Friday, July 12, 2013
The Dance Monkey Boy Reorganization
Yesterday, Microsoft announced a reorganization of the company. Unfortunately, it looks a lot less important than the announcement. That is because it left the current CEO in full authority of the company. This is the same guy who has been a joke in the tech community - when the iPhone came out he thought it would not sell well because of the price (85 million phones later). He presided over the launch (I think it is still be sold in places besides EBAY) of the Zune which was a pale copy of the iPod (5 million sales from generous estimates versus 350 million sales for iPods). He dumped on the Mac Air yet it continues to grow in sales and performance. In short Ballmer has been wrong on most tech issues for most of his tenure.
MSFT has also relied on their leadership in a couple of categories of software - notably Excel and Word. I've quit using both because they have grown a bit to bulky to be useful. Powerpoint suffers from a multitude of sins - I shudder many times when I see a speaker turn on a Powerpoint presentation because I know they will violate the simple rules of presentations like 10-20-30. For a long time Microsoft seemed to argue that they were the dominant provider in key software so one had to accept their view of the world. Were that ever true, it certainly is not now where IOS, Mavericks, Android and a host of options are available for operating systems and things like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are available to challenge the Office suite.
What Ballmer seems to think is that bluster and envy are ways to build a company. They are not. The WSJ coverage of the change said Mr. Ballmer was changing from a baseball team structure (where players make individual decisions) to a football team (where they go into a huddle) and "individuals get specific instructions to follow." Yeah, right, hierarchies have done so well in the tech industry.
But there is another story that were Ballmer not at the helm the company might begin to recognize. The Windows mobile products have some interesting characteristics and features. They seem to integrate between and among platforms. As I noted in an earlier post the first look I got at the Surface seemed to confirm a somewhat clunky device (whose marketing matches the product). But there are a bunch of devices using the OS that are quite good. Friends that have the HTC phone and some of the other Windows Mobile tablet - like them a lot.
In an interview with Guy Kawasaki in 2008 Ballmer commented that in the tech arena you either continue to evolve and innovate or you stagnate and die. Tech has entered into a more mature phase where the antics of Ballmer will serve the company even less well. This reorganization looks a lot more like moving deck chairs on the Titanic than getting back to innovation.