TechSpot: A Steve Ballmer Story That Helps Explain Microsoft

Steve Ballmer surprised the world when he resigned from Microsoft, and everyone wondered what he would do next. Well, he surprised everyone again when announcing his impending $2 billion purchase of the LA Clippers. Boom! What a way to get a second at-bat.

The big thing most people misunderstand about Ballmer is that he’s unbelievably smart. They see him going crazy on the stage and assume the man is a joke.

I can assure you he’s anything but. Ballmer is razor sharp. Every questionable decision you think he made, he will have insights and considerations you never thought of that explain it. The man grew Microsoft from $8 million to $78 billion in annual revenue, from 30 people to almost 100,000. That is an incredible feat; you don’t do that by being a joke.

What you see on the surface is a ton of passion for Microsoft.

Read: A Steve Ballmer Story That Helps Explain Microsoft
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I'm sure that Ballmer's mother thought he was smart as well - that does not mean he really was/is. Over the years he was in full charge, he made one bonehead decision after another. Had he not made them, he would still be at the helm. His original plan was to be there a few more years.

Some companies make scads of money in spite of the fact that their leaders are boneheads - Microsoft is one of those companies.

Even now, in the wake of the disaster that is Windows 8.x, Microsoft still makes enough money to blunder along with Surface, and the multi-billion dollar writedowns to this point. The idea is that once something becomes huge, it takes a lot of screw ups to bring it totally down. Microsoft has been racking them up with great regularity in the past 10 years - Vista [only from a PR standpoint], Bing, Xbox, Windows 8.x, and now Surface. Most companies would have collapsed by now, but the genius of Gates' bundling the OS with each computer keeps the dollars flowing, and tend to wash away the giant mistakes which would have crucified any other leader, long ago.

What I meant to say in a lot less space is intelligent people don't continue to pour money down ratholes, no matter how little they value that money. Ballmer has gone all-in on far too many things that are long time losers of money to be considered anything but a dismal failure.

Microsoft, for all its celebrated attempts to be beloved by consumers, is still not a consumer company. It's a rich company. It's a huge company. But it's still an Excel and Windows firm, now with a servers side-business. When you take away XBox -- which still isn't a huge part of the company's overall business -- Microsoft still isn't a place that builds things people really like. It's a place that builds things people -- and, particularly, business people -- think they have to use.

To say that Ballmer didn't recognize the frailty of the "put-our-stuff-into-PCs" strategy is too simple. In his tenure, he has replaced almost every major division head at Microsoft, shifted the company away from its "PC-first heritage" toward search, video games, and Internet calls. But he arguably failed to anticipate the simplest and most important shift in his business, which is that people were taking computers off their desks. He didn't compete with Google and Apple to protect the moat around his software business, and today Ballmer's would-be competitors hardly ever considered him worthy competition. As Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said of Microsoft: "They're a well-run company, but they haven't been able to bring state-of-the-art products into the fields we're talking about."

Steve Ballmer made some very bad things. But his tenure will probably be judged by the things he didn't make and the big picture he didn't see. Microsoft used to be huge, and then the computers got small.

Personally i didn't like the article, it shifted a lot of the attention to Sinsofsky who i thought was a great person. Simply focusing on Windows 8, they forgot to mention that sinsofsky brought about the Ribbon in Office 2007 which is now part of a lot of business apps design language (SharePoint, CRM) and most importantly Windows 7 which has been a massive success for Microsoft.

Ok Windows 8 didn't set the world on fire however it was a radical shift and needed someone as focused as sinsofsky to shake Windows up and move it from being a Windows 95 clone, personally i love Windows 8.1 i have it everywhere and it works well, i prefer the start screen more than the start menu as i have all the apps i need and use frequently pinned.

The problem is that Win8 was a radical departure so needs a lot of refinning to meet everyone expectations, which we are seeing with updates, i think Windows 9 will really bear the fruits of the labour that went into Windows 8.

As for Ballmer i didn't like him, it wasn't ballmer that grew the company it was the staff at Microsoft, Bill Gates had the vision, Ballmer was just a numbers guy. A lot of the great stuff in Microsoft came about despite him not because of him, as Microsoft has a lot of very smart, talented people working for them.

How can any one think that someone who introduced Stacked Rankings (appalling method of a working environment) leading to one of the biggest brain drains in Microsoft for a long time.

At least the article did get one thing right, he has no vision what so ever for computing, which thankfully the new CEO of Microsoft seems to demonstrate.

"The man grew Microsoft from $8 million to $78 billion in annual revenue, from 30 people to almost 100,000. "

To be fair didn't the PC industry as a whole kind of explode over that time period. Everyone has a computer now. I'm not saying he isn't smart, he certainly is, but I don't think he was solely responsible for Microsoft's growth. Being firmly entrenched in the OS market to the point of being a monopoly did that for them (and even though the methods were sometimes shady Bill Gates was really the one to thank for that).

You think maybe Microsoft is a reason for the explosive growth of the PC? Many experts have said it was WinTel that created that growth; you know Windows + Intel. Microsoft wasn't just there collecting money in the PC revolution, they were one of the primary reasons for that revolution. I've also read that the monopoly, as you wrote, might have been one of the bigger reasons for massive growth of the PC during that time.

About this story, its odds when some journalists say that Ballmer lacked of vision about the mobile market. It wasn't the problem, Microsoft was a pioneer of the smartphone market, in fact, Microsoft practically coined the term SmartPhone. So, Why MS failed?. Stupid managements, lacks of faith in some products, never getting in touch with their customers (for example, with windows 8 beta program, most people warned MS about it) and so on. Anyways, MS failed for several reasons but not because the lacks of vision.

The same morons who badmouth Ballmer (and anything MS) praise Lord Steve Jobs for being a genius and 'inventing' anything and everything including pc's, phones, mp3 players. The simple truth is Apple wouldn't exist with MS.

Microsoft might not have existed without Apple. Apple might not have existed without Xerox. Xerox might not have existed without IBM ... What point are you trying to make?

Garry said,
Microsoft might not have existed without Apple.

I'm pretty sure Gates and Allen made a living selling BASIC without Apple…

MFH said,

I'm pretty sure Gates and Allen made a living selling BASIC without Apple…
His point is that all of these companies may not have become as powerful without the help and motivation from the other.

Garry said,
Microsoft might not have existed without Apple. Apple might not have existed without Xerox. Xerox might not have existed without IBM ... What point are you trying to make?

"Microsoft might not have existed without Apple"... Ha! Remember that MS 'copied' Xerox, and Jobs was angry at them, yet Gates said: "It´s like going in your rich neighbor's house to steal their TV, just to find out someone had already stolen it!". So MS would have existed without Apple, latter they copied thing from them, but never as much as CrApple copied from others without R&D to back it up. Steve Jobs' own words:
“We have been ‘ShameLESS' about stealing great ideas”.

Panorama + Folders = Android
Notification Bar = Maemo
The name "Apple" = The Beatles
Slide to Unlock = Neonode N1m
Mouse GUI = Xerox
Reject calls with SMS = Symbian
iMaps = Google Maps (Opps)
Fingerprint sensor (Cracked) = PCs (Safe)
Multitasking = webOS
Copy/paste = WinMobile
Ping = Facebook, Twitter
iPad = Samsung´s Photoframe
iPad Mini = Dell Streak
iPod = Creative Technology and Walkman
‘iPhone' the name = Linksys' iPhone®
‘iOS' the name = Cisco's Internet OS (ios)
Original iPhone = Samsung's S700 Mp3 Player
iPhone 4 & 4S = LG's Prada
iPhone 5c = Lumia 620
Pinch to zoom = Samsung
iMessage = BlackBerry Messenger
iCloud = Dropbox + Onedrive
iOS Minimalistic = Windows Phone.
Smartphone Optical Stabilization = Nokia
Siri (Clippy) = Xiaoi Bot + Nuance
App Store = Ubuntu Software Center
Multitouch Smartphone = Bought another company
Bigger Screen smartphone = Everybody else
MacBook Air = HP's Sojourn
Macsafe = Asian Crockery
Thunderbolt = Intel
OSX, iOS = Unix
Newton = Psion Series 3, HP 95LX
Apple Logo = Genesis 1:6, 3:6
Aluminum = Cheapest Metal
Plastic = ($$$ Reinforced Polymers)
Security = Buy a new one...

Defcon said,
The same morons who badmouth Ballmer (and anything MS) praise Lord Steve Jobs for being a genius and 'inventing' anything and everything including pc's, phones, mp3 players. The simple truth is Apple wouldn't exist with MS.

Plus Balmer helped make several MS businesses and divisions on the 'Billions' Rank!

Maybe so, but the mobile market took off and Microsoft, under Ballmer, was slow to react. That was my criticism of the guy.

Also, can we get a list that includes the stuff that Microsoft stole from others? Can that list include the patents they've infringed, or that one time they used pirated code stolen from Apple, or do we want to continue to make Apple look worse than they are, while we portray Microsoft as saints?

benthebear said,
or that one time they used pirated code stolen from Apple,

You mean the "San Francisco Canyon Company", right? 'cause technically that was not Microsoft pirating Apple's source code…

I always wondered why persons like to badmouth him so much. Those same persons happen to don't own or run a major company the magnitude of Microsoft or have been in the industry as long. Sometimes persons need to do personal introspections before commenting on other people.

Mr. Dee said,
I always wondered why persons like to badmouth him so much. Those same persons happen to don't own or run a major company the magnitude of Microsoft or have been in the industry as long. Sometimes persons need to do personal introspections before commenting on other people.

I love your kind of logic. (tips : sarcasm).

As a customer viewpoint, Microsoft IS JUST ANOTHER VENDOR and, as one, i am in my right to complain if the product or the service is defective. In fact, it is part (or should be) of the QA proccess of every business. And Ballmer used to be the head of this company and screwit several times, hence the critics.

Brony said,

I love your kind of logic. (tips : sarcasm).

As a customer viewpoint, Microsoft IS JUST ANOTHER VENDOR and, as one, i am in my right to complain if the product or the service is defective. In fact, it is part (or should be) of the QA proccess of every business. And Ballmer used to be the head of this company and screwit several times, hence the critics.

One question: Do you take critcism as well as you apparently like to dish it out? Most people with your kind of attitude don't, and like everyone ever born, I'm sure you've made PLENTY of misteps in your life, too. But since you not a public figure with every Tom, Dick, And Harry pointing out your every fault, I guess we'll never know, will we.

But don't mind me. You are JUST ANOTHER POSTER and, as one, "i am in my right to complain..." ;)

Edited by COKid, Aug 8 2014, 12:27am :