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CEO Watch – Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Update #1

June 23, 2010

Microsoft MSFT (NASDAQ) and particularly Steve Ballmer, the firm’s CEO, continues to find itself on the hot seat. More and more analysts and tech pundits are beginning to question the firm’s direction and leadership.  Yesterday, Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital examined some of the problems facing Microsoft and it’s chief executive in her piece entitled, What to make of the Microsoft-Is-Falling-And-Can’t-Get-Up MemeOne year stock performance of Microsoft, Source: Bigcharts.com. Swisher is by no means in the camp seriously worried about the firm’s immediate future but she suggests there is a real need for some change at the firm.  According to Swisher,

Microsoft, as all tech companies do, needs to change, and a lot faster than it has so far; the company has been trying mightily to do so in search and recently, in mobile, where it is woefully far behind; its leadership under Ballmer, who took over from co-founder Bill Gates, has been meh enough to keep its stock moribund.

But, by no means recently–even if there is a better CEO for Microsoft out there than Ballmer–have I found the company execs ignorant about the tougher issues or unwilling to consider changes needed.

In fact, in its high-flying days, Microsoft did have a tin ear to criticism. No longer, and I would call its execs appropriately concerned about fixing its issues, although their efforts do suffer from the company’s massive size and inertia in making the right moves.

Thus, they certainly might not be successful at innovating, although these are the very kinds of problems Apple CEO Steve Jobs solved when he returned to a rotten company in what, in its current glory days, seems eons ago.

And Microsoft has been getting the same questions that are beginning to be asked about Google.

… That’s why–at this point–I can see no need for panic to set in about Microsoft…

… As for today, even though we are all terminal, the sky looks like it will remain intact at Microsoft for a little bit longer.

Swisher is rather pragmatic about Microsoft’s situation but pragmatism does not always reign particularly when you are talking about one of the largest and formerly most successful tech firms in history.  Keep a close eye on Ballmer and Microsoft.


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