back to article Ballmer says Big Blue hands in too few pies

Steve Ballmer believes that if IBM is to remain relevant among the technology giants, it needs to have its hand in just about everything. In other words, the Microsoft CEO believes that IBM needs to be more like Microsoft. The Shouty One recently disparaged Big Blue's strategy of lopping-off less profitable business arms in …


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  1. Nick 6

    Yeah but Steve....

    it seems to be working for them so far....

    And they are constantly developing new niches, some of which become products, others fall by the way side or are patented for later use. And when someone else identifies and develops in an important area which IBM want immediately, then they have the cash for an acquisition.

  2. Dave Harris

    Quoting Mandy Rice-Davies

    "Well he would, wouldn't he".

  3. dbnnet

    Maybe Microsoft just don't get it!

    Maybe Microsoft just doesn’t get it - I'm not an employee of neither Microsoft nor IBM. However I am a customer of both and have an outsider’s perspective on both companies.

    I think that IBM is a far more business focused than Microsoft, and aims to deliver quality services and products to their customers without compromise. I believe that they do this far more effectively than Microsoft, who often come across as dysfunctional and confused at times!! IBM has long moved on, and no longer sees itself as an IT company but rather as a business solutions company, something that Microsoft clearly still does not understand.

    (HP and Dell certainly do, both of whom are trying to move into the same "value added services" direction as IBM).

    Granted both are great companies and I won’t take that away from then, but I think that Microsoft are being somewhat arrogant if they believe that IBM has lost it's vision…. on the contrary, during the worst recession in decades, IBM’s results speak volumes. It's a strategy that certainly appears to be working!

    (Durban, South Africa)

  4. Bilgepipe
    Gates Horns

    Dear Steve Ballmer

    Dear Steve Ballmer,

    Please shut up.


    everyone in the world.

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Ha ha ha ha

    I'd hardly rate Mr Balmer as an expert in these matters. Since he took over, MS has produced one massive flop and been burned trying to enter several new markets. IBM, on the other hand has been around for longer than Mr Balmer has and continues to defy the predictions of pundits who expected it to follow the seven dwarfs into oblivion.

    But what do I know. I just respond to reality but world class businessmen, to paraphrase one particularly daft politician a few years ago, *make* reality.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    This time Ballmer is right

    IBM have become so risk averse in everything they do, that they are in danger of extinction by fear of risk.

    Not taking risks means to keep doing what you do today, just more efficiently if possible. This means reducing your cost base, that is, firing people in the higher labor cost countries and either replacing them with lower profile people (read cheaper) in developing countries. Or not replacing them at all. They have become excellent at managing financial and legal matters, but are emptying their technology and business pots of knowledge at the same rate they keep profits up.

    Also, each time you deal with them it becomes apparent that they have developed a sort of "avoid blame" culture inside the company. Nobody wants to be responsible for anything, and everything they do is a success, even when viewed from the outside is an utter failure.

    At this rate, in five years there will not be anybody with technical knowledge in IBM, all of their Global Services customers will have run away due to the low quality of their services and they will not have any levers to keep the profits up. Bye, IBM. GM was also rock solid.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Balmer shoud be more careful with his words

    So IBM is narrower now than when Balmer took over Microsoft.

    And microsoft isn't? What bits of Microsoft have been closed down in the past year or so?

    Does MS Flight Simulator ring a bell or two? There are others.

    When someone like Balmer starts critiquing the opposition like this it shows that he thinks the MS is in real trouble. Any normal CEO would not do this so blatantly. I wonder how many Institutional Microsoft Shareholders are also investors in IBM? I would expect that there are more than a few and one or two of them might not be to pleased at this sort of attack especially as IBM have just upgraded their profit expectations for the next quarter.

    Fail for obvious reasons. Balmer should retake CEO 101 again.

  8. Geoff Mackenzie


    Because desperately clutching at mobile, HPC, cloudiness and gaming straws has really saved MS while their last few major software releases were greeted with a worldwide chorus of 'meh'.

    Maybe IBM should open some shops, right next to Apple stores?

  9. JimC Silver badge

    Hands up anyone who thinks

    that something Ballmer tells a competitor to do is likely to be in their best interests?

    What, no-one?

    How about people who think that its showboating?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Steve Davies 3

    "MS Flight Simulator "?????????

    Was that a core product I hardly think MS are going to look back on that as a significant mistake.

  11. ChrisInAStrangeLand

    IBM is plenty diversified.

    IBM is making an absolute fortune off their new game console business, I'm surprised that Microsoft hasn't decided to get into it.

    Oh wait...

    IBM is plenty capable of getting into new businesses, they just make a competent risk analysis before doing so. In this case, they've correctly decided their strength is logic design, not semi fabrication, manufacturing and retail.

  12. Mountford D

    Steve Ballmer the business expert

    Right... and he is such an expert at steering Microsoft to greater sucess (I am being sarcastic in case anyone missed it).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Not in games consoles?

    Who do you think designed the chip in all three of the current generation?

    Yeah. IBM do everything from cutting-edge physics research (usually as it applies to electronics, but it's still physics research) to business services and pretty much everything you can think of in between. That's a hell of a lot more diversity than MS.

  14. Warren G

    Hands in too few pies?

    I'd say IBM hands OUT too few pies. I've never had one from them.

  15. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    Let me get this straight...

    Microsoft, a company who's founder is a son of two lawyers and who's business model is to create a monopolistic position in one area and use its dominant position to enter and dominate other areas of technology. In part thumbs their noses at the law, spending billions on lawyers and settlements, viewing at a cost of doing business ... is trying to give IBM lessons on how to succeed?

    Don't get me wrong, there are many things wrong with IBM. But IBM since the threat of being called a monopoly in the 70's has always been shy of litigation. Especially whenever the other party starts to scream 'monopoly' loud enough in a room full of the 'press'. ;-)

    Do ya see the picture?

    IBM is the borg. They do glum on to anything that they think will make them a buck. They do have a philosophy that the bulk of their software sold are the tools that lie underneath their BP's products, and they sell the services of their own products and their competitors products. Anything that doesn't work out.. they ditch.

    IBM has other problems but listening to Balmer blathe on... isn't one of them. Thank god.

    Maybe its Microsoft's key to success moving forward. ..."Sorry your honor, but we're just being competitive. Who cares if we violated the law, everyone else in our industry does and we were justified because we have to remain competitive..." Yeah that's the tick. Microsoft is *less* evil because IBM is evil, Google is evil. and Apple, with the must have devices that randomly explode in your pocket ... well that's just *evil* too!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Expanding....without bleeding money

    MS is not exactly a good example of expansion to other markets. Take online advertising: They are bleeding money there: 732$ millions just in the last quarter. Right, bing is taking some search share from google, but unlike them google actually makes money. Same about Xbox - last quarter the lost 137$ millions. hat division is usually profitable, but not that much. In the end, Microsoft only makes REAL money from Windows, servers and office. Just like 10 years ago.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Ballmer completely misses the point. Again.

    IBM has a very rigorous and simple decision process for getting out of businesses. Is the return on capital deployed better if it sells it and plows the cash back into other businesses, acquisitions, or just returns the money to shareholders (in the form of dividends or stock buy-backs) so they can choose where to re-invest it themselves?

    This is the same decision process used at lots of mature, long-lived companies that have survived generations of technical change, the rise and fall of many competitors, and repeated reports of their demise.

  18. Mike VandeVelde


    Poor little guy is just a little choked up about this:

    We must not let Microsoft develop balistic chair technology that would allow them to hit the east coast!! Sanctions until they allow inspectors into their facilities!! Their ruler is a madman!! etc

  19. Al S Cook

    Taking care of shareholders

    OK, Steve, let's talk about who is doing the most for shareholders. In the last five years, IBM share are up 40% and MS shares are down 10%--after spending about $80B of shareholder money on stock buybacks. IBM borrowed $11B to buy back shares.Total dividends about the same over the period. Which company would you bet on?

  20. Ed Gould
    Thumb Down

    RE: Ballmer

    As usual Ballmer is half right and half wrong.

    IBM is spot on when it comes to making its OS a usable OS and a reasonably friendly OS. Sure there are some arcane things about some of IBM's OS's. BUT... here is the big difference between the two. IBM listens to its customers extremely well, where MS doesn't even know the customer exists unless they have a 10,000 (or more) licenses,

    Yes it take (sometimes) years before IBM gets it right and they do get it right, most of the time. MS on the other hands just pushes new version of its OS out faster than the market can absorb it and or pushing a bad OS onto the unsuspecting people.

    As far as one thing IBM does well over and above anything MS has not even attempted to do is documentation. When is the last time you needed to know something about how the internals of a MS product work? IBM does this on a timely and reasonably straight forward manor. IBM, last time I looked had 3 or 4 DVD's packed full of just manuals alone. I have yet to see anything close to one manual out of MS. Also, IBM (with input from the users) have always documented (well I might add) just about everything in their OS (and the IBM applications). Sure they have some undocumented items and IBM does charge a good penny for documentation (I think I heard $25K for one manual) but the 99.99 percent of the other documentation is essentially free albeit it $40 (approximately) for 3 DVD's packed full of manuals for users to read and use.

    Is IBM focused on corporate rather than end user, yes, but then they (for the most part) do not interact for the most part with end users. The only exception was possibly OS/2 and yes IBM blew it because they did not court end users like MS does.

    One last stab at MS and they could only dream to have a OS as stable as OS/2. Typical MS it is easier to reboot than to fix the problem so it does not happen again.

  21. Pat 4


    IBM was only founded 90 YEARS before Microsoft.

    IBM stocks have INCREASED in value over the past 5 yeas and Microsoft has FALLEN in value.

    IBM has multiple divisions making money. IBM has 2 divisions making money, and about 50 bleeding it out.

    How about we wait till 2075 and see if Microsoft is still even around...

    As usual.... shut up Steve... don't you have a chair that needs throwing some place else monkey boy?...

  22. Charles Manning

    If only we'd listen

    Steve Jobs must be kicking himself that he didn't take Ballmer's advice about the iphone.

    Perhaps Mr Ballmer needs to build a track record before he expects people to take his advice.

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