How’s that for a magazine cover?

Bloomberg Businessweek latest issue features Steve Ballmer, whose reign as Microsoft CEO is analyzed in an extensive story in the magazine this week.

Whether or not you agree with what Ballmer has to say, it’s a great read, in part because the introduction puts the reader across the dinner table from Ballmer as he makes his case for Microsoft, and his leadership of the company, over pork chops and a salad wedge.

The piece by Ashlee Vance also explores the question of Ballmer’s technical chops, a subject we’ve dissected extensively here in the past.

“I’m not going to pretend I’m some visionary or going to try and have central planning on the technology side for everything that goes on,” says Ballmer. So, the thinking became, “Let’s agree on what the basic set of things are that we believe in, and we’ll share those things or share those technology approaches.” Later, Ballmer adds, “The only way to get great execution with great ideas is to have guys in our leadership who can really take things to the next level—not wait to hear from me what the instruction is but take things to the next level. I had to find my role relative to the product side, which I hadn’t had to find really as much while Bill was still here.”

In the end, the article addresses many of the challenges facing the company, while also delivering a counterpoint to many of the criticisms Microsoft today. Read the full piece here.

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  • Guest

    With MS indirectly warning about PC earnings (and about to pull the trigger on a mktg restructure/downsize that’s been in the works for a long time), I think we can expect another round of calls for this head in a week or two, I doubt this puff piece from Bloomberg will likely do anything to assuage that.

  • Can Do Better

    Ballmer is a sales guy.  He surrounded himself with yes men and sales execs, thinking his job was just selling what Microsoft had already built.  His strategy let Microsoft’s products get badly stale and way behind other competitors.  Only now, after it has become blindingly obvious, does he realize his mistake and does he starting to surround himself with competent tech execs, but that doesn’t excuse his past behavior and failures.  This Bloomberg article is way too forgiving.

  • Eli

    Balmer may be a sales guy but the marketing and advertising is horrendous..

  • Anonymous

    I first took that title to mean “No More, Mr. Monkey Boy” – implying that MSFT should say no more to Ballmer. That’s a borderline double entendre. Intended?

  • Guest

    This is a great article — thanks for linking it! I had no idea that “Measured by total annual profit growth, Ballmer’s performance (16.4
    percent) surpasses those of such legendary CEOs as GE’s Jack Welch
    (11.2 percent) and IBM’s (IBM) Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (2 percent).”

    • Guest

      And yet the stock has been flat for a decade (instead of doubling or tripling as it should have were this reality).  I wonder why?

      • Guest

        This is reality, George — it’s quoted from the article. Perhaps Microsoft stock is in fact undervalued if investors aren’t buying enough of it despite these fundamental increases.

        (Disclosure: I do not work for nor do I own stock in Microsoft.)

        • Guest

          Increasing share of a diminishing market.  Classic HBR stuff.  One-way ticket to midnight.

          That’s why.  Investors know it.  MS knows it.

      • Guest

        16% is probably accurate as an average. It would have been much higher in the earlier years and much lower now. I don’t know why you question its reality? You realize you could easily look it up and confirm/deny its veracity yourself, right?

        Regarding your second point, stock appreciation is dependent on more than just fundamentals. The stock market heavily favors high growth, business model sustainability, and people who are seen as winning in new areas. MS now has poor growth, sustainability of its legacy model is a major question, and it has had very little success creating new businesses, and none that could replace any of its three main ones.

  • Guest

    That article is a joke. Ballmer inherited a fast growing dominant company. So comparing the subsequent growth to GE or IBM isn’t very useful. A better measure would be MS’s own, which they subsequently dropped. That was the % of industry profits MS represented. By that measure MS has been steadily losing ground.

    When you look at what’s happened to growth, dominance, reputation, stock price, debt, the recent losses in mobile and tablets which MS helped pioneer, etc, it’s clear that Ballmer has been a epic fail. Congrats to MS PR for planting this story in BW. But what counts is performance. And as we’ll see when MS reports this week, the numbers don’t lie and the company is in trouble.

  • Bob

    Ballmer has been confidently predicting MS’s resurgence every year for more than a decade. But it never comes. And during that period the company’s growth has gone from 70%+ to less than 5%, and its overall importance in the industry has been eclipsed by Apple and Google.

    It’s like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody believes it anymore. When I and most others read this latest prediction, we just reflect on the others: Vista would be great, Zune could beat iPod, iPhone wouldn’t get much share, MS could catch Google within six months, or that iPad was a toy.

    This comes off as a pretty desperate attempt by Ballmer and MS’s board to try and shape the record into something it isn’t, hoping to buy another year or two for Steve’s tenure. Why, I don’t know.

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