Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would like a 'redo' for company's phone efforts

One month ago today, Steve Ballmer departed as Microsoft's CEO after over 13 years at the helm of one of the biggest tech companies in the world. However, in a presentation in the U.K. at Oxford University today, Ballmer indicated he might want to use a time machine to go back and make some different decisions.

In his first public appearance since leaving the CEO gig, Ballmer told a group of students at Oxford's Said Business School that he had a few regrets while he was leader at Microsoft.

"If you look at things in the last 10 years, it's probably fair to say there are things that did not go as well as we intended them to," he said. "We would have a stronger position in the phone market today, for example, if I could redo last the 10 years."

Ballmer made the decision to ditch the older Windows Mobile operating system for Windows Phone in 2010, which has been far more successful for Microsoft.

Even if Microsoft makes mistakes in some markets, Ballmer indicated that the company has enough money to solve those problems and "catch the next wave of rapid innovation." That may include wearable computing devices in the next decade. Ballmer said, "Whether they will be things we wear on our eyes or in our ears, devices will continue to change."

Ballmer also offered some business advice to the students who attended the presentation. One of the things he said successful business leaders should do is recruit the best people. In fact, Ballmer said his last act as CEO of Microsoft "was a recruiting call."

Source: Oxford University (YouTube) via ZDNet

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Well Microsoft have some smart people and im pleased that Ballmer is out, im sure the new CEO will push the company forward he done very well in the cloud division so im quite positive.

All Microsoft needs is someone to direct and focus, remove barriers and infighting between teams and they can come out very very strong a company the competition will fear again.

The only last thing i hope microsoft will do is not keep pushing everything around Windows, i know its a big product for them but other products are making a lot of money. Azure is running on windows but thankfully they don't advertise it as Microsoft Windows Azure, i think this is part of the problem with Windows Phone is the perception. Obviously nokia is doing a lot to change this and it is slowly working.

As long as Microsoft continue to tie together their services Windows + Office + Xbox + One Drive + 365 etc... then they are onto a winner.

The other thing i would like them to do is diversify into more hardware, the surface is an incredibly well designed device (xbox1 not so much ive found personally) it would be interesting if Microsoft was to launch a wearable device such as a health/lifestyle watch etc.. (i don't include SPOT devices as they were a little primitive based on the tech at the time).

Well, I'm sure anyone can do better in hindsight, but time machines don't exist, so... Just hope that MS doesn't miss the "next big thing".

Ballmer was a great CEO. I just can't see why he had to leave.

Ballmer signed of on Windows 7, which brought Aero Snap to the Desktop, the best feature to come to an OS, ever. Win 7 is simply excellent all-round.

He also took a risk with Windows 8, and revitalized Windows Mobile/Phone. I personally think they were heading in the right direction just before he left. They were aware of the changes that had to be made, and were on the road to success again.

All that had to be done is to give the market some time. There wouldn't be big changes overnight.

So what he's saying is that when it comes to mobile (Fanboys, please note I said mobile), he sucked. And in hindsight, he knows he sucked.

Of course you can do better when you look back at past decisions and then got a do over. I doubt he would have done any better without knowing the future. The plan he had at the time was what he thought was best for MS.

techbeck said,
Of course you can do better when you look back at past decisions and then got a do over. I doubt he would have done any better without knowing the future. The plan he had at the time was what he thought was best for MS.

yeah but you have to admit, he had some fundamental flaws which don't really have anything to do with pre-knowledge of events.

1) hubris. he dismissed apple and google so many times. he still does to this day...only to play catchup when the market proves him wrong. Most recently, Sony spanked him.
2) he fostered the infamous internal war system at MSFT which basically made teams duplicate each other's work and torpedo each other's success.
3) the man had no vision. he never did. he was only riding the money machine gates created. He is better suited to run a mortage company than a software company. Steve B simply was the accidental tech CEO.

neonspark said,
You can re-do it. fire Joe Belfiore and Terry Mayerson who btw, are in charge of windows!!!!

And fires Mark Penn, why? because he is just a troll.

I've only EVER seen 2 people with Windows phone 7/8 devices since they came out. one was 2 years ago, the other was a month ago.

warwagon said,
I've only EVER seen 2 Windows phone 7/8 devices since they came out. one was 2 years ago, the other was a few months ago.

And you are from the USA right?

In my class about 1/10 of the students has a Windows Phone. About 1/5 has a Surface RT.

warwagon said,
I've only EVER seen 2 people with Windows phone 7/8 devices since they came out. one was 2 years ago, the other was a month ago.

Anecdotal evidence is the best kind of evidence. I see Windows phones quite a bit, especially travelling internationally. Just because warwagon doesn't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist

siah1214 said,

Anecdotal evidence is the best kind of evidence. I see Windows phones quite a bit, especially travelling internationally. Just because warwagon doesn't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist

The 520 sells really well in Europe. Too bad the flagship phones don't sell well anywhere really.

derekaw said,

The 520 sells really well in Europe. Too bad the flagship phones don't sell well anywhere really.


True.

Actually, I think I've figured out why Warwagon never sees them. He only works with people that still run XP, so it makes sense that those people wouldn't have the latest and greatest phone either.

derekaw said,

The 520 sells really well in Europe. Too bad the flagship phones don't sell well anywhere really.

If the 520 sells really well then so must the more expensive models. Because in a pie chart the percentage of 820 and 920 is still about 1/3 the size of the 520's segment.

EDIT: And don't forget that between the 925, 1020, 1320, 1520, etc the high-end segment is rather divided. There hasn't been one signal 'real' flagship since the 920. I hope Nokia chances this and announced the 930 soon.

I find the same to be honest. But the funny thing is that when I pull mine out and start using it, often I find someone starts talking to me about theirs.

siah1214 said,

True.

Actually, I think I've figured out why Warwagon never sees them. He only works with people that still run XP, so it makes sense that those people wouldn't have the latest and greatest phone either.

True. Seems all I hear from him is how he never sees Windows Phones and everyone still uses XP. Not sure where the hell this land is but I'm damn glad I don't live there.

warwagon said,
I've only EVER seen 2 people with Windows phone 7/8 devices since they came out. one was 2 years ago, the other was a month ago.

I only know 1 single person with windows phone and is me (i own a lumia and a galaxy note).

warwagon said,
I've only EVER seen 2 people with Windows phone 7/8 devices since they came out. one was 2 years ago, the other was a month ago.

Yep, I've still only encountered one, and she regretted the purchase.

They could have had it all. Even Sony came nocking at their door when Apple took the mobile world by storm. Sony, Samsung, LG, HTC, etc all of them turned to Windows Mobile to stand against Apple. Microsoft should have immediatly signed partnership agreements with all of them. Promosing to invest billions in Windows Mobile and together create a mobile ecosystem. Missing out on this opportunity is indeed Ballmer's biggest mistake.

Yeah when Apple said they wouldn't allow third party apps to run on iPhone, Microsoft even had a chance then before Apple realized what a big mistake that was.

Too bad he gave Windows Mobile developers and users the middle finger when Windows Phone came out. It was basically a crippled version of Windows Mobile in terms of API, which prompted me to stop all development and move to Android as both a developer, and later as a user. Had they not done this, and perhaps did something more progressive like HTC did with the HD2 UI, I would have stuck with them.

zivan56 said,
Too bad he gave Windows Mobile developers and users the middle finger when Windows Phone came out. It was basically a crippled version of Windows Mobile in terms of API, which prompted me to stop all development and move to Android as both a developer, and later as a user. Had they not done this, and perhaps did something more progressive like HTC did with the HD2 UI, I would have stuck with them.

Your loss. Windows Phone is attracting quite a range of users. That market is only going to grow.

Dot Matrix said,

It means Windows Phone is growing.

After 3 or 4 years WP is still at around 3% market share...I wouldn't call that growth. Seems more like stagnation.

Sonne said,

After 3 or 4 years WP is still at around 3% market share...I wouldn't call that growth. Seems more like stagnation.

Roughly the same market penetration Apple has in computers after 30 years of pushing Mac.

Dot Matrix said,
It means Windows Phone is growing.

But the problem is that the 3% now is pretty horrible after 4 years of products being out there (if you include Windows Phone 7 as part of the mix). At this stage you'd think that all the ground work of feature comparability with competitors would already be there and Windows Phone 8.1 would be the version that would pull it ahead of the competition rather than playing catch up.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

But the problem is that the 3% now is pretty horrible after 4 years of products being out there (if you include Windows Phone 7 as part of the mix). At this stage you'd think that all the ground work of feature comparability with competitors would already be there and Windows Phone 8.1 would be the version that would pull it ahead of the competition rather than playing catch up.

Market share isn't going to grow overnight. Not when many are still tied to two year plans.

Dot Matrix said,
Market share isn't going to grow overnight. Not when many are still tied to two year plans.

It isn't about just handset sales it is about Microsoft ensuring that when Windows Phone 8 was released it was 99% feature comparable to the competition with Windows Phone 8.1 closing the gap and adding features not found on other smart phones. When Windows Phone 8 was released it was woefully behind the competition in terms of features and they're even further behind and then add to the framework features developers are asking for which hold up their application development you can lay a lot of the blame squarely on Microsoft's own shoulders. Oh, and btw, stop using the United States as a 'metric' and then extrapolating it globally - not every carrier in the world operates like they do in the US thus making the argument entirely useless to the discussion taking place.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

It isn't about just handset sales it is about Microsoft ensuring that when Windows Phone 8 was released it was 99% feature comparable to the competition with Windows Phone 8.1 closing the gap and adding features not found on other smart phones. When Windows Phone 8 was released it was woefully behind the competition in terms of features and they're even further behind and then add to the framework features developers are asking for which hold up their application development you can lay a lot of the blame squarely on Microsoft's own shoulders. Oh, and btw, stop using the United States as a 'metric' and then extrapolating it globally - not every carrier in the world operates like they do in the US thus making the argument entirely useless to the discussion taking place.

I seem to recall Windows Phone market share exploding over in Europe, even in South America. And so what about comparable features? Windows Phone isn't iOS, and it certainly isn't Android (and never will be). It doesn't need every bell and whistle to be useful.

Dot Matrix said,

I seem to recall Windows Phone market share exploding over in Europe, even in South America. And so what about comparable features? Windows Phone isn't iOS, and it certainly isn't Android (and never will be). It doesn't need every bell and whistle to be useful.

The 'explosion' is in the low end dirt cheap phones, the high end trophy phones are doing no good at all. People are not buying Windows Phones because they want a Windows Phone they are buying them because they are dirt cheap. These people still aspire to buy an iPhone but they can't afford one so they get what they can afford.

Dot Matrix said,

Market share isn't going to grow overnight. Not when many are still tied to two year plans.

Its got nothing to do with 2 year plans, its got to do with people not wanting Windows Phone.. oh, unless you live in Europe and you need a dirt cheap phone and a Windows Phone is all you can afford.

derekaw said,

Its got nothing to do with 2 year plans, its got to do with people not wanting Windows Phone.. oh, unless you live in Europe and you need a dirt cheap phone and a Windows Phone is all you can afford.

I really want a wp8 phone, but im stuck in my 2 year contract

Dot Matrix said,

Your loss. Windows Phone is attracting quite a range of users. That market is only going to grow.

You mean like how it "grew" from virtually 100% of the smartphone market to a few percentage points?
No, it is Microsoft's loss. As lots of developers followed, along with users migrating to other platforms. Making it a virtually insignificant platform today.

derekaw said,

Its got nothing to do with 2 year plans, its got to do with people not wanting Windows Phone.. oh, unless you live in Europe and you need a dirt cheap phone and a Windows Phone is all you can afford.


Yes iPhones are only for the wealthy or Americans. It's so obvious now. /s

Steve should use that Undo feature on MS word. Unfortunately their failuare was not in the last 10 years but in the years following the success of Windows Mobile. Little effort was put with Windows Mobile althought to MS credit they weren't able to do any sort of integration until the last couple of years when the Government watch was over. But their phone efforts could have been better. They did the same thing that they did with Internet Explorer, that once they won the battle they stop developing/innovating on that end.

derekaw said,
Yeah, instead of laughing at the iPhone.

Are you going to keep repeating this? People make mistakes you know, so do CEO's.

Jarrichvdv said,

Are you going to keep repeating this? People make mistakes you know, so do CEO's.

Yes, if it's relevant. This story is exactly about this, his response to the iPhone.

Well, it is worth keeping in mind that this isn't the first time Microsoft missed the boat, under Gates and Ballmer.

Some of us remember when MS was completely blindsided back in the mid-90s by the rise of the Web. They pretty much let Netscape have the whole pie all to themselves until they licensed some browser tech from Spyglass, cobbled together IE, then used their stranglehold on the desktop market / OEMs to bludgeon Netscape to death and shove IE down the market's throat by main force. Then what happened? The web stagnated for years and years, dependent upon Microsoft to innovate in a dead market, which didn't happen until Firefox came along and lit a fire under them.

Gates had a vision of the "tablet PC revolution" 15 years ago and more (remember Windows XP Tablet PC Edition?) and tried to create and service a market he clearly didn't understand using hardware that was nowhere near ready for what he wanted to accomplish.

Ballmer DID scoff at the iPhone in 2007 and completely misunderstand the threat and the opportunity it represented.

Blind-sided by Netscape, blind-sided by the iPhone, blind-sided by the iPad, always scrambling to play catch-up. In the Netscape days (and before that -- remember what they did to WordPerfect, DR-DOS, etc.) they were able to leverage an existing monopoly to bully the market into line.

They haven't found a way to do that with Windows Phone or Surface / Windows 8 because the rise of iOS and Android has given them something in recent years they haven't had to deal with in a very long time: viable competition.

Ballmer never ran Microsoft when it had to be nimble and scrappy and hungry and fight for every percentage point of market share and mind share. He probably couldn't wrap his head around it, not really, and he pretty much admitted that as he was going out the door.

But look at the Surface! Tthe Surface Pro is an amazing, beautiful piece of technology. It is every bit as sexy as an iPad and far more capable in theory -- but it's not really an iPad competitor, not the way MS seems to think it is.

It somehow manages to be able to do both too much and too little to satisfy the iPad / Galaxy Tab / Nexus 7 / Kindle Fire market. Can it run every app in the Windows universe? Pretty much, but the screen is pretty tiny for desktop apps, the resolution is too high to read / touch comfortably and too low to pixel-double, and the (essentially essential) keyboard costs major $$$. And the Surface RT? I still don't understand why, in a world of $300 Bay Trail tablets, there needs to be a Surface RT in the first place.

Do you know one of the main reasons I stick to my MacBook Air / iPad combo instead of moving to a Surface Pro 2 that would combine them both into one amazing, significantly cheaper and easier to lug around package?

Because Microsoft was late to the party over and over.

I bought an iPhone. At the time Microsoft had nothing to compete with it.

I bought an iPad. At the time Microsoft had nothing to compete with it.

Because I had an iPhone and an iPad, it made sense for me to have a Mac laptop as well when it came time to upgrade.

So my workflow? All Apple now. And the apps! I've bought a fair number of apps that I really like and if I up and move to Surface now I'll either have to give up some apps I can't have at all on the Surface or I'll have to REPURCHASE apps I already own on my Apple devices.

They were late to the phone party and they lost people like me, who started with Windows 3 a million years ago. They were late to the tablet party.

By the time they finally came up with something I'd happily throw my money at I'd already gotten cozy in Apple's walled garden and, well, inertia is a bitch.

He wasn't laughing at the iPhone, he was laughing at it's initial price point, which Apple dropped from insane, to slightly less insane soon after.

Walrush said,
He wasn't laughing at the iPhone, he was laughing at it's initial price point, which Apple dropped from insane, to slightly less insane soon after.

It was the iPhone and he was laughing. He missed an opportunity. He joked about it, he did not see the future that the iPhone represented. He has since regretted this.

I won't forget it and I think that moment represents Microsoft's future.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eywi0h_Y5_U

Edited by derekaw, Mar 5 2014, 6:22am :

Rob Dowdy said,
Well, it is worth keeping in mind that this isn't the first time Microsoft missed the boat, under Gates and Ballmer.

Some of us remember when MS was completely blindsided back in the mid-90s by the rise of the Web. They pretty much let Netscape have the whole pie all to themselves until they licensed some browser tech from Spyglass, cobbled together IE, then used their stranglehold on the desktop market / OEMs to bludgeon Netscape to death and shove IE down the market's throat by main force. Then what happened? The web stagnated for years and years, dependent upon Microsoft to innovate in a dead market, which didn't happen until Firefox came along and lit a fire under them.

Gates had a vision of the "tablet PC revolution" 15 years ago and more (remember Windows XP Tablet PC Edition?) and tried to create and service a market he clearly didn't understand using hardware that was nowhere near ready for what he wanted to accomplish.

Ballmer DID scoff at the iPhone in 2007 and completely misunderstand the threat and the opportunity it represented.

Blind-sided by Netscape, blind-sided by the iPhone, blind-sided by the iPad, always scrambling to play catch-up. In the Netscape days (and before that -- remember what they did to WordPerfect, DR-DOS, etc.) they were able to leverage an existing monopoly to bully the market into line.

They haven't found a way to do that with Windows Phone or Surface / Windows 8 because the rise of iOS and Android has given them something in recent years they haven't had to deal with in a very long time: viable competition.

Ballmer never ran Microsoft when it had to be nimble and scrappy and hungry and fight for every percentage point of market share and mind share. He probably couldn't wrap his head around it, not really, and he pretty much admitted that as he was going out the door.

But look at the Surface! Tthe Surface Pro is an amazing, beautiful piece of technology. It is every bit as sexy as an iPad and far more capable in theory -- but it's not really an iPad competitor, not the way MS seems to think it is.

It somehow manages to be able to do both too much and too little to satisfy the iPad / Galaxy Tab / Nexus 7 / Kindle Fire market. Can it run every app in the Windows universe? Pretty much, but the screen is pretty tiny for desktop apps, the resolution is too high to read / touch comfortably and too low to pixel-double, and the (essentially essential) keyboard costs major $$$. And the Surface RT? I still don't understand why, in a world of $300 Bay Trail tablets, there needs to be a Surface RT in the first place.

Do you know one of the main reasons I stick to my MacBook Air / iPad combo instead of moving to a Surface Pro 2 that would combine them both into one amazing, significantly cheaper and easier to lug around package?

Because Microsoft was late to the party over and over.

I bought an iPhone. At the time Microsoft had nothing to compete with it.

I bought an iPad. At the time Microsoft had nothing to compete with it.

Because I had an iPhone and an iPad, it made sense for me to have a Mac laptop as well when it came time to upgrade.

So my workflow? All Apple now. And the apps! I've bought a fair number of apps that I really like and if I up and move to Surface now I'll either have to give up some apps I can't have at all on the Surface or I'll have to REPURCHASE apps I already own on my Apple devices.

They were late to the phone party and they lost people like me, who started with Windows 3 a million years ago. They were late to the tablet party.

By the time they finally came up with something I'd happily throw my money at I'd already gotten cozy in Apple's walled garden and, well, inertia is a bitch.

Have to disagree on the tablet front, that was innovation im afraid. Yes they were a commercial failure due to the limitations of tech at the time, high cost and complete lack of consumer awareness, however those tablets pioneered the way for handwriting recognition and a push for portability and mobility from hardware partners.

Without the impetus of that who knows where we would be today in that space.

The reality is MS has a lot of products which aren't necessarily commercial successes but that doesn't meant they are innovative or pave the way for future products.

Jarrichvdv said,

Are you going to keep repeating this? People make mistakes you know, so do CEO's.

People do make mistakes, yes. CEO's cannot afford to make mistakes, or not as many. Microsoft has been lucky due to its solid foundation in other areas. If it were less multi-dimensional, things would have gone quite differently and you can think of a few examples yourself.

Anyone in their right mind would, MS is a leading company and in the mobile world they're last place, something that they're not used to (and they could have done better, they were in the platform before Google and Apple)

I felt they were always not trying hard enough. They had Windows Mobile and they had tablets with XP so long ago. I guess there just wasn't any competition so they never had to improve.

thatguyandrew1992 said,
I felt they were always not trying hard enough. They had Windows Mobile and they had tablets with XP so long ago. I guess there just wasn't any competition so they never had to improve.

That has always been MS' way. They don't improve without competition to drive them. They will sit and linger without it.

The sad lesson they are learning now is that they need to innovate even when there isn't any competition. As they may soon have it and it will be too late to jump back in. As the competition will emerge to capitalize on the hole they left in the market.

This is true with mobile... This is true with tablets... This is true with Browsers...

Rudy said,
Anyone in their right mind would, MS is a leading company and in the mobile world they're last place, something that they're not used to (and they could have done better, they were in the platform before Google and Apple)

I'm always shocked about what they released when compared to the competition at the time - with all the resources (money and man power) you'd think that they should have at least released a Windows Phone 8 that was pretty much feature comparable with what Android and iOS had to offer but alas as of Windows Phone 8.1 they're still adding rudimentary features.