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back to article Ballmer: Time up for 'stuck in the past' Microsoft CEO?

A billionaire hedge fund manager is calling for Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer's head. Could it be that the irascible Redmond kingpin's reign is finally drawing to a close? David Einhorn, president of the $5bn Greenlight Capital group, has reportedly told a conference that Ballmer's "stuck in the past" and should give …

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Happy

Yep!

Couldn't agree more, it's certainly time for the Del Boy of software to hang up his medallion chain and sell the three-wheeler!

He's not an idiot, despite trying to prove otherwise, but the world has changed and he has tried to stay the same, it simply doesn't work like that as those of us breaking the bit 4-0 barrier find out very quickly!

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Meanwhile...

Stocks in furniture stores rose noticeably, in anticipation of the wholesale chair-related cataclysm which this event is likely to cause.

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skype

People like skype, they know what it is and what it does, and where to find it. I am sure MS will ruin all that as some suit decides to rebrand it with their awful 'MSN / Windows Live' concept just like they did with Hotmail (which was a great buy at the time, they just ruined it since).

And then they'll totally fail to invest in properly developing it too no doubt, just like hotmail, so others come along and steal their market from under them.

Google's purchase of YouTube is how they should be doing it. Invest in the technology, but keep the familiar look and location that people know.

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Skype

I agree with the Skype/Hotmail comparison. But I don't think Ballmer should go. Microsoft's problems are largely brand related. People hear "Microsoft" and they think: viruses, malware, annoying dialogs, that paper clip thing and the 1990s. "Windows" is similarly tainted.

MS should buy companies and use those companies' brands as well as their tech. It is better if customers don't know that Microsoft is behind a brand (like Skype). Also they should rename Windows before trying to put it on a mobile phone or tablet. Keep the "Windows" badge for desktops only.

Also, to keep a finger in every pie, they should launch some Android kit, even if it competes with their own mobile OS. Basically, MS should push themselves to the front of the market with whatever it takes, and not just sit in some back room with a Windws PC.

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Time for a change?

"Also they should rename Windows before trying to put it on a mobile phone or tablet. Keep the "Windows" badge for desktops only"

Maybe its time to get rid of the Windows brand entirely. Windows 7 is doing well and should scale with hardware over the next few years. In the mean time, perhaps microsoft should drop Windows and design a new operating system from the ground up. It would give them a chance to innovate and to shed some of the negative perceptions regarding Windows.

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Skype deal

What was so odd about the Skype deal is that Microsoft didn't actually say what they were going do with it.

Had they announced the deal and used the same event to say something definite like 'Skype is coming to Xbox Live' then journalists would have at least known what was planned and be able to tell consumers that Skype would bring videophones to millions of living rooms. That buys good headlines, gives the Xbox a boost and should have raised the share price.

It's incredible that a company like Microsoft has such woeful spin doctors.

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RE: Time for a change?

Do you really believe it is a simple matter to write a new OS? When was the last time we saw a genuinely new OS? Both Android and OS X use existing *NIX implementations for the groundwork and the latter has been tweaked constantly for 10 years. Somehow I doubt whether Steve Ballmer would take that approach given his views on FOSS. Supposing it takes 5 years to write a ground-up OS do you really think Apple and Google will be standing still - look at how much catching up they have had to do in the mobile market. Anyway much of the work seems to be moving towards the cloud.

Despite there being reliability and security issues with Windows it remain their principle brand and it takes a brave company to change the name of their cash cow.

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hmm

"YouTube is considered a colossal failure on Google's behalf."

Considered by who? The short sighted, perhaps. It might not be the most profitable, but it's certainly the most ubiquitous and widely used video sharing site on the internet, and google owns it.

"They still haven't figured out how to make it profitable."

Profitability, in the short term at least, is not the only metric of success.

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skype on...

Yup, good idea, skype on xbox, skype on winmobile.

Cheap calls all round, the xbox cheap calls and seeing the image on your tv. winmobile, a route to reduce the cost (some people already have this on other phones).

As you say it would bring a point to the purchase.

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FAIL

not quite

>Despite there being reliability and security issues with Windows it remain their principle brand

IIRC M$ tried to port Windows to mobile devices and the result was such a bloated failure that they ended up writing a mobile os from the ground up that only pretends to behave like their desktop windows (Windows CE and its ilk). The sad thing is Unix is much older than windows but it design principals were so solid that it suffers less legacy issues that the bloated crap code base windows has become (have heard it takes a server farm several days and over 200 iterations to build the windows desktop kernel due to circular dependencies).

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@Jim 59

"Microsoft's problems are largely brand related."

A brand's value is a measure of how the customer feels about the company, it's products and service. So just who is it you think is responsible for ensuring the brand is held in high regard?

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Nope

"Do you really believe it is a simple matter to write a new OS"

Nope, i think it is incredibly difficult, and to create a decent consumer OS is a assive amount of work. I know more than a little about software development myself, so it wasn't a statement I made lightly. But just because something is difficult doesn't mean it couldn't or shouldn't be done. You can't keep building on top of the same OS over and over again, or the result is Windows ME. If everyone was like you, there would never be any progress... "The Moon! Do you know how far that is? or how much it would cost? It would take years and billions of dollars - and ts only a big rock!"

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Ballmer is an idiot.

Ballmer is an idiot end of story. How he has stayed in charge for this long is a mystery. He failed to recognise the importance of both the iPhone and iPad.

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Ballmer should go but..

Yep, the shouty, squeaky CEO should go. The question is who is going to fill his size nines?

This is a serious question, should it be someone from within the company or a new broom? If it is a new broom then who has the technological vision and the respect of the investment community? Whatever happens they need to get it right first time, a job that could be very difficult. We could be in for a very interesting six months or so.

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Hmmm

Stephen Elop?

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Schmidt?

Maybe Microsoft should steal Schmidt from Google? He was after all CTO at Sun, CEO of Novell, and was CEO of Google. He'd be a fine choice to replace the bombastic joke that Balmer is. Balmer has failed at this for ten years and because he is behind the times, the company he runs is behind the times. Oust him now before he makes the situation worse for his company. Mac adoption is still on the rise and Microsoft doesn't have an answer for the Tablet market. By the time they come up with one under Balmer, they'll be further behind in that market than they are in Smart Phones.

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Stop

Mac adoption is still on the rise...

Only because the consumer base is on the rise...

Percentage wise, the three major OSs seem to have sat pretty stagnant for the last few years.

I do agree that MS has no answer to tablets though. Just slap WinPhlop 7 on there already and it may help boost the numbers.

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Who is going to fill his size nines?

How about Larry Ellison?

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Joke

won't be me

My feet wouldn't fit.

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Meh

Elop's a waste of space and SteveB would eat him for breakfast.

That said, SteveB has to go. A lot ofMS employees used to grumble about him still being at the helm.

No idea who should replace him - maybe Sinofsky?

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Windows Mobile

Just like WinMo they will sit on the fence and keep pushing full blown Windows for all computer devices until sales tail off. Then they will produce a new tablet OS that is two years or more behind everyone else.

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Dead Vulture

Rich man demands more money

Film at eleven.

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Flame

Passenger seat drivers

As a hedge fund manager, David Einhorn should be advised that if he doesn't like his under-performing Microsoft stock he should just sell it or STFU. The CEO and board of directors are there to run Microsoft and they're supposed to run it as a long term business, not a short-term cash cow. Einhorn's job is moving money around, not building lasting profitable companies. His decisions are made based on numbers in spreadsheet without regard for ethics, jobs, the economy or anything else*. He's the last type of person any CEO should listen to as his agenda is money now, and if the company sinks in 6 months, who cares so long as he made a buck.

*Of course, these days most CEO's of big companies are just as mercenary as disinterested investors.

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On the other hand

If you don't want your company to be run by the shareholders then don't go public.

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FAIL

in general yes, but not here

> they're supposed to run it as a long term business

As in doing nothing new for a decade but a long line of money losing ventures (zune, kin, Bing, etc). Balmer even threatened the cash cow with the Vista debacle. M$ only current long term strategy is to defend their only true success the windows/office monopoly by any means necessary as long as possible. Its like watching IBM doing the same with their mainframes in the late 80s.

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You've got that bassackwards.

As CEO of a public company your job is to make money for your shareholders. Period. That can either be done by paying dividends or increasing share value.

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Coat

Perhaps a name change...

to Microsloth

... 'cause "we're a little slow"

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Microsoft is an Iceberg...

... not a ship. While a large ship might be slow in changing direction, Microsoft has no controls at all. It just keeps on blocking the shipping lanes breaking everything it comes into contact with. Balmer, Gates and the rest of the board of director might say whatever they want but they will not be able to effect the course that the company takes. It was deliberately built that way: a monopolist leviathan to crush anything in its way.

Windows was built on DOS and Office on Windows, everything else is built on these. It's entire profit base is an upside-down pyramid balancing on it's DOS legacy. Push too hard in any direction and the whole thing falls over.

So sack Ballmer if it makes you happy, he has got a pretty poor track record but no-one else will be able to do any better.

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It's not based on DOS

The DOS legacy went out the window as of Windows XP, which was a consumer-ised version of 2000, which was based on WinNT- not DOS.

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Boffin

Modern Windows kernels

Might be vastly different to DOS... but they too are steeped in legacy chains that hark back to DOS days.

• Volume letters rather than a single root partition mounted at / (Windows CE is an exception here) so you can only have 26 volumes mounted at a time.

• They still use the backslash in file paths, whereas everyone else these days uses /. (Ever tried typing those in C?)

• By default, all users are made Administrators (a hangover from the fact that DOS had no concept of users).

• Applications come with their own installers, rather than the unified approach used by Linux/BSD distributions (Yes, there are competing package managers, but take a single distribution, you'll find it uses one or two *compatible* package managers.)

• File system is case insensitive (Mac OS X is too, but you can also opt to have a case sensitive file system.)

Some of this might sound petty... the \ vs / thing trips up a lot of people though ... I often see people using \ in URLs for example. Drive letters may be seen as "easy to use", but really...

/mnt/usb (most Linux distributions)

/Volumes/USB Drive (MacOS X)

\Flash Disk (Windows CE)

F: (DOS/Windows NT)

Which one is definitely a USB flash disk? What if the third system had a few HDD partitions mounted? It's definitely a headache for programmers having to concern themselves with what drive letter they're on.

Case sensitivity also catches people out ... there's some documentation I've got for a system in HTML format which I need to refer to. It was written on a Windows computer. Unfortunately, the person writing it didn't stay consistent with his file naming, and thus some files are broken links for no other reason, than they spelled the link in lower case but the file in Title Case.

These are all legacy things that came from DOS.

I still wonder to this day, what Windows would look like if Microsoft had based the OS they developed for IBM on Xenix instead of QDOS.

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Finkle

Finkle Einhorn calls for it, so it must be right, eh?

Look, MS REAL problem with the web services era will be trust. How many of their web garbage (Messenger, Live, etc) has all but autoinstalled itself and made itself very hard to shut down over the years? I wont touch the crap.

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Greed is a very dangerous drive...

The whole problem here is IMO the thing which drives stock holders. I'm not denying that Balmer really seems to be a whacko of some sorts, absolutely not, but in general stock holders don't give a damn about a company. All they care about is making profit; and the best way to do that is by making sure that the stock prices get some variety.

Yet one can also conclude that by keeping the stock price at a relative stable level MS as a company seems to be doing pretty well. Stability is always the better environment for a company; steady income, steady expenses and as such a steady profit.

Another issue here is that most brokers use a very short-termed strategy. In other words; they expect ('demand') that the moment something big happens the stock prices will raise and they'll make a profit. But if a CEO has a long termed strategy which could ensure income over a longer period this may very well clash with the goals of the stock holders.

Generalizing here but usually stock holders want to make "big money" whereas a CEO wants to make a big company. Whether this CEO is a fruitcake like Balmer or someone else doesn't make too much difference.

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Still greed is the central piece

of capitalism and the reason of why it seems to be so successful.

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stock markets

Driven by insane and stupid behaviour. Valuing some companies at massive multiples of profit (Even sometimes losses!) when they have no assets and no dividends. Where as others can make bigger and bigger profits, dole out dividends and grow but are valued less and less. There is no logic.

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This guy is fêted?

"What makes Einhorn's comment unique is that he's the first investor to zero in on Ballmer rather than express general frustration with the performance of Microsoft's stock."

If he's the first investor to speak up, investors must be pretty dumb. Microsoft have been coasting for the last ten years, if not longer. The rest of the world has now caught up and giving them a hard time.

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Gates Horns

Fruitcake for lunch?

Balmer is a clueless fruitcake. His Long term strategy? Let's start with the disaster that was "Windows Millennium". Windows 2000 was fine, followed by Windows XP, which we had to live with until the disaster that was Vista in 2007. Windows 7 was what Vista should've been. Now what? Windows 8 on Arm? Where is the long term strategy for the smart phone and tablets? Too little/too late? Microsoft didn't like the Netbook market because everyone started buying them with XP on them, so they put a crippled Windows 7 on them to basically kill that market.

And yes, investors generally only care about short term profits and stock price increases, but this investor (as well as others) are right about Balmer's leadership. The only thing he got right in his 11 years at the helm, is the X-Box 360. Is that even profitable yet? So now he wants to drop 8.5bn on an unprofitable web telco, under the assumption of making long term profits? From who? Skype isn't profitable with Microsoft in charge. Who really thinks they will be with Microsoft in charge, especially considering that Balmer will surely ruin Skype by re-branding it with some Microsoft branding (which will surely ruin the product).

Balmer has got to go. He's failed and if he's permitted to do this Skype deal, that will prove to be his biggest failure to date.

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Small correction here

Microsoft didn't like the Netbook market because everyone started buying them with Linux so as a desperate measure they forced OEMs to ship them with deeply discounted Windows XP until they could come up with a crippled Windows 7 that could run on them so they basically killed that market.

There, I did it for you!

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Anonymous Coward

"Last role of the dice"

Pitiful.

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RE: "Last role of the dice"

I didn't know Ballmer was such a fan of role-playing games...

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Pint

Title schmitle

I'm so confident of my phraseology, I'm putting it in giant breakout!

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FAIL

keep Ballmer -- he is what Microsoft needs

I say they keep Ballmer. Permanently. Why? I want Microsoft to fail, fail, fail. The world will be a better place with Microsoft out of the picture.

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will it?

It has its faults, but my PC worked out of the box, still works, catches an occasional 'cold' but the applications all work well.

I tried 'linux' (won't say which flavour), first it didn't install as it was supposed to, then it couldn't cope with my graphics monitor - claimed the monitor which did a good high resolution graphics - couldn't do more than 80x25 text, when it finally did do something approximating to work it fell over about every 15 minutes and the applications were worse..

If we had to rely on linux then computers would be the preserve of geeks and nutters (rather than just linux).

There is a lot wrong with microsoft, its software is bloated, slow and getting worse, the security is appaling, but it is still pretty much the best around.

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I can assure you...

The only reason your Windows installation was so seamless was because the vendor had done the job of packaging up all the drivers and configurations your particular PC needs.

If you'd tried a "one size fits all" version of Windows you'd have had more grief than any Linux distro.

I've installed Ubuntu on many different PCs and have personally only once had a "didn't install" problem due to a networking chipset that was new and didn't yet have a mainstream Linux driver. That was available a week later.

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Coat

Not my experience

"If you'd tried a "one size fits all" version of Windows you'd have had more grief than any Linux distro"

Sorry but I'm not buying that.

Over the years I've taken many different versions of Windows from 3.11 to 7 in "off the shelf" form and installed them on both generic and big-brand hardware and more often then not getting everything "just working" has been more painless then not. Conversely most of my installations of desktop flavours of Linux have been utter nightmares at getting some of the simplest things working (especially grahics and sound).

Now these are just general trends - I've had configurations that have been utter pigs to get Windows just to boot on and I've had Linux installs that practically did themselves AND made me a cup of tea, and on the whole Linux has been getting alot better (and I applaud the hard work of the people that have been making that happen) but at this point in time if I wanted to take a PC (either branded or custom build) and pick the OS I thought was going to be easiest to get up and running then it would still be Windows every time. W7 in particular makes the experience very painless IME.

(Mine's the one with the Windows 7 disc on the pocket)

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Joke

Bring back Mr. Clippy!

That's what I'd do, if I were the big man at microsoft. Clippy.

Mobiles? Nah, so yesterday, it aint' going nowhere

Search? Pah, nobody searches anymore, yesterdays paper

Tablets? Blegh, only tablets you need are for headaches.

Clippy! - the cheerful little helper could make his online appearance - heck, put him in Bing, slap him in Skype, a little pop-up fella on your windows mobile, but for Gods sake, lets get him back in Office.

Problem solved, Microsoft back at #1, the status quo as worlds nastiest company resumed and all the smelly-beard coke-bottle-glasses plaid-shirt caffine-swilling unix nerds can rejoice that thier nemesis is back in business.

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And the dog!

Where is the dog? When I go to search in Windows 7 that stupid little dog doesn't bounce towards me anymore. Bring him back as well. In fact, make it a rottweiller or a pitbull.

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Windows

The dog for CEO!

At least the dog seems to know what it's doing.

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@Steady

"Stability is always the better environment for a company; steady income, steady expenses and as such a steady profit"

Assuming you are in an industry that is stable, where nothing changes and it's very difficult for new companies to startup or for overseas companies to compete - like say making stone circles.

Remember a big computer company that knew about stable steady sales of mainframes - so didn't mind that some little startup in Redmond writing the operating system for some silly little desktop toy?

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