I have a new theory about Steve Ballmer.
Maybe earlier in his life, or in a previous life, he did such wonderful things, he earned himself a guardian angel.
Really, how else does one explain how a man can remain employed through one planet-sized bungle to the next?
Many companies make mistakes in the pursuit of greatness. Apple makes some doozies.
But Microsoft, under Ballmer, consistently makes the kind of mistakes that can easily turn the company into the type of case study you don’t want to be: the “rise and fall” type.
I don’t pretend to understand the dynamics inside Microsoft. However, this is business. Very big business. No amount of loyalty, favoritism, appreciation or whatever can possibly rationalize the company’s poor showing since Ballmer assumed office.
How Microsoft, formerly the most valuable and profitable technology company on earth (“formerly,” thanks to Ballmer), with virtually limitless resources, could fall into its current state is almost impossible to comprehend.
After failing miserably with Vista, Ballmer has completely missed the two biggest technology revolutions in recent times: smartphones and tablets. And let’s not even talk about the $8.5 billion he just sunk into Skype.
The smartphone failure alone should have earned him his gold watch. It took Microsoft three years to come up with a viable alternative to iPhone. Even then, “viable” is probably being generous. Now, after Android, Microsoft must fight to be a distant third.
His public statements have become laughable, from predicting that iPhone can’t possibly succeed to passionately defending the PC as other technologies make it less relevant.
This week, Ballmer’s theater of the absurd redefined absurdity. First he blurted out that their newest OS, to be called Windows 8, will be released in 2012. Shortly thereafter, a Microsoft “spokesperson” issued a clarification: “It appears there was a misstatement.” Turns out, there is no timetable yet for the new OS, and there is no confirmation of its name.
Honestly, can you imagine this kind of screwup taking place at any other company?
It’s not like there isn’t a growing chorus of calls for Ballmer’s retirement. The latest came yesterday from the president of Greenlight Capital, David Einhorn. He describes the Microsoft CEO as being “stuck in the past.”
The good news for Microsoft is that Ballmer doesn’t have to be stuck in its present. It’s not all that hard to send a CEO packing.
Though I have no current fondness for Microsoft, I’ve often wondered how things might change if they actually had a visionary CEO. I imagine Microsoft’s stockholders have been wondering the same thing.