee to find a replacement for Ballmer, and he will continue his duties until a new CEO is found. Questions about Ballmer's fitness to remain CEO have been circulating for the past several years, particularly after the company struggled to get a foothold in the mobile market. It will be interesting to see how this affects Microsoft's stock price. Upon retirement, Ballmer will be able to cash out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Microsoft stock.
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Ballmer To Retire

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  • What Microsoft needs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:39AM (#44653693)

    Is to just hire Sinofsky back and give him carte blanche to fire anyone and everyone who supported Ballmer as a job perk. With the chance to fire the woman who forced Metro on him as a job perk, they could probably get him more reasonable on the compensation package.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:51AM (#44653891) Homepage Journal

    There was a perfect time for the transition:

    • Before Windows 8 was approved
    • Before Windows RT was approved
    • Before Windows Phone and Nokia was approved
    • Before Office 365 online was approved

    Avoiding those disastrous products would have made Microsoft billions, and those decisions were made by you, Ballmer.

  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:01AM (#44654053)

    I think this "retirement" (which probably wasn't as voluntary as Ballmer and MS are pretending) spells doom for Metro, at least on the desktop. Virtually no one outside of MS actually likes it. The only reason why they haven't backed down on Metro on the desktop before now is that it is Ballmer's baby and he doesn't want to admit he screwed up. The next CEO will likely not have any such attachment, and will probably be much more willing to ditch Metro in response to market demands – or at least allow it to be an option that can be turned off completely, for a Win7-style experience.

    Microsoft's foray into portable devices has been an abject failure. The smartest thing to do would be to focus on the business licenses that actually bring in the big bucks. That means stability, familiarity, and backwards compatibility – not flashy touch BS meant to appeal to non-technical home users.

  • by neurovish ( 315867 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:07AM (#44654153)

    It's not that Microsoft is 'late to the party', it's simply that they make bad products.

    Apple was late to the tablet party but ended up dominating it with pretty and functional products.

    As far as tablets go, Microsoft was there before Apple....they just did it wrong. It's kind of like Microsoft throws a party and nobody shows up. Then Apple throws a party, has the Rolling Stones there, and then everybody shows up. So Microsoft has another party with a Rolling Stones cover band and wonders why nobody is showing up.

    Every once in awhile they come out with something good, but it's a few years too late...take the latest Zune. Too bad everybody was using their phones to play mp3s by that time.

  • Re:Surface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:17AM (#44654341)

    A lot of this I would say isn't Microsoft's fault for the failures. But other disruptive technologies forcing them to move faster then a company its size.

    Apple in essence gave up Macs as their business model going to smaller devices.
    the iPod only really loss its dominance after other companies started making Smart Phones, there was never an iPod killer, the iPod killer with the iPhone.
    the iPhone in essence gave Apple a 2 year head start in the smart phone market, causing other companies to play catch-up including Microsoft. During this head start they were able to get a bunch of apps, and also push the iPad tablet market, giving an other year push.

    Microsoft was working on their own future plans, but was disrupted by Apple, and all its other competitors following suit.

    Microsoft is the Desktop Market. They were planning new and great things for the desktop, as seen with Windows 7, which really did shut Apple up in their I am a Mac and I am a PC adds. But their name is so connected to desktop it was a hard sell to reach out of it.

  • by asm2750 ( 1124425 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:21AM (#44654413)
    I would like to see Microsoft try to get Ray Ozzie back but, he seems more focused on his startup.
  • Re:Surface (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:35AM (#44654649)

    It's easy to cherry pick. Watch, I can do it too-

    Success of Windows 7
    Success of Windows Server
    Success of SQL Server
    Success of Azure
    Success of XBOX 360
    Success of XBOX Live
    Success of Office 365
    Success of Lync
    Success of SharePoint

    Looky here, my list is longer than yours.

  • by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:59AM (#44655027) Homepage Journal
    I was thinking that in response to the Steve Jobs crowdfunding initiative to build a sculpture [indiegogo.com] - perhaps we could celebrate this by crowdfunding a giant statue of Ballmer flinging a chair!
  • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:15AM (#44655281) Homepage Journal

    This is bad news, having Ballmer in charge of MS is a good thing as he was slowly mismanaging the company into the ground. A successor could be more competent.

    Bad news for competitors ... if Microsoft pick a replacement with the vision and ruthlessness of an older, wiser Steve Jobs. Even half a Jobs would turn Microsoft around from the stagnating business it has become.

    Easy shoes to fill, because even Goofy could have done as well.

  • Re:Joke's on MSFT! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:20AM (#44655375) Homepage Journal

    This is bad news, having Ballmer in charge of MS is a good thing as he was slowly mismanaging the company into the ground. A successor could be more competent.

    Note that the same guys who put Ballmer in charge will be picking his successor. We might not have anything to worry about. ;-)

    Well, the board have not been happy with him for years, but he was Bill's BFF so there was little the board could do. I gather Bill or his foundation still control a sizable investment portfolio in MSFT. Perhaps they'll grow some spines and fight for a better leader, not yet-another-BFF-of-Bill.

    fast forward to mid-2014: Melinda chose him, she liked his hair and the color of his eyes.

  • by RaceProUK ( 1137575 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:21AM (#44655383)
    Gaming's no longer a Windows stranglehold, not since Steam was ported to OSX and Linux. Windows is still #1 for games, but the gap is closing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:24AM (#44655449)

    The obvious answer to the old "I'm a Mac, he's a PC" advertising slur was "yeah, Mac guy looks pretty, but he's actually useless. Look at what PC guy can do". They always seemed curiously afraid to go there.

    You are correct: the root cause is fear.

    Microsoft can't give the customer the very best, most flexible products -- because Microsoft is afraid that the customer will use that
    flexibility against Microsoft.


    1: Artificial limitations = "Screw the customer, we need to make sure that one product doesn't cannibalize another".

    2: Metro = "Screw the customer, we need to make everything look like a mobile UI for our strategic marketing purposes".

    3: Locked-down RT bootloader = "Screw the customer, we need to prevent Android from being installed".

    Microsoft can't give the customer great products, because Microsoft has convinced itself that they can't afford to.

    Microsoft views the world from the perspective of power calculus -- that is: empowering the customer takes power away from Microsoft. Microsoft would rather keep the power than keep the customers. This is a common attitude shared by many in the publishing industry.

  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:35AM (#44655607) Journal

    And that is totally MS's fault. They still don't get it. If they did, they would remove all DRM from Windows. That includes the whole product key and activation nonsense they continue to harass all users with, legitimate and otherwise.

    There was a day when MS was cool. They broke the early Office software monopolies, software such as Word Perfect. They reduced Apple and their MacIntosh to a small niche market. MacIntoshes were more user friendy, but MS-DOS on a PC was way, way cheaper. MS didn't rest on their laurels either, they rolled out Windows to challenge the Macs. Then in the 1990s, MS started to slip. MS's slowness gave IBM a chance to grab back the OS crown with OS/2. Lucky for MS, IBM blew it. MS also nearly got the Internet wrong. Remember that at first they pooh-poohed browsers. They came to their senses in time, barely. Windows 95 was very nearly too late. In the early 2000s, even the anti-trust conviction didn't much damage the MS brand. People still believed MS knew tech.

    But now? MS has made many mistakes, but I could hardly believe it some years back when MS signed onto the RIAA and MPAA position on DRM. One might expect entertainment organizations to fail to understand that DRM is a bad idea, but a tech company? MS should have been savvier than that. Instead, they happily poodled to the RIAA! Let the entertainment industry do their thinking for them! They should have been educating the entertainment giants, not the other way around. It was a terrible show of incompetence and anti-customer positioning. Having backed themselves into a corner on DRM, they then turned to their customers and compounded the mistake, trying to sell us on the idea that DRM is good for us, talking down to us most insultingly. DRM helps stop us from being naughty pirates, and that's why it's good for us, right? Windows Genuine Advantage, ha ha! MS treated those moronic entertainment moguls like they really know stuff, and then treated their customers, many of whom are quite tech savvy, like a pack of adolescents who would try to sneak a few beers if they weren't carded all the time. They further magified the disaster by then insisting that Vista was doing very well. MS lost a great deal of credibilty.

    It is only sheer size and inertia that has allowed MS to survive such bad blunders. I don't know how much more blundering MS can tolerate. Quite a bit, I suppose. Will they pick a decent CEO? There any reason to think they will pick a winner there?

  • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @11:38AM (#44655637) Journal
    The funny thing is, the market agrees with you. Thus, based on the jump in Micro$oft stock price, and looking at the amount of stock Ballmer owns, he made nearly a billion dollars by quitting.
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@@@worf...net> on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:07PM (#44656007)

    It's closing, but only very slowly. Check the number of Mac games on Steam and it's still tiny.

    If one or two big publishers were to say "we no longer target Windows as a platform, instead we target Steam, which means PC, Mac (plus Linux?)" that might change things.

    But publishers generally need a lot of convincing to do that kind of thing and Apple's attitude is such that they will never even put out the feelers.

    No, gaming is moving away from computers, period. Mostly due to high piracy rates. It's also helped by Apple's more... favorable stance towards gaming (Jobs was not a fan of games, and in fact, wanted to ban games from the Mac way back in 1984).

    Thing is, gaming's moved on. The PC had high piracy rates and extreme avoidance of DRM, so AAA publishers started moving towards consoles (which were getting more powerful at the time that it was doable).

    Then Apple opened the App Store, which despite its approval requirements, thousands of indie devs flocked there and made mobile gaming a huge thing. In fact, a casualty of this was the casual arcade - a $2B industry in 2007, which collapsed to a mere $300M in 2008. These were from arcade machines that were put in places like a Laundromat and such and were played while people waited. In 2008, with the release of the App Store, people were gaming on their phones instead of putting quarters in the machine.

    Sure we all mock how mobile games are crap (like anything, 90% of it IS crap), but it's a powerful force - how indie devs have prospered on the PC, and now iOS and Android. And the platforms have shifted too - fewer games are Windows-only and use of cross platform (iOS/Android/Windows/OS X/Linux/etc) tools have made most indie games available on at least three platforms - either Windows/iOS/Android, or Windows/OS X/Linux.

    Gaming on Windows is mostly due to it "just being there" - we're talking desktop OS with 90+% marketshare. But a number of hours spent playing is taken up on iOS and Android as well. And AAA titles are more or less mostly on consoles now - few PC only devs exist (Valve, Blizzard being most prominent, but Valve now makes for OS X and Linux, and Blizzard is going to consoles).

    Windows' days as a gaming platform are heavily numbered - most games are available on other platforms or even completely platform independent (browser based gaming).

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:43PM (#44656541)

    Perhaps they'll grow some spines and fight for a better leader, not yet-another-BFF-of-Bill.

    Unfortunately for them, a significant number of senior leadership figures at Microsoft who might have been credible candidates have instead left the company in recent years. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, that limits the talent pool from in-house.

    It will be interesting to see whether they can attract someone good from outside. Big tech firms don't seem to have a great track record in that respect lately, though perhaps that perception is partly because we hear about the spectacular failures at places like HP but modest success stories go mostly unreported.

    Either way, MS still has an effective monopoly on desktops, a significant presence in business server rooms, a substantial war chest, and a lot of smart people. Someone with a better vision for how to use those assets than "It's like Apple but for people who didn't buy Apple yet" might do well there.

    I've suggested previously, even before the post-Snowden cloud/privacy concerns, that Microsoft could be in a very strong position if they swam across the current a little and promoted private clouds. It looks like a much more natural fit for their portfolio and expertise, it plays on competitors' weaknesses, and it plays to their strengths as an established provider on both client and server ends for business. It even gives them a potential way into the mobile market, via consumer-friendly devices with integral BYOD features for those who also want to use them for business but don't want to hand over the root password to corporate sysadmins. Any takers? :-)

  • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:54PM (#44656669) Homepage

    He transitioned Microsoft from being a desktop company to selling a range of server solutions which are quite profitable. He pushed Microsoft up market. He didn't do much in consumer he did a ton in enterprise and the growth in sales shows that.

  • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alef ( 605149 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @01:12PM (#44656907)
    With the risk of sounding a bit flamy, but haven't Microsoft always usually been second to market? I would say the problem in recent years has been that the other players have been a too strong (Google, Apple, Sony, Samsung) and the new markets a bit too tangential (phones, music players, tablets, game consoles) for Microsoft to be able to wield their desktop/office space monopoly effectively. So their normal strategy -- wait until someone does something good, copy it, strong-arm your way into that market segment and push them out -- doesn't work so well any more.
  • Re:Disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jon3k ( 691256 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @01:35PM (#44657167)
    Kinect was a interesting product that they under-captilized on. Why weren't they able to do with motion tracking what Apple did with touch based interfaces? Build an entire new ecosystem of products and services that never existed before? Meanwhile, Apple was building vertically integrated empires in product categories they created (there was no "tablet market" before apple. There was a spattering of shitty products with zero mass consumer appeal). But if all we can point to as the "success" of Steve Ballmer's microsoft is the Kinect the poor guy did a worse job than I realized.
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @02:55PM (#44658023) Homepage

    What about other wholly valid choices, like malicious, insane, or sadistic?

    I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that, as CEO, he actually did intend to make the company do better.

    If someone truly wanted to put a company like Microsoft into the shitter, it's do-able, but takes a lot of effort. And you have to assume there are other people around who would be trying to stop it.

    So, to me at least, it comes down to if Microsoft going forward is going to be capable of truly understanding what aspects of successful products people want, and actually being able to execute on delivering that. In the past, Microsoft has usually missed the boat on the execution and kept coming back to "Office + Outlook" as the entire purpose behind computers.

    It's like when the first iMacs came out -- people rushed to put Windows machines in lovely candy colored cases, but underneath was the same old crashy turd. It wasn't just the bright colored cases that made it successful, it was the actual user experience.

    If you only copy the superficial stuff and think that's close enough, you may never actually understand why your product isn't doing as well -- because all you see is that you also have a tangerine colored case, and people clearly want tangerine colored cases, so why aren't they buying your tangerine colored case?

    If you don't realize that customers don't like the toxic fumes and broken glass in your product, you keep looking at the case. They're not just buying your competitor for the pretty case, but because they don't want the toxic fumes and broken glass you're giving them.

    And I think it's that where Microsoft has been missing the plot the last few years.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter