Interesting analysis on Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft by Ben Thompson, who left there a few months ago. I particularly found this paragraph interesting:
In the consumer market, it’s the immeasurables that matter. It’s the ability to surprise and delight, and create evangelists. It’s about creating something that developers demand access to, and that consumers implicity trust. The consumer market is about everything you can’t measure, everything Microsoft’s legion of mini-Ballmer’s can’t see and will never appreciate.
I can’t help but wonder when this happened? I can only assume Microsoft changed after Ballmer took over. All of the Microsoft business and process books I read in my younger days (back when I read a lot of those books) all seemed to indicate a Microsoft that wasn’t particularly focused on metrics. In fact, Bill Gates seemed to be every bit the demanding leader with his fingers in every pie as Steve Jobs is described. Maybe this is really a story of what happens when founders leave their companies. Most don’t survive, at least not in the high-flying state they were with the founder.
It also was a company back then that seemed to be as strong with consumers as it was with enterprises. Everyone I knew who had a computer in their house had a Windows computer. Now, it seems, everyone has a Mac at home. When did that happen? And what made that happen? Was it a coolness factor? The iPod? Better computer systems? It also seems that the virus epidemic was a big factor in this as well.
Finally, I can’t help but wonder if Microsoft’s struggles are also a parable on the risks of putting sales people in charge: an extreme focus on money, exactly the thing most of us technologists seem to care the least about.
Microsoft is Enterprise-centric. This inability to see the consumer market for what it is, is baked into their very DNA. I was there for a couple years, after the Visio acquisition, and the culture was definitely different than what we had at Visio.
There were a lot of things that bugged me about the place. Stack ranking was one and something that bugged me deeper than it probably should have is their company wide use of email addresses instead of using names. I was “robf” not Rob Fahrni. It always made me feel like a slave to a machine.
Of course that happened at the beginning of the Ballmer era.
I don’t hate Microsoft. I use their stuff daily, for my day job, and find their OS and Developer tools to be top notch, and of course Visio is still fantastic. 🙂
Thanks, Rob. Interesting perspective.