Steve Ballmer, one of the forefathers of Microsoft (with a career spanning 3 decades there) and its CEO since 2000, is finally retiring.
Well what can we say except, Thank G-d!
The Wall Street Journal reports how the markets cheered yesterday with Microsoft stock rising 7% at his exit and that’s with no successor identified.
In other words, better nobody, than Steve Ballmer somebody!
Ballmer managed to take the genius of Gates and a company stock valuation of $603 billion in 2000 and turn it into less than half–$290 billion–by the time he announced he was going.
Not bad destroying over $313 billion of value in a little more than a decade.
Gates was the visionary–the inventor (with the help of Apple) of Windows and Microsoft Office.
He was brilliant and he left us with products that still today dominate desktop computing, which was predominantly what existed up until he handed the reins to Ballmer.
But since 2000–we have smartphones and tablets–bringing Microsofts’s share of market to just 15% today.
Ballmer was an operations guy (not what you need in a fast-changing technology market), while Gates was a innovator (who could spearhead the change itself).
Ballmer was the wrong man for the right job.
A technology guru could’ve taken the lofty perch Microsoft sat on in 2000 and used it as a springboard to the technology stars and beyond, but an operations nerd could only run it into the ground.
Yes, Microsoft is still highly profitable at almost $22 billion last year on sales of $78 billion–nothing to sneeze at–but the problem is they are fighting last decades technology war.
That’s why Apple, Google, and Amazon eclipse Microsoft in prestige and excitement, if not all by market share (yet).
In almost 14 years, Ballmer couldn’t manage one major fully new product innovation–except Xbox in 2001 (let’s cough that one up to Gates), Bing in 2009 (a Google look-alike), and Kinect in 2010 (Ok, maybe one cool thing).
Ballmer couldn’t even put in a place a viable succession plan and is leaving the company in a chaotic leadership void for the top spot.
Gates was smart to sell the vast majority of his stake in Microsoft–not because they are not a great company with lots of talented people, but because without a true leader at the helm, they are lost in the vast technology sea of change without direction or innovation of their own.
Ballmer, it was 14 years too long, maybe now there is still hope for Microsoft to rise and be great again. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)