Joachim Kempin, a former Microsoft senior vice president who worked at the company for nearly two decades, delivers a strong critique of the company and its CEO, Steve Ballmer, in a new book being released today, called Resolve and Fortitude”

Although Kempin hasn’t worked at the company for a decade, his perspective and experience shed light on how Microsoft got to where it is today. He points in particular to the rise of Ballmer, describing him as a micromanager whose approach has led to the steady departure of the company’s top product executives. Kempin says Ballmer has a habit of making life difficult for anyone who might challenge him to become Microsoft’s chief executive.

Kempin writes of a meeting he had with Ballmer in spring of 2010 …

I encouraged Steve to listen carefully to IT world-shattering ideas his employees were concocting and spin off new businesses to sponsor a MS-led Silicon Valley like phenomenon of new entrepreneurs, right here in the state of Washington. … My message: Take full advantage of any mind blowing new opportunities they come up with instead of bogging entrepreneurial spirit down with internal bureaucracy, artificially-imposed standards, too many committees and management layers. He answered: “I hear you!” Two years later I am still waiting.

Management’s success comes down to trusting others. Can MS’s CEO trust anyone other than himself, and can he let go of micromanaging results? The recent developments may actually signal the latter.

The book, which apparently went to press before the departure of Steven Sinofsky, includes Kempin’s hope that the now-former Microsoft Windows president would be able to step up to play the role of “product fanatic” similar to the role Steve Jobs played at Apple historically.

As a senior vice president, Kempin was a key figure at the company, including his role overseeing Microsoft’s relationships with computer makers. We’ve contacted Microsoft for comment on the book, and will update this post depending on the response. I’m also scheduled to talk with Kempin about his book later today.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Billy Bob

    A minor quibble, you write that, “Kempin writes of a meeting he had with Ballmer in spring of 2010”.

    Is the year correct? From what i’ve read Kempin left MS 11 years ago.

  • Guest

    Congrats to Joachim for monetising his anger! So many of my friends whinge about Microsoft and Steve for free on sites like GeekWire. Morons, they. They could be making (royalties on $13) for every sale.

  • Rold Gush

    So was “entrepreneurial sprit” from the book? Or is that a GW typo?

    • Todd Bishop

      Thanks, that was my typo. Fixed above.

  • IRememberYou!

    Who? Oh, Joachim Kempin, I remember him. He’s the guy that used his car to run down antelope and shoot them illegally using his wife’s and his kid’s license tags:

    Didn’t he help build up the abusive OEM licenses that came out in the antitrust trial too?

    His points are actually valid, but he’s one of the worst messengers possible. Comparatively he makes Ballmer look sympathetic.

    • Joe d’Coder

      Don’t be confused – the OEM strategy was Gates all the way. Kempin was the guy that took it to the OEMs but Bill was the one who concocted the Windows on every PC plan to squeeze out the competition.

    • Scott Moore

      He didn’t quite run down antelope, I think it was night hunting from a jeep. None-the-less, Kempin was a hard player. I remember him in OEM, and I remember when he left. Regardless of whether or not you like him, he’s probably well placed to critique Microsoft. He knows that world as well as anyone could. They should hire him to invest in companies like he’s talking about. I think he would make bold and shrewd moves.

      • Guest

        Thanks for the fact clarification. Still anyone that can’t be fair in their hunting is a bully and borderline sociopath (or over the line).

        He may have good points but the best thing he can do is go away as he only hurts the good points.

        Just another arrogant brutal Microsoft exec.

  • Guest

    I actually would have liked Kempin’s proposal. What a missed opportunity for the greater Seattle area. Can you imagine, a Seattle Valley? Ballmer hasn’t only been hurting Microsoft, he’s hurting the region.

  • Not a stone thrower

    There are two ways to look at Ballmer’s tenure and whether or not he pushed out executives who challenged him. On the one hand, you have a slew of top execs (Robbie Bach, Jeff Raikes, Paul Maritz, Bob Muglia, Kevin Johnson, Ray Ozzie, Stephen Elop, now Sinofsky…) who have left or been forced out. Several of these could have been candidates to replace Ballmer at some point in time. Collectively they represent a tremendous amount of executive talent.

    The bigger point though is that Microsoft both recruited and retained each of these talents for 15-20 years.

    So was Ballmer a “horrible manager” when he was extracting the best out of each of these individuals? And making most of them CEOs of other top tier companies?

    Sort of like how many NFL coaches were once part of Mike Holmgren or Andy Reid’s staff. Was Reid a horrible coach because so many talents left to coach elsewhere, and had success elsewhere?

Job Listings on GeekWork