Why Does Steve Ballmer Still Have a Job?

By James Kwak

So, after questioning the iPad, I bought one.* My primary motivation was that I wanted to be able to watch old TV episodes on the commute to and from my internship this summer, and I think an iPod Touch is just too small. I also bought an Android phone, because my three-year-old Motorola RAZR2 v9m (who comes up with these product names, anyway?) developed a crack in the hinge, and because I wanted the best camera I could get on a phone. (My #2 use for a phone is not email — it’s taking pictures and videos of my daughter.)

Anyway, catching up on the last three years of mobile technology has provided ample food for thought. I have a long post on the Apple-Google(-Microsoft) war rolling around in my head somewhere, which I will hopefully write down later this week. In the meantime, here’s John Gruber‘s verdict on Microsoft:

“Three years ago, just before the original iPhone shipped, here’s what Steve Ballmer said in an interview with USA Today’s David Lieberman:

‘There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.’

“Not only was he wrong about the iPhone, but he was even more wrong about Windows Mobile. Three years ago Ballmer was talking about 60, 70, 80 percent market share. This week, Gartner reported that Windows Mobile has dropped to 6.8 percent market share in worldwide smartphone sales, down dramatically from 10.2 percent a year ago.”

Steve Ballmer has been CEO of Microsoft since 2000. During his tenure, Microsoft came out with Windows Vista, perhaps the most unsuccessful operating system in modern history (Windows ME doesn’t count, since Microsoft’s core customer base was using NT/2000); it tried a “Microsoft inside” strategy in digital music and, when that failed, launched the Zune, which also failed; it watched Firefox (and Safari and Chrome) eat a large chunk of its lunch in Internet browsers, the application most people use more than everything else put together; it launched Windows Live, a marketing strategy with no noun behind it, which completely flopped at whatever it was supposed to do; it got blown away in Internet search to the point where it had to re-launch as Bing, a plucky underdog;  and in mobile phones, which everyone has known for a decade would be the next big thing, it stuck with its bloated, awkward Windows Mobile for far too long, letting everyone (RIM, Apple, Google, and even Palm) pass it by to the point where it has no customer base left. (BlackBerry rules the corporate market, Microsoft’s traditional stomping grounds.) Recently I saw a headline saying that Microsoft is going to try to relaunch Hotmail to make it cool. Really, why bother?

Sure, Microsoft still has a dominant market share in PC operating systems and office applications, but it’s managed to take that massive competitive advantage and waste it everywhere else over the past decade. It hasn’t even managed to become a major player in enterprise applications, a market that is desperately crying out for new competition, and where Microsoft should have been able to muscle its way in using its existing relationships with corporate CIOs and procurement officers. Is Bill Gates just too loyal to his old friend?

As for the iPad: I agree with Brad DeLong that the biggest problems with the keyboard are (a) hitting the shift key instead of “A” and (b) needing to shift to the numeric/symbol keyboard just for an apostrophe or a quotation mark. I would add the lack of control key sequences. It’s remarkably comfortable to interact with, to the point where I use it sometimes when a laptop would be more efficient, simply because it’s more pleasant. (For one thing, it doesn’t constrain your physical position the way even a laptop does.) It’s also much nicer to have in a non-work part of the house, like the kitchen or living room, even than a laptop, which feels clunky and intrusive by comparison. And my daughter loves Fish School. But using it is still a constant exercise in compromises, largely because of the keyboard (it works, but it takes effort, as opposed to a regular keyboard) and also because some web sites don’t behave properly (and there is the Flash problem).

And there is the whole over-hyped apps model, which will be the topic of a future post that will be more original than this one.

* Although I did say this: “I think it will still be a success, though not nearly as big as the iPod or iPhone. I think so for two reasons: first, the product probably is just better than anything else in the category; and second, the Apple fan base is so big and so devoted that it will have blowout initial sales and then build momentum of its own.”

84 thoughts on “Why Does Steve Ballmer Still Have a Job?

  1. Regarding enterprise applications, I don’t think it’s so straightforward.

    True, they don’t have a competetive ERP package or anything, but they’ve made huge inroads in enterprise infrastructure on Balmer’s watch; e.g., SQL Server is now competitive with Oracle, DB2 etc. for all but the super high-end, and cheaper. The latest release includes business intelligence features which are extremely competitively priced for that market (e.g., free vs. $3000/seat).

  2. … It’s also much nicer to have in a non-work part of the house, like the kitchen or living room, …

    Ok say it. Be honest : “like the kitchen or living room, or bathroom”


  3. Microsoft is primarily a monopolistic marketing machine.

    Internally, it is best described as “disjointed chaos.”

    From a consumer perspective, it could also be described as “disjointed chaos.” Have you ever tried to get support for something not working, like a paid Hotmail account? Plan to put in 5-10 hours of your time.

    Are you an enterprise who has been suckered into using SharePoint? Mmm…could your experience be described as “disjointed chaos” — or — nightmare?

    Have you taken a Microsoft e-Learning Course? What a joke!

    How about the website? Go to the latest incarnation of Microsoft.com, and then click “All Products.” “Business Software” doesn’t even list regular Office, only OfficeLive!?! Click that link for a really enlightening experience. LOL.

    You get the picture. Microsoft s^cks bigtime. Disjointed Chaos. A monopolistic marketing machine.

    It’s too bad, there are lots of smart people there, but even if well intentioned, they are caught up in a political bureaucratic mess.

    Steve Ballmer is just another arrogant egomaniac running another huge corporation in our Corporatist Kleptocracy. He will keep his job because he has the qualifications – arrogant egomaniac with lots of moolah and influence. It’s all political. It has nothing to do with competence at making superior products, or providing superior service. When you take competition out of the marketplace, you elimnate the production of value: the best products and services for the best price.

  4. Totally agree… an excited man on a pile of cash that is not innovating is a death-spell…

    Can you edit videos in the Droid? (looking between the droid and iphone to capture moments of my little one).

  5. James,

    what about reading on the iPad? Is it eye-friendly like the Kindle?

  6. Microsoft-bashing is so last millenium, they’re an old dinosaur and they know it. Much like IBM and HP, they subsist on inertia, there is no real innovation coming from those companies. Apple, by comparison, also doesn’t innovate anything, they just redesign the same things over and over, and market them with slick campaigns and cutesy interfaces. You don’t want to be an Apple “fanboy”, do you? Hint for you: their products are disposable, with a maximum usable lifespan of around 2 years.

    Update your rhetoric and join the Google-bashers – Google is the real Big Brother. Last I heard they were recording traffic from unprotected wireless networks with their cars that go around and photograph everything on Earth. Thanks.

  7. Agree msft sucks.

    A’s for that apostrophe, press comma, slide up, viola! … apostrophe

  8. To generate an apostrophe without hitting shift, hit the “!” key (right side of “M” key) and slide your finger upwards without lifting off the glass (towards the area between the K and L keys). Lift off when you see the apostrophe.

    Practice a few times and it’ll feel fast as a dedicated key.

  9. You can also use slide with the “.?123” key as well. Hit the “.?123”, slide to the symbol you’re trying to generate, then let go and it will go back to the regular QWERTY keyboard. So no awkward “shift-type-shift” business.

    This trick works on an iPhone as well.

  10. Maybe, people don’t want to have to reboot their phone every hour.

  11. This is a terrific post. I think the main problem is Ballmer’s ego. His ego is just super super huge, and no room for anyone else’s ego because his gargantuan ego sucks all the oxygen out of any room he habitats. I doubt it will change until he steps down. He’s had time to implement his way at Microsoft: IT DIDN’T WORK.

    As far as the browser, I was always angry they squashed Netscape. People seem to have forgotten them, but around 1997 Netscape’s browser was so much better than Explorer. It wasn’t even funny how much better Netscape was. And I didn’t have any stock in Netscape, I was just a college student doing papers and just trying to expand my knowledge. With Explorer I would sit there 4 minutes screaming at the monitor. With Netscape it was like a 2-3 second pause and bam, I had more info than I knew what to do with. So, I felt it was so morally wrong the way they killed Netscape. And Netscape is a prototypical example of how the EMH sometimes is a load of crap. EMH does not always work and the murder of Netscape is a prime example.

    This and the venture capital post were really good. Of course I hope you stay on focus with the banking finance laws and reform, but an occasional technology post or law post livens up the site. Great stuff.

  12. I think Joel of Joel on Software said gates was amazingly technical, very detail oriented, and software management layers were 5 or 6 when the company was still young say 10 or 15 years ago, now….. its like over 11 management layers, Balmer isn’t technical….

    I concur.. Balmer should have been fired years ago…

  13. Actually NetScape lives on in Firefox. The Firefox project was a result of the end of NetScape, and uses a lot of the core programming from NetScape.

  14. He was talking about phones in general, not smartphones. And if you look at the “1.3 billion phones sold”, you’ll see that Apple has less than 2% market share. And yes, Apple can’t dominate this market with just one phone. Now, WM is on the way out, but Microsoft’s model of supplying software to various devices is the only way to have 60% market share apart from actually making dozens and dozens of devices, which Apple cannot do.

  15. Well, MS is almost dead, but it won’t ever die. It is going to be a zombie, just like banks – it has powerfull budies with very deep pockets.
    And this pathetic FUD about LINUX infringing their patents and their street thug approach towards their partner HTC.
    That’s very very low.

  16. Thanks for the info. I’m wondering if Firefox can or is advisable to use on an Apple comp??? I assume Safari is best for Apple???

  17. They’ve already taken the first steps like GM and Chrysler: Prove over a consistent period of years they have an inferior product. Then assume the consumer is a dolt and will keep buying that inferior product year after year after year. Then when things get really desperate, have Ballmer run around and tell the American consumer “the sky is red” repeatedly ad nauseam (think mid–1980s GM here) . I’d say they’ve already got 75% of the battle won.

  18. Firefox has been my default browser on my Mac since forever (2002?). You get it at mozilla.com

  19. Microsoft has survived on its near monopoly position in pc operating systems and its ‘office’ products. It’s questionable that Microsoft was ever very innovative given that it purchased DOS early on, and wysiwyg technology came out of Xerox/parc.

  20. I got a Droid, and I like it, but it seemed that the main reason to choose Droid over iPhone was that the iphone is on AT&T. If the iPhone ever shows up on Verizon, I may reconsider. I didn’t think the Droid’s camera is all that great, but I’m used to real cameras.

  21. Microshaft is horrendously meddlesome with endless disruptive ‘updates’ that mainly seem to be neurosis about whether your OS is properly licensed for rentier purposes.

    As I move into the cloud, they shrink ever more. I like Google.

  22. Why not talk about Ballmer’s bigger problem, the one involving outsourcing of American jobs? Reforming Wall Street is great, but if we keep outsourcing jobs it won’t matter.

    Microsoft has been caught using slave labor in China to build Xboxes (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/microsoft/7597344/Microsoft-accused-of-using-teenage-slave-labour-to-build-Xboxes-in-China.html).

    Microsoft laid-off 5000 American workers starting in 01/2009, but in the same time frame Ballmer and Gates appeared before Congress asking for an increase in the number of H-1B visas, i.e. they want to replace Americans with Indians and Pakistanis. Senator Grassley wrote a letter (http://grassley.senate.gov/news/Article.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1502=18922) to complain.

    Actually Ballmer reminds me of Carly Fiorina: arrogant/conceited, only interested in personal gain, and willing to outsource the entire company’s workforce. Look for Ballmer to run for office just like Fiorina.

  23. Although you seem to miss the fact that there are exceptions, Apple and Steve Jobs are the Anti-Microsoft in every way you described it.

  24. Apple doesn’t ‘innovate’ ??!! — the Apple II, the Macintosh, the iPod, and iPhone. Any one of those would have made the company that invented (I hate ‘innovate’) it, one of the most important of the century. To hit 4 out of the park is amazing.

  25. The flaw is MS’s business model and corporate culture–an obsolescent legacy still guided by Gates; Ballmer is simply a manifestation of this. Gates has always been more of a marketer and manipulator. Microsoft’s baby was DOS; its poor mother was the OS, which Gates did not own or have rights to (he stole it: CP/M from Gary Kildall). Its rich father was IBM, which Gates contracted to before he had a product. The resulting personal computer with its open architecture was explosively successful swamping the nascent technological approaches of other start-ups, rapidly eliminating all competition and marginalizing Apple. The ensuing software products were all inferior to other applications: Word was a piece of junk from the beginning, a clutz compared to Wordperfect, for example; Excel was a knockoff of VisiCalc, which paled in comparison to Lotus 1-2-3, all be it both Excel and Lotus were children of VisiCalc. Of course everything out there, gui, mouse, apps was ripped from Xerox PARC. The difference apparent today is what evolved. Jobs has understood and persisted in the simple tool model; As highly sophisticated as Apple products may be for the user they are simple like a screwdriver or a toaster. And they were directed toward the individual. Gate’s approach was opposite: the desktop, which says it all; intended for the massive corporate market as replacement for the preceding computer technologies operated and maintained by engineers in separate cold rooms. The main frames (IBM) and micro-computers (Digital). A computer on every office desk instead. But, the result was greater complexity, because tech support had to become decentralized with company IT guys running around to tens of thousands of stand-alone computers. What dooms Microsoft is system maintenance. Structurally, it’s as if all the cars on the road have only one mechanic for service, MS. Microsoft has followed in the footsteps of General Motors: too big, too complex, redundant and absorbed in a self-serving culture. This worked as long as monopolistic methods smothered innovations. Other ideas, better ideas leak out. Apple’s down and up history comes out of a dedication to staying in tune with the individual. Fundamentally, Apple asks me what I want and need, Microsoft tells me what’s good for me. One makes delicious healthy fruit, the other makes pop tarts.
    The better question is: Why Does Microsoft Still Have a Market?

  26. Microsoft has not innovated like Apple has, true. But the biggest sin is the failure to develop or improve office or productivity over the years which they held a monopoly. Excel and Word, today, are essentially exactly what they were 10 and 15 years ago.
    Apple is no better; all their innovation has come in entertainment.
    In that sense the software industry basically no longer contributes to productivity. (The internet is a different story).
    This is a typically monopoly outcome. If AT&T still held a phone monopoly we would not have cell phones today.

  27. Folks, You can always ditch MS, maybe You shuold try this Ubuntu thing – it doesn’t bite.

  28. No one who has experience with MS, Apple, and Ubuntu/Linux and in their right mind can deny that Mac has the most convenient and reliable GUI interface, but Ubuntu has brought the GNU/Linux OS a long way towards Apple’s usability. Ultimately I believe that Ubuntu/Mandriva/Redhat(Fedora), et. al. will prevail for very obvious reasons.

    First, of the three underlying Operating Systems, Linux is the most reliable, robust, and secure. And don’t forget, Android is just another embedded Linux system, just like 90% of every consumer wireless router, TV OS,, DVR OS, etc. that we all use.

    Second, GNU/Linux, Ubuntu in particular, has the stated goal of becoming the OS/GUI of choice for generic commodity hardware specifically targeted to the masses that aren’t rich, i.e., those 1st World inhabitants that can afford to pay a relatively large amount of money for a small partially crippled device that depends on a substantial monthly rent in order to be useful.

    In these times that is a huge competitive advantage.

  29. You are talking Microsoft without mentioning their best invention of the past 10 years. – the Xbox 360. Even that they screwed up with the Red Ring of Death problem. Although the service is very good. And they bled money for years before finally becoming profitable.

  30. I think e-ink on Kindle is a bit more eye friendly because of iPad’s glossy screen but it’s so easy to move around that getting reflections eliminated is easy. I’m finding it easy to read on and my wife’s already read a complete book on it and while she’s not dumping analog books over iBooks, she’s fine reading on it.

    In short, it’s fine for reading and the ease of getting books and using it as a research study tool beat Kindle hands down.

  31. Re: @ Anonymous_____”Netscape lives in Firefox?” It was purchased, and has morphed into a “shadow industry” – be cautious, its been compromised by it’s nefarious web-master.

  32. “their products are disposable, with a maximum usable lifespan of around 2 years.”

    My previous employer still has a couple of PowerMac G4s in use: those are about 10 years old and are still going strong. They also have several PowerMac G5s, which are about 6 or 7 years old. Those suckers are built like tanks and will last for years longer than they already have. The rest of their Macs are various iMacs, none of which are newer than about 5 years old.

    Personally, I have a Mac Mini and iPod that are both 5 years old, and a laptop that’s only 2 years old but that I expect to use for at least 3 more years.

    My experience is that Apple stuff holds up quite well.

  33. Seriously? You think Excel today is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago?

    MS Query is as powerful as old Access, Business Intelligence features are built in, Pivot table functionality is through the roof… For a lot of base-level users (for whom “=sum(a1:a2)” is a powerful formula, etc.) it might be the same, but for anyone using it in an enterprise environment or for heavy analysis it has taken huge strides.

    PowerPoint, on the other hand, is still just a fancy way of projecting transparencies…

  34. To answer your headline question: because he’s a friend of those who control the Board of Directors. It’s an answer that fits all CEO’s of major corporations, most of whom got their jobs on the basis of years of loyal service and personal connections, not on the basis of competence.

    It also suggests one reason major corporations, like Microsoft, no longer are innovating enterprises: their leadership was selected by others. Entrepreneurs and innovators self-select (Edison, Henry Ford, Einstein, etc.), they don’t submit to the managerial judgement of others, only to the judgement of the marketplace. Steve Jobs chose his replacement years ago, another botched job, but returned to salvage Apple before it went down the tubes.

    Furthermore, Microsoft lost its innovative touch years ago; Gates missed the internet for years, in spite of repeated attempts by (disloyal?) subordinates to wake him up to it. Without the monopoly benefits of intellectual property rights from early innovations Microsoft would sink into oblivion.

    Henry Ford and Bill Gates are examples of successful entrepreneurs who are blinded by past success to the need to keep innovating. Ford missed out on the “closed steel body chassis” which sunk the Model T, destroyed his son Edsel who was so disloyal as to pursue this improvement on a timely basis.

  35. Re: iPad

    It’s time for you to take the next evolutionary step, stop typing and start using Dragon Dictation. Use the onboard keyboard just for editing.

    Keep it simple.


  36. this post is all over the place as far as topic goes. very amateurish. totally agree with you about ballmer though

  37. You kinds forgot to say that Xbox 360 has been a HUGE hit and Windows 7 is a very good OS.

  38. “I wanted the best camera I could get on a phone.”

    Obviously your criteria is megapixel. When the size of lens
    determines the best camera. Higher than 3MP is waste.
    Even on DSLRs higher than 10MP is waste.

    In the 80s, Microsoft got its monopoly because computer purchase
    was determined by corporations. Today it is the consumer and only one company knows the consumer. Apple.
    Google is just like Microsoft. It is just an advertisement company. Everything else is losing money for them.
    Their customer is not the consumer, no matter how much they say. Android is not free when HTC has to pay for patent
    licenses from Microsoft and in the future Apple.

    Obviously your knowledge of computer is pedestrian.
    No one should be following your advice.

    I wouldn’t call 99 year old lady who has never used a computer in her life. Apple Fan. What is happening is that consumers have grown to trust Apple products from their familiarity with ipod, iphone and now iPad.

  39. That’s relative. Windows 7 is basically what Windows should have been back at Windows 98. It’s good, but you’re comparing it against a background of garbage. Of course it looks good, it’s not complete garbage. Windows still has a long way to go in terms of catching up with so much as Mac OS, forget Linux.

  40. Andrew its not Far-fetched, why Apple, Ipad, Wii, DSi, and others will do well and Microsoft will though also in the long run do well also. Now as for the likes of Oil, that might be going down with the EUR and others over the near-term, and who knows where from there…

    Far-fetched, Still the Theme And Will Remain The Deflationary Theme Has Been The Mantra…

    Steve Ballmer actually does, along with many in silicon Vally, have a handle on what’s up and or let’s call it down for right now, for the direction of the markets.

    The play will be in the precious metals and the buoy of the currency trades. The other sleeper as it seems a miss to many of the radar but getting upgrades from some. It may be due from catching the theme of the many unemployed and ability in their purchasing power.

    The real unforeseen silent sleeper is the corporate need to further ramp up the IT spending to replace the human unit expense and the need to account for the tracking of the austerity tracking ramp up it build out. Call it the times of change.

    Call it times of too much time on their hands for both the Human and the corporate world, if your part of the young crowd going to spend whatever they may have left to spend. Consequently, the Dram space and other tech space build-out is way below estimates, even in this current wicked downturn market of bears, call it roaring bears.

    Just a far-fetched idea for the moment!

    This theme as was given in the past came strong today, as seen in the SMH and other DRAM issues. Could this be the time during the lows to pick up some buying points of interest in a DRAM of a Semi(s) such as ISSI, CRUS, LSCC, and others in this space and a host of other suppliers?

    Think of this time as a transitional time of many changes and of a total solution for the IT world of generation Y and corporation X that must build all these annoying automated gadgets for many that may be at a point to be held within a holding pattern and just waiting.

    Just think; gadgets for a world waiting for these one of many, new austerity measures and solutions to move boldly ahead to uncharted territory of world solutions, solutions of software systems of keeping, tracking, and entertaining.

    A future of uncertain questions, when we have the absence, of the need of bringing higher levels of social order as to ethics, morals, and Morales back within a society that has tossed them to the indulgence of the spending habits wanting and must having it all consumption habits.

    This plays to the rules of the continued theme of the COASE Oppression Theorem that also keeps with the fore mentioned equation of the absence of the creator of God lacking in the equation. Once we bring God back fully and bring our social order and spending habits to what can be seen as ethically balanced. We might just stand a chance.

    Oh, it will not be because someone wanted to hedge oil up to $159.00 or more a barrel just because the world élite had the dollar sign of Greed only written. Yes, though, Oil will though someday get back there, as will many other prices of items. It is man’s destiny of fate. We are our own means of falling to our temptations to want to go towards greed and to consume and to get what is coming to us.

    This is why; I can say with a true heart, and knowing the Boss of “I am”; that this market is fully under-valued at this current level. Has a lot more to run, but we ourselves and greed snuff it out…

    Man has not even begun to understand this metric of austerity and invitation of the Creator of God, nor if we did, Man would cease and there would be than plenty of consumption left to go leaving us to avoid what would be our self-destruction.

    We need to live within our means is the clear message sent if not understood. Say it again. Live within ones means. Whether it be a Country, and individual and/ or a family.

    Yet, we still move towards our destiny with self-destruction, as we cannot slow down our consumption levels and invite our creator back to the table of true social order of high ground of virtues. We are than meeting with COASE and further of the Oppression Theorem…

    Far-fetched, Not anymore…

    Peace I am Out of Here for Now…
    James G.

  41. The notion that Microsoft is declining propagates what I think is the biggest myth in the tech industry: that block-buster success can be replicated.

    Truly outsized returns from businesses like Microsoft (with Windows + Office) or Google (with contextual advertising) aren’t reproducible like widgets on an assembly line. They represent the rare case where the right company is working on the right problem at the right time.

    The notion that, because Microsoft managed to use the operating system as a tax on the PC while the PC was going through explosive growth, that they should then be able to ever build a second business model of equal profitability, is as silly as suggesting that someone who won the lottery should go buy a lot more lottery tickets.

    Yet this is precisely what is expected of Microsoft, and now Google. The highest return to share-holders for such a company would be to keep the team small, maintain the core product that prints money, and bank the rest.

    The odds of a second act to match the first for a company with success as epic as MS or Google is as unlikely as the odds of being that successful in their first act: not very high.

  42. Depends on your environment.

    On the beach, no. In a room with a bright light or window exactly behind you, ditto. Everywhere else, you might like it a lot better.

  43. Mr. Kwak,
    As to ” I agree with Brad DeLong that the biggest problems with the keyboard are (a) hitting the shift key instead of “A” and (b) needing to shift to the numeric/symbol keyboard just for an apostrophe or a quotation mark. I would add the lack of control key sequences.”

    The iPad will work will just about any brand of bluetooth keyboard. I know it works with my Apple bluetooth, and all of the features of a full professional keyboard are there…and you can use the keystroke shortcuts.

  44. Your new title is much better than the first one you wrote.

    Try the Kindle app on iPad, you might enjoy it.

    As for typing, on the iPhone, there are certain tips that make it slightly easier.

    Here is a video with some tips. The one that I find most helpful is keeping the shift key pressed to go to the numeric keyboard (around the 1:20 mark) in this video. I am assuming these things work on the iPad as well.

  45. @saucymugwump: Thank you for not forgetting us Americans swamped by cheap H-1B’s. Personally, I think Microsoft’s move to rely on imported software developers will do nothing positive for their innovation problems. So just more of the same from them.

    I think you awesomely nail Balmer’s next career move: politics.

  46. Mr Kwak wrote”

    “So, after questioning the iPad, I bought one.* My primary motivation was that I wanted to be able to watch old TV episodes on the commute to and from my internship this summer, and I think an iPod Touch is just too small.”

    String of deaths haunts iPad-maker in Shenzhen


    Foxconn worker jumps to death in China, the 10th suicide this year at iPod maker

    (CP) – 13 minutes ago


    Employment practices

    In June 2006, allegations of Foxconn operating abusive employment practices came to light as reported by Mail that were later denied by Foxconn.[7][8]

    Apple launched an investigation into these claims.[9] The result was that the claims of mistreatment of employees were judged by the Apple inspection team to be largely unfounded, but the inspection team also discovered that at peak production times some of the employees were working more hours than Apple’s acceptable “Code of Conduct” limit of 60 hours and 25% of the time workers did not get at least one day off each week.[10] These same workers complained there were not enough overtime work during off peak periods.

    The auditing team also discovered that workers had been punished by being made to stand at attention for extended periods,[11] and junior employees were subjected to military-style drills.[12]

    Foxconn admitted that it makes workers do an extra 80 hours overtime per month while the local labor law only permits 36 hours[13] Foxconn sued Wang You and Weng Bao of China Business News, the journalists responsible for revealing these practices, for $3.77 million and filed a successful court ruling to have the journalists’ assets frozen.[14] Some disagree with the demands and the court ruling.[15] Reporters Without Borders sent a letter to Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs to implore Foxconn to drop the case.[16] Later Foxconn reduced the demand to a symbolic 1 yuan (12 U.S. cents), withdrew the request to freeze the journalists’ personal assets and initiated legal proceedings to sue their employer.[citation needed]”


  47. In all seriousness: Redmond/Bellevue/Issaquah – Microsoft’s home base – could rightly be referred to as MicroAsia. They come as H1Bs – but end up here permanently, with many, many relatives in tow.

  48. “Without the monopoly benefits of intellectual property rights from early innovations Microsoft would sink into oblivion. ”


  49. There are actually a lot of great apps for Windows Mobile – so it’s kind of a shame in that regards. Unfortunately it was enormously buggy and its whole upgrade paradigm sucked completely – even if MS came out with another version of the OS, you were beholden to the WM device manufacturer to actually implement it, which they rarely did. Thus an expensive WM device would get stuck at an old version with no hope of upgrade.

    Anyway, a lot of the problem is MS half-assed their investment and it’s clear like all MS products that there is just no passion in the developers. The MS people build these things as a job, not because they love what they’re building. You can just feel the “Dilbert” behind the interfaces – people just clocking time.

  50. Thanks for the info! That’s good to know.

    I visited your blog. I love the photos of Kitty playing with the tiny ball. I wouln’t mind hearing more about her adventures. Sounds like she was a wonderful cat.

  51. Hell, yes, this is the last mac I’ll ever buy, after having put a couple varieties of Linux on it.

  52. Apple investigating Foxconn suicides

    May 26, 2010 7:15 AM – Fortune

    “Terry Gou, the Taiwanese tycoon who founded Hon Hai industries (Foxconn), led the press on a rare factory tour of its facilities in Shenzhen China and announced that his company

    — the world’s largest electronics manufacturer by revenue — is planning to construct safety nets around all its dormitories to prevent workers from falling to their deaths.”


  53. Ballmer has allowed Microsoft to become a bureaucratic, slothful company, filled with layers of innovation-stifling process bound people. As such it has been blind to trends, developed inferior products and does a horrible job marketing (just look at the Apple ads versus MS/PC).

    It was time for Ballmer to go long ago, but the same disease affects Microsoft’s board. So Ballmer keeps getting a pass while the horrendous inefficiency, botched products and terrible marketing continue and get worse. The real blame lies with the board of MS who don’t have the guts or grit to make the necessary change at the top while Ballmer rearranges the deck chairs.

  54. Interesting article, weak in a couple point and I thought rambled a bit between “I bought a new phone, an iPad, and why is SteveB still MSFT’s CEO”

    Having worked at MSFT, but now an independant consultant of my own choosing, SteveB is a passionate leader and continues to really the troops. KevinT is not really to run the business although he’s done a lot to Walmart-ize MSFT. So while it was always clear that MSFT would see BillG leave and SteveB take over there is not logical next person from within the co. I don’t tink BillG or SteveB are ready for an outsider (although Steven Elop would be a great choice (just hired a couple years back)) to take over the reigns.

    As far as your many loose point above – ERP – MSFT has f*cked that up. Too many brands and only now are they reaching the conclusion that they need to rationalize – combine this with the fixation of CRM (its better understood by MSFT) and a lack of ERP SaaS offerings without good linkage back to MSFT’s cloud strategy and you can see its a lost cause. (My opion, MSFT needs to hive this off as a strategic JV with SAP).

    With regards to Mobile and consumer with the re-org anounced and SteveB taking a bigger role there – you may actually see him inadvertantly put his own head on that platter…

  55. I disagree on competitiveness of MS SQL.

    Remember enterprise rollouts are total package solutions (that encompass a lot of interconnected software). Thus one you are in, it’s hard for you to be replaced (unless some layer of the system has been opened up to competitors, like SQL).

    But since Microsoft has never really had to compete, except very early in it’s history, it sucks at it. Pure and simple.

    And I use MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite, but maybe I’m not enterprisey enough.

  56. Uh, @ home I’m still using a G4 Powermac which I bought in ’99 to escape the drudgery of the Windoze world. It runs Adobe Design Suite CS4 like a champ, though because of the recent CS5 release, I’m forced (by Adobe) to purchase a newer, though not necessarily new, Intel computer. Give me that cutesy interface any time.

    While I’ll never (ever) buy and iPhone, the base model wifi iPad looks like a pretty good and economical replacement for my much-abused-and-recently-deceased iBook G4 laptop, killed dead after seven years of hard duty.

    Disposable, huh?

    BTW, @ the company I work for switched from Windows desktops to iMacs, because the Windows machines were slow, troublesome pieces of crap.

  57. Let me assume a contrarian role. Several points:

    1. Level of ignorance of computer history, especially Microsoft history is amazing in this thread. Nobody even remember how Microsoft wiped the floor with IBM in OS/2 vs. Windows wars (and OS/2 price) or how it prevented monopolization of IBM position in hardware (PS/2 with microchannel) and price of IBM PCs. I think that the level of indignation with Microsoft monopolistic position is simply childish if you view it from economic perspective. It’s interesting to see Linux enthusiasts and Mac enthusiasts attacking Microsoft in economic blog the same way they do it in Slashdot. And on the same low level of competence.

    2. Microsoft historically was/is a huge positive force preventing balkanization of PC market. Microsoft created free PC platform and license it for free to manufactures. It’s OS is a de-facto test when a computer is a PC or not. So everybody else working on PC platform are leaching on Microsoft success. And that’s first of all Linux. So from economic perspective Linux is Microsoft parasite that leverages host advantages.

    3. Balmer should be viewed in context of other large corporate CEO. For example what about comparing him with Sam Palmisano as for outsourcing. Any takers?

    4. The “real” cost of products such as Windows 7 and Office should be $800-$1000 or more (equal to the price of PC) if you consider that the cost of a typical commercial application utility is typically $60. Both are available for ~$100, almost for free. That’s the price that only due to Microsoft monopoly and economy of scale.

    5. Software market is a natural monopoly market when the biggest player usually can absorb innovation of other players at a fraction of cost.

    6. NT architecture is pretty solid and in some ways more advanced then Linux architecture (filesystem: NTFS vs. Ext3, scheduler, .NET vs. nothing). In no way I would call it garbage. .NET was just a very nice kick in the face into architectural pretensions of Linus Torvalds and like. It make Linux really medieval in comparison and nothing can change that in a short run.

    7. Microsoft Office is an amazing set of applications that is next to impossible to create in a typical large company. Just look at IBM with their half-baked overpriced applications. In comparison Microsoft (in user space) is really great American software company. And Office in a serious way leverage the Microsoft platform, leverage to the extent that it can be now considered to be a part of the platform. Due to this any success of competitors will be limited until Microsoft self-destructs due to age, change of management (like in Warren Buffett’s quote: invest only in businesses that an idiot can run, because sooner or later an idiot will) or other factors affecting aging corporations.

    8. Linux development including Linus-led kernel development is limited to chasing tailgates. Very little innovation, if at all, for the last 15 years. Quality of OS is low (perma-beta) and stability is even lower (compare with Solaris 10). They compete more on Unix platform attractiveness and zero price then anything else. Ubuntu is just half-baked playground for amateurs and only CS students might prefer it to Windows 7 in user space (servers are another game).

  58. Ballmer should be out. The company is the pits. Just look at the stock price over the last ten plus years.
    Zero or negative appreciation. I own this dog of a company and tell you that the market knows its value as reflected in the share price. MS keeps trying to be something else which is hard for it to become.

  59. You sound a bit bitter over those evil foreigners. “Dey tuk er jobs!” We should probably just seal everything up and not allow any foreigners in. We can bury our heads in the sand and everything will be ok. Or, we can try to attract the best and the brightest to this country which will hopefully help offset the incredibly large number of idiots who are procreating like crazy.

  60. 1. Microsoft has become the IBM they beat. Today.
    2. I agree they helped standardize hardware. But they restrain/harm the global market for computers with their Monopoly.
    2-linux. Linux runs everywhere. PPC, ARM, MIPS. Microsoft is immaterial to Linux’s success.
    3. Newsflash Lots of people disagree with Balmer. Comparisons don’t make the disagreement less valid.
    4. Stop quoting words to make them what you want them to be. The ‘real’ price of a PC should be $200 less. That’s the Microsoft tax. See, I can do it too.
    5. Monopolies are harmful and the norm in deregulated environments. They constrain innovation and economic activity. Period. There is no such thing as a benevolent Monopoly.
    6. NT architecture is okay. It’s the crap they put on top of it that’s *still* terrible. Oh they’ll fix that in the next release.
    6-filesystems. I have many to choose from in Linux depending on my needs. Microsoft? one. Just one.
    6-.net. .net has driven away more devs than it attracted. Which is what Microsoft is all about these days.
    7. ???
    8. I admin both windows and Linux servers. There is no truth to your vague claims.

  61. Unfortunately they STILL haven’t fixed the environment variables panel.

    The default PATH is 100+ characters. Other env variables can be even longer. The text field for editing it only shows 36 characters, and isn’t resizable. Which is ridiculous.

    It might have been excusable in 1990 when RAM was tight, but it’s 2010 and we have gigabytes of RAM and 64 bit CPUs.

  62. Apple is one of the greatest companies in all history; only IBM has invented more (and more important) marketable technologies. Microsoft has done NOTHING. They have invented NOTHING. What IP they haven’t bought they’ve stolen to make crap products and jam them down the throat of corporate America. What they are really good at is market control; in fact, they are geniuses at it. But they create NOTHING.

  63. I cannot understand why the likes of Apple and Microsoft can generate so much passion and debate. Why do we as customers want to give up the freedom that Apple and Microsoft take away when we buy products incorporating outdated technology from these corporate giants?

    Why not look at the possibilities that the open-source software model has to offer? Freedom for one. Freedom to use and do what you want to do with it? Freedom from periodic and costly upgrades. Freedom from anti-competitive lock-ins.

    Isn’t that what you do when you buy any other product? You basically own the product for which you put down your hard-earned money. So, why should software be any different?

    Now, look at Apple from the application developer perspective. The current Adobe Flash episode comes to mind immediately. Let us say you a hot idea and have developed a solution for it. You want to implement your application on the popular Apple platform (iPOD, iPAD, iTunes or whatever!!). Go ahead, it is your idea and your freedom to do as you choose. That is what the sensible business model should be. But no, if you want to get onto the above-mentioned platforms you basically sign away your right to implement the same or similar solution on a competing platform. Outrageous, isn’t it? Did the platform vendor pay you to develop your solution? Was the original application your innovative idea or that of the platform vendor?

    So, the question is why would intelligent solution developers give away their freedom on the intellectual property they have. One answer that comes to mind is short-term greed!!

    I think it basically disturbs my sense of personal freedom in the same manner as if some physical property I own were to be taken away forcefully from me by a non-democratic government. Why would I want to let that happen to my virtual resources through a corporate appropriation.

    Folks and potential customers, go for open-source. If customers start looking at open-source solutions with some passion they would find open-source solution developers stepping up to the pitch. Open-source solutions can be competitive, cost-effective and start-of-the-art.

  64. On the iPad keyboard you can do the following when you need to switch from ABC for a quick apostrophe/comment:

    Simply touch the switch key, hold your finger down without removing it – when the new keys come into view you slide your finger to whichever key you need to press and lift your finger. You’ll get the new symbol/number and your keyboard will be switched back to ABC.

  65. anyone else find it ironic that this website is questioning Steve Ballmer’s job, but somehow Simon Johnson has a job. If anyone should be flogged by society, should it not be Simon Johnson?

  66. Annonymous quoted:

    “It makes consuming huge amounts of information much more enjoyable.”

    Taiwan’s Foxconn Raising Pay; Hopes To Combat Spate Of Suicides

    Chairman of Foxconn Terry Gou prepares for a press conference about worker suicides

    May 26, 2010 – Associated Press Writer

    TAIPEI, Taiwan — “The Taiwanese electronics company buffeted by a spate of suicides at its China factories said Friday it will raise the pay of workers by an average of 20%.

    The pay raises at Foxconn Technology Group have been in the works for months to cope with a labor shortage following China’s recovery from the global recession, said a company official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

    RELATED: 13th worker attempts suicide

    But the official said the big jump in pay could help lift worker morale. “Feeling sad is contagious, and so is feeling happy,” he said. “We hope the workers will have a positive attitude toward their lives.”

    The basic salary at the China plants of Foxconn Technology Group — which makes iPhones and other popular gadgets — is currently about $130 a month.”


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