In the past 15 years, Microsoft grew from an operating system and office software company, to an enterprise software company (Windows Server systems, Dynamics, Sharepoint), a consumer electronic company (Xbox), an online service company (Bing), and more recently, a cloud computing company (Azure). Microsoft did what most companies do when they grow – diversifying their businesses and entering a great variety of markets in order to cultivate their revenue.
No company is like Apple – a more focused, dedicated, and passionate functional organization that produces only a dozen of consumer electronic devices and creates an entire industry of its own. Ballmer did a great job within his own limits. Yet Ballmer was not capable of capturing the trends that Apple created on its own. He did not see Blackberry’s coming in the enterprise market. Neither did he embraced Apple’s consumer device approach to computing. Ballmer was an old overconfident salesman folk that could not realize the future.
Microsoft chose the worst timing to force Ballmer’s retirement. As Ballmer said,
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is
the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy
with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team.
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
If Ballmer’s words were not doctored, and Ballmer’s retirement was his own plan during the Microsoft reorganization, his intention could be detrimental. On the other hand, if Ballmer’s words were indeed doctored in the press release, and he “would have not had my retirement happen”, Microsoft’s board made the worst decision in the worst timing. The odds are not in Microsoft’s favour.
In Microsoft searching for the new CEO, Peter Bright of Ars Technica contends that,
A better route might be to look for another Steve Ballmer, but without
that salesman’s overconfidence. This CEO would be someone willing to
appoint and listen to a consumer-oriented, product-focused visionary
who could be empowered to guide the company’s consumer-facing
products. This could be every bit as effective as a “classic”
visionary CEO in the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs mold, while being
somewhat easier to find.
The last CEO we heard capable of listening to a visionary is Tim Cook. And unfortunately, he is with Apple.