back to article Microsoft chairman John Thompson: Redmond looks 'like IBM in 1990'

Microsoft's new chairman, ex-IBM vice president John Thompson, has said that he believes Microsoft's corporate culture needs to change if it is to remain competitive. "I would argue that there are some attributes to Microsoft today that do look vaguely like IBM circa 1990," Thompson said in an interview with Fortune published …


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  1. Charles Manning

    "The monopoly is under attack"

    Dumb move boyo.

    It is one thing to be accused of being a monopoly, but publicly claiming to be a monopoly is another thing. There are laws against such things.

    Attack is a word suggesting the problem is due to outside hostiles that need to be repulsed.

    That is surely wrong.

    MS primarily has interal problem, not external ones. Microsoft is rotting from inside.

    Prime the canon to do batlle will not stop water seeping through the the woodworm holes.

    1. Euripides Pants Silver badge

      Re: Dumb move boyo.

      There is nothing wrong with being or having a monopoly. The problem comes when that monopoly position is abused.

  2. Mark Zip

    And how is that working out for IBM today? (Warning: Very ugly site)

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: And how is that working out for IBM today?

      Are you saying Gerster's a failure because the changes he made aren't sufficient in themselves to ensure profitability a quarter-century later?

      Man, and I thought Wall Street analysts were tough.1

      1Of course this is a lie. I think Wall Street analysts are random-prose generators.

  3. Gray

    A moment in the tides of change

    Rarely have we heard such a clear and resounding call to save the ship !

    "...vaguely ... as time goes on."

    "... subtle influences ... over time drives ... subtle behavior change... "


    "Iceberg ahead, you say?"

    "Ummm, yes, Captain. The ... errr ... bow lookout, I believe it is, Sir, reports something about ice, or a berg, or some shape in the darkness ahead. Dead ahead, he said, but I cannot confirm that sighting. Should I send the Third Mate to confirm, Sir?"

    "Hmmm ... not just yet, Withers. But just to be on the safe side, have the Engineer ease up a bit ... a few knots."

    "Aye, Captain. Will we require a course change, Sir?"

    "Oh, bother! Well, perhaps, yes. Helm, steer five degrees to port, please."

    "Aye, aye, Captain. Altering course five degrees to port."

    "Very good. That should see us clear until Third Officer Thompson is able to send someone to confirm with the bow lookout. Steady on, helm!"

    1. Salts

      Reminds me of…

      The boy stood on the burning deck

      Whence all but he had fled;

      The flame that lit the battle's wreck

      Shone round him o'er the dead.

      1. naylorjs

        Re: Reminds me of…

        The boy stood upon the burning deck

        His pockets full of crackers

        A spark flew up his trouser leg

        And blew off both his.... fingers!

        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          Re: Reminds me of…

          The boy stood on the burning deck ......

          ........................................................ Twit!

          (Spike Milligan)

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Reminds me of…

            The boy stood on the burning deck ......

            ........................................................ Twit!

            In his defense, it was still more pleasant than the poop deck.

            And a lot safer than the holodeck.

  4. southpacificpom

    Microsoft..., weren't they something to do with computers at one time?

  5. largefile

    You folks are living in the past.

    Your tired comments about Microsoft have little to do with the present or the future. Microsoft is primed for success and they are begging to hit on all cylinders. Keep living in the past...meanwhile my shares have increased by over 40% recently and I'm getting a healthy dividend. Buy low, sell is your time to get on board.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: You folks are living in the past.

      Microsoft are exactly the kind of company to 'hit on all cylinders.'

    2. Lapun Mankimasta

      Re: You folks are living in the past.

      Ballmer's legacy lives up to his nineties nickname of "Embalmer" - for how long was the Microsoft share price embalmed? Most of the time he was at the helm, it appears. Given that Microsoft doesn't have any "strategy" at the moment - it's still embalmed in its MS Windows/Office duopoly, and hasn't got anything worth writing home about in the mobile/smartphone field - I think it'll be quite a while before it's worth investing in Microsoft. You're just reporting a short-lived spike resulting from the departure of Ballmer, not the long-term removal of the embalming fluid ...

  6. Lapun Mankimasta

    John Dvorak

    John Dvorak mentioned that Microsoft was starting to look like IBM in one of his books, the name of which I cannot remember at this moment - and he wrote it in the nineties.

    Now one of Microsoft's own head honchos has recognized that. maybe we'll get some change, after all has been said and done, and much more has been said than done ...

  7. John Savard Silver badge


    Apple makes premium priced products, the way IBM does. Microsoft Windows is, on the other hand, used by nearly everybody. Microsoft is in danger of being abandoned, but that's because of the functionality of Windows 8, imposed for a specific marketing reason (getting an App Store cut from everyone, not so much selling tablets).

    Of course, there are similarities. IBM and Microsoft both profit from lock-in. Dialing back the extent to which one exploits one's market, though, is not the same as an upheaval in corporate culture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple

      Windows is premium priced. Buying a stand-alone copy costs a lot, especially as you can get a fully functioning easy to install (at least nowadays) operating system for nothing. Whether it's worth paying for is another matter. Many clearly think it is, and the numbers back that up. Many also believe it's worth paying extra for Apple products.

      IBM is less into lock-in than it used to be. Yes, mainframes are still around, but the company sticks to standards more than most nowadays, sometimes because it has no choice, but sometimes because it gives it a competitive edge. It's also going through a concerted effort to ditch everything it is good at and try and enter markets where it has no skill or experience.

      Pretty much what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8.

  8. Dr Dre

    John Thompson.

    How is he qualified to run a software house?

    Perhaps he can just act as though everything is ok.

    1. UNIX translator

      Re: John Thompson.

      Funny bloke how about this John Thompson ?

  9. deadlockvictim Silver badge


    Is Microsofft ready for competition, let alone be competitive?

    In some fields, it's doing rather well: xbox, SQL Server, C# and .Net come to mind offhand. Bing managed to gouge 10-15% marketshare away from Google. Not superb, but not bad either.

    In other fields, it's pretty much the only game in town: Windows and Office come to mind here as well. Here Microsoft seems hell-bent on irritating the fuck out of its loyal customer base. Despite themselves, they are still dominant.

    And then there are fields where they've lost the plot, like SharePoint, WindowsPhone or Surface. I'm told that they are most usable, I just haven't met anyone yet who likes them to recommend it.

    With xbox and bing MS must be competitive. they want the attention of us little people.

    With products like Server and SQL Server, I really wonder how competitive they are. These products are sold to senior executives and MS competes well among the users of PowerPoint and Excel.

    The Board decides that the company will be a Microsoft house, rather than a LAMP house or a Java-Oracle house. The majority of sysadmins I've met who run their own servers choose UNIX and Linux variants. Maybe it's the cost.

    Microsoft makes and sells office software. This is their strong point (although I did like their keyboards and mice).

    Google and the Cloud would have been making strong headway into this space had one E. Snowden not made some very interesting revelations. Apple has already shown that Microsoft is not always the obvious choice for the client.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Competition

      I pick floss for hassle-free licensing and managability. The os cost isn't that large an issue. The cost of their whole ecosystem is high, however.

      Their mice however are now rubbish compared to their old versions.

  10. Bill Neal

    At first I read that as

    Thompson was taped to a chair by Microsoft's board earlier this month...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, yes, the 90's - the days the IBM music died.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I was inside IBM from the mid 70's to not-so-long-ago, and it's my firm opinion that the steps taken to "preserve" the company back around 1990 were, in retrospect, its death knell. Because that's when the money men and the bean-counters took over; it's when anything more than lip-service to the old, core corporate beliefs and values went out the window; it's when people went from being seen as the company's greatest assets to distasteful liabilities, to be disposed of summarily and without remorse whenever it was deemed "necessary"; and it's when the never-ending Armonk chase after share price became a full-on black hole, slowly but irresistibly consuming and collapsing the company from the inside.

    Have no doubt: the corpse may still be kicking, but true life departed years ago. It's just a matter of how long before everyone notices and the last rites are finally read.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "The Board decides that the company will be a Microsoft house, rather than a LAMP house or a Java-Oracle house. The majority of sysadmins I've met who run their own servers choose UNIX and Linux variants. Maybe it's the cost."

    More likely, it is the ability to dive in and fix it when it doesn't work.

  13. bpfh Bronze badge

    Symantec ?!

    He worked for Symantec? For 10 years? He needs to be burnt at the stake, not made chairman...

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