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September 5th, 2013

Steve Ballmer - a Bummer?The times they are a-changin’—since nothing is constant but change, right? Changes in the tech world don’t come any bigger than Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft. It’s a whirlwind for Microsoft right now—a new Xbox debuting soon, the purchase of Nokia’s wireless biz for about $7 billion, the meandering journey of Windows 8, ad nauseam. Yet it is certainly no secret that a solid, growing majority of pundits, tech analysts, industry observers, and ratings firms have signaled that Ballmer’s departure is probably a good thing.

In fact, Adam Hartung of Forbes.com had this to say about Ballmer’s reign at Microsoft:

Without a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today. Not only has he singlehandedly steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets (mobile music, handsets and tablets) but in the process he has sacrificed the growth and profits of not only his company but “ecosystem” companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and even Nokia. The reach of his bad leadership has extended far beyond Microsoft when it comes to destroying shareholder value—and jobs.

Hartung notes that Microsoft’s stock price reached its historic high of about $60 in 2000, the year Gates handed off control to Ballmer. Just two years later it was in the $20 range, and has yo-yo’d between that and the low-$30s ever since. It’s not any one thing, but a succession of miscues that affected every aspect of the business. The firm is still ubiquitous—most any computer rental will likely run Windows 7 or 8, unless you opt for a Mac or a Linux box—but is no longer the leader, innovator, or style-setter that once challenged Apple in those categories (it’s true, youngsters!). It’s hard to imagine any tech writer favorably comparing the troubled Surface tablets to our potent iPad rental. No one looks at Microsoft and thinks, “They’re so hip! They’re so stylish!”

Ballmer Bummers & Blunders

So, what has Ballmer’s decade-and-a-third accomplished for Microsoft? It’s not an exhaustive list—since making one would be exhausting—but here’s a sample of Ballmer Bummers & Blunders:

  • The Ballmer era has seen constant, continual delays on rollouts of new/upgraded hardware and software.
  • The lack of added value in upgrades encouraged user avoidance and piracy.
  • Vista was years late and poorly received.
  • Ballmer never had an “iMac moment”: Windows 7 did not solve the OS mess, and Office 2010 did not excite business users.
  • Ballmer killed off “personal tech” like Zune, CE (the mobile OS), and the early tablets.
  • The future of Microsoft apparently rests on Windows 8.

Hartung characterizes that last one, betting on Windows 8, as an “insane bet for any CEO,” and it would not have happened had the Microsoft board of directors replaced Ballmer “with a CEO that…would have kept Microsoft current with market trends.” While Microsoft has by no means become a failure, Hartung says that no CEO should have been “allowed to take such incredible risks with investor money and employee jobs.” The Forbes contributor ends by advising Ballmer to go home and “enjoy his fortune” instead of making it impossible for employees and investors to make their own.

We will keep you posted on all things Microsoft in the coming weeks: the transition to a new CEO, the debut of the new Xbox, the marketing campaign for Windows 8, and all the rest! In the meantime, we’re here 24/7/365 to solve your problems. Call 877-266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page to take care of things in your own time. CRE’s got you covered!

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