Monday, 16 July 2012

Vanity Fair's expose of Microsoft and CEO Ballmer, is out. Get it and be horrified about their downfall.


You may have been familiar with my blog of July 5 or indeed you may know of the controversy surrounding Microsoft.

Largely, it's a company that's really under the microscope because it has lost its way after Bill Gates departed the company. Apple's iphone business alone, does more business than the whole of Microsoft.

In particular, the current CEO Steve Ballmer, who is there officially until 2016 anyway, carries a lot of responsibility since the demise of the once great Microsoft, happened squarely on his watch.

Ballmer is a controversial character making ridiculous predictions about the demise of the Iphone and indeed the Ipad (you can see those interview videos on my original blog). Nonsensical predictions that he gets wrong on video and of course, haunts him now every step of the way.

He also carries himself in quite a ridiculous manner and video of him at the launch of a Microsoft conference (also on my original blog) is really cringey. Worse than that in fact.

On July 5, the controversy was furthered by the leaking of a journalistic piece on Microsoft in 'Vanity Fairs' August edition, which seemingly was to expose the cultural reason why Microsoft, under Ballmer, has lost its way.

It was to blame an inter-staff management system called 'stack ranking' - a rating system for employees. Titled "How Microsoft lost its Mojo" it's based on emails, interviews and internal documents, Vanity Fair was to expose this problem at the heart of Microsoft which it argues was mainly responsible for its lack of vision, lack of Microsoft creativity.

We were told in the snippets that we had, that the stack ranking system was corrosive and possibly the single reason for Microsoft's continued downfall. The article was considered to be explosive and one wondered if Ballmer would survive the onslaught - but I hadn't read it then because it hadn't been published. This weekend I now have.

Not only is it explosive (and excellently written) but it makes Steve Ballmer look like a buffoon. A man who gets it wrong time and time again and has now become an embarrassment to the company. "Stack ranking" gets a good mention but its not the focus we thought it was - Ballmer is.

Reporter Kurt Eichenwald says, "Ballmer's key business philosophy for Microsoft was so antiquated as to be irrelevant. The Microsoft CEO used to proclaim that it would not be first to cool, but would be first to profit -- in other words, it would be the first to make money by selling its own version of new technologies."

It includes an interesting quote from Steve Jobs - "The company (Microsoft) starts valuing the great salesmen, because they're the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers. So the salespeople end up running the happened at Apple when John Sculley came in and that was my fault and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft. Apple was lucky and it rebounded, but I don't think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it".

He actually blamed Bill Gates for Ballmer. "Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he's really not. He's a businessperson. Winning business was more important than making great products".

Indeed.....and The Vanity Fair article blames Gates too with the fact that Microsoft had the lead on ebooks but it was stifled by Gates. They had the lead on itunes, but it was stifled by Gates. Gates appointed Ballmer.

It's really damning stuff and go out and get it.

This is too much public criticism laid squarely at the door of Ballmer and far more than I understood on July 5 for him to laugh this off. More importantly, Microsoft now appears to be a company in crisis and so uncool, it's not true. They are going one way and that's down. Their Skype acquisition is beginning to show no meaning.

I wondered then, based on what I knew, whether Ballmer would survive this very public criticism.

I have absolutely no doubt now.
Except an announcement soon.