Some days you learn so much about a company that you always thought you knew. A friend of mine from Start-up School recently posted an interesting Bloomberg Businessweek article that I wanted to share with you.
Steve Ballmer Reboots
Cooler tech, more energy, higher profit—the Microsoft CEO is out to prove Steve Jobs wrong and make Redmond relevant again
Some highlights from the read for me include:
Page 2 – How could a guy with all the talent and resources he had at his disposal launch such a dud?
Page 3 – (on the acquisition of Skype) On a Saturday, Ballmer went for a run in the morning and then showed up at the Skype office in jeans and a Skype T-shirt. “He literally kicked off his shoes, sat down, and met with about 400 people,” Bates says. “It was not a rah-rah thing. He wanted to hear from the engineers and understand the company on that level.”
Page 3 – Even though Microsoft has almost tripled revenue and more than tripled profit on his watch, its share price has been immovable, and some investors simply can’t forgive Microsoft’s embarrassing misses in music players, smartphones, search, and social networking
Page 4 – (on the catalogues retailers can order Microsoft sales merchandise) Stores can also order up Microsoft salespeople—a group of specially trained folks who will dress up like Best Buy or Wal-Mart employees and teach the retailer’s actual employees how to hawk Microsoft products.
Page 5 – “The key isn’t what people are saying,” Ballmer says. “The key really winds up being what do they think about the product. Would they look at a product that we deliver?”
Page 5 – Greg Papadopoulos, a venture capitalist and former chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, says people can get caught up in the sexy devices and services produced by the likes of Apple and Facebook and lose sight of the bigger picture: The vast majority of the $3 trillion spent per year on information technology comes from businesses.
Page 6 – “If we’re saying something externally, then people believe you mean it internally,”
Page 6 – (nice character reference) Making his way around, Ballmer shakes the occasional hand and, in exchange for some mild ribbing, even allows a photo with an iPhone-toting customer. This is precisely the executive his peers admire. “He’s the most honest, self-critical, self-aware person I have ever met,”
Page 6 – Microsoft’s shabby track record at anticipating technology trends adds to the angst. The company spent $9 billion on research and development last year—more than any other tech company by far—yet remains in a costly game of catch-up.
Page 7 – He points to a story in Isaacson’s biography of Jobs that details how Apple picked low-power ARM chips instead of Intel’s (INTC) power-hungry chips for its mobile devices. As a result, Apple produced sleeker products that had longer battery lives. “One decision, and they would have been on a completely different path,” he says. That may be true, but the point is that Apple made the right decision—and kept making them.
Page 7 (final para) – During a reflective moment, Ballmer says that if he had it to do all over again, he would dedicate more time to watching over the development process of products rather than just issuing a vision to his employees. “I’d say probably Bill and I were spending a lot more of our energy on where to go,” he says. “And we should balance our energy better on how to make sure we’re going to get where we want to go.”
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