I’m not going to lie. I was never a Microsoft fan. Not even when I was using Windows (that I begrudgingly moved to after the Amiga). But at least you used to have some awe and respect for the gorilla that was Microsoft. Bill Gates might have been an evil genius, but at least he was a genius.
Now contrast this to Steve Ballmer. Who’s certainly no genius and calling him evil is to belittle evil. He has turned the gorilla into a buffoon. And frankly, it’s sad. Gone are the feelings of rage (except when they patent troll people for being web apps) and left is pity.
None of this is new, of course. Ballmer has be running Microsoft for more than a decade now, but when you don’t hear from the guy directly for a while, it’s easy to get lulled into the belief that he’s probably running alright. Not.
See this video from D8 of Ballmer babbling about “productivity is going to be important, consumption is going to be important”.
Now contrast this with Steve Jobs speaking about a much, much tougher issue at the same conference:
Jobs is lucid and reasoned. Ballmer is… Hell, I don’t even know how to describe it. He’s all over the place. No clear definitions, just randomly running his mouth. Compared to Jobs, I think it’s charitable to call him pathetic.
Jobs needs worthy opponents and Ballmer isn’t it. Look at this chart of Microsoft’s market value from the Gates to Ballmer hand-over:
Chart by Erik Pukinskis of Sprout Robot
Now look at this picture of Apple stock since Jobs returned:
It matters who’s at the top. It sets the company tone. Microsoft is undoubtedly full of very smart people, but as long as they are being run by Steve Ballmer, they’re going to be shackled by his ineptitude.
I wish Microsoft had their evil genius back.
Gavinon 04 Jun 10
Maybe Ballmer’s too easy a target. No parody of him would be as ridiculous as the real thing.
Andre Medeiroson 04 Jun 10
Funny thing about that latest graph. One of my coworkers pointed out (and I agree) that you’re not just comparing CEOs, but also comparing eras (software vs. internet).
Not that I don’t agree with your statements, I’m just saying ;-)
Adamon 04 Jun 10
My work is sending me to TechEd next week. How I wish I could go to RailsConf instead :(
New Orleans is pretty much the only saving grace about the trip.
Vojtoon 04 Jun 10
“Just randomly running his mouth” that’s just exactly how I felt listening to Ballmer.
Adamon 04 Jun 10
Microsoft TechEd that is.
DHHon 04 Jun 10
Andre, Microsoft should have been double prepared for the internet vs Apple. I don’t think Gates would have let all of this just slide him by and be happy with his aging cash cows.
Geof Harrieson 04 Jun 10
I agree, Ballmer is such a poor choice for the public face of leadership within Microsoft. There were rumours years ago that the much more pleasant and charismatic Ray Ozzie may take over, but he’s obviously moved onto other things. Too bad, as Ozzie has the mojo that Microsoft needs, especially since they’re doing a lot of things right at present, except, that is, to choose a leader.
Mingon 04 Jun 10
Because making fun of Gates was so 90’s, while making fun of Ballmer is cool…
At the end of the day it is still the same vitrolic hatred of Microsoft.
Anonymous Cowardon 04 Jun 10
It’s obvious to everybody (including every person on that stage) that Apple is doing great these days — consistently innovating and producing products that people simply love to own.
Even in a situation like this, I don’t think you would have seen Gates spend his time during the interview trying to take pathetic and sad potshots at his competitor, the way Balmer did.
DHHon 04 Jun 10
Ming, Ballmer has turned Microsoft into a company that’s impossible to hate. They’re just not making interesting moves in areas that we care about any more. I wish I could still muster some good ol’ hate and scorn for them. That would at least mean they were doing something interesting.
Chris Boesingon 04 Jun 10
Interesting that you refer to the market value to compare Gates with Ballmer. In your interview with Jason Calacanis you said profits are what matters most not market cap. According to wolfram alpha(http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=microsoft+profit) Microsoft’s biggest profits was in 2008 ($ 17.765 B per year) in 2000(the last year of Gates) the profit was somewhere below $ 10B. So shouldn’t you praise Ballmer for increasing the profits by over 70%?
Fred Son 04 Jun 10
Impossible to hate? Have you had to troubleshoot Vista for a relative yet? Ffffffffffuck.
Jon Amaron 04 Jun 10
Brilliant article. There’s no real question that Microsoft is losing serious ground and you’ve done a great job of showing that was a log time coming.
However, I do think that Jobs, and Apple, have a worthy opponent and that is Google. While their core businesses started out very different we are increasingly seeing them overlap.
Take Android vs the iPhone and Apple’s introduction of iAd.
What interests me most about this competition is that they employ antithetical business & innovation models, i.e. mostly closed vs mostly open. These models both have huge benefits to the companies that employ them and to the consumers that use their products. They also both produce knowledge and innovation in different manners, which when competing so healthily are actually very complimentary.
What worries me most is Job’s health. Very few dictators in history have been able to pass the torch along. And let’s be honest, a dictator is exactly what jobs is. Benevolent mostly, but a dictator nonetheless. The problem is, I really don’t see another Jobs in the ranks at Apple. And, as you’ve so eloquently shown this could be a rather large problem for the consumer in the coming decade.
DHHon 04 Jun 10
Chris, Microsoft is a money machine. But I believe that’s in spite of Ballmer at the helm. It’s a money machine off the two franchises that Gates build and secured. Ballmer haven’t introduced anything new that’ll guarantee them survival once Office and Windows go out to the pastures.
anonon 04 Jun 10
That two CEO chart is pretty misrepresentative of the data. The general idea is true, but the vertical scale really overemphasizes the slope during the 90s.
Also, it’s comparing the tech boom to a recession.
Rahulon 04 Jun 10
He comes across as if he’s drunk. Huh.
DHHon 04 Jun 10
Anon, Apple somehow managed to deal with a recession. (but agree with vertical scale fudgery).
riddleon 04 Jun 10
Have you heard him talking about Google? Here he’s talking about Chrome OS and Android:
Mikeon 04 Jun 10
I’m no fan of Ballmer, but keep in mind that Jobs HAD to have been ready for a question re: Foxconn, whereas the question asked of Ballmer was kind of off-the-cuff. He stumbled a bit in his response, but it’s not really a fair comparison.
StuFF mcon 04 Jun 10
Sometimes I wish billg & Paul would have joined the Steves in what had been the most amazing company of all time… And the history would have just been without monkey ballmer, left wherever be was when bill had the very dumb idea to bring him in the boat…
Scotton 04 Jun 10
Ballmer is just incoherent. I can imagine how un-guided his employees must feel.
Jakeon 04 Jun 10
Steve Jobs’ response feels like some kind of canned PR statement that a Bush era speech-writer would come up with. You’re fooling yourself if you think he just came up with that on the spot. How many different ways can he say “it’s a difficult situation and we’re looking into it”.
Jonon 04 Jun 10
That first graph is pretty inaccurate. You don’t need to like Microsoft to know that while Bill Gates may have relinquished his CEO status early on, he was an active voice for the company and very much responsible for it, certainly until 2006, and then partly until 2008, when his transition ended.
As pointed out, the “era” explanation is a much better one, since 2000 is also when the dot-com bubble burst, the internet became “real”, and Microsoft never figured it out.
Fred Grotton 04 Jun 10
DHH you forget two items..
1. Paul Allen was the other part of the pair in that steep market cap climb.
3. Ballmer will always be a poor replacement for Paul Allen.
Michael Langfordon 04 Jun 10
Didn’t Microsoft also start paying dividends and such though?’
See here: http://www.microsoft.com/msft/faq/dividend.mspx
The latest is here: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2010/mar10/03-08corp_newspr.mspx
Dividends depress stock prices by the amount of the dividend whenever issued.
And if you note: Apple pretty much STOPPED issuing dividends over the same time period: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=107357&p=irol-dividends
While the dividends aren’t princely by any means, they are about 2% per year for microsoft.
I’m not Ballmer fan, but Apple transitioned into a specific “Growth Stock mode” and Microsoft Transitioned into a specific “Dividend stock”
Here are the numbers for other dividend stocks: http://www.indexarb.com/dividendYieldSorteddj.html
kleon 04 Jun 10
I’m afraid to see how Apple is growing without any sign of stopping long term.
After seeing what Jobs does once he gets power, I prefer evil idiot to remain at the top.
Mark Cancellierion 04 Jun 10
While your assessment of Ballmer might be accurate, the stock price performance comparison is incredibly misleading. Microsoft stock was incredibly overvalued in the 1999-2000 time period. There was simply no way it was going to perform well in the subsequent period.
Bryan Livingstonon 04 Jun 10
I think Ballmer was drunk while giving that talk. If not he at least had a good buzz going.
Bryan Sebastianon 04 Jun 10
I lost all respect for Ballmer as a business man 3 years ago when he said noone would buy an iPhone for $300-$500. He obviously does not know simple math. A good cell phone at the time was typically $100-$200 and really good iPod was $350. With the iPhone you get both for ~$400. Not that hard to figure out that people would buy it, despite the price. How is the Zune player doing?
Rudigeron 04 Jun 10
The “patent trolling” dig at Microsoft isn’t really valid. For a technology company of Microsoft’s size to have done so little patent trolling is actually quite remarkable.
But it’s not like I’m gonna change dhh’s prejudiced mind on Microsoft, and patent trolling is convenient bait for him.
Joséon 04 Jun 10
This post reminded me of “How Microsoft Lost the API War” from Joel Spolsky (six years ago).
I don’t like Ballmer also, and agree he’s more a buffoon than a CEO, but I think it wouldn’t be an easy task for anyone to transform the desktop-oriented behemoth that is Microsoft into a Web-oriented software company. Anyone, included Gates.
Chrison 04 Jun 10
I agree completely that Ballmer is a deranged orangutan. But I think you give Gates far too much credit. I think Gates was more “right place, right time” than “genius.” A technology visionary he is (was) not.
It would also be helpful to point out that much (most?) of the success enjoyed by Microsoft during that impressive upward trend on the chart just so happened to come from illegal business practices per pretty much every courtroom in the civilized world.
Alas, Apple has had to rely on creating great products to fuel their rise. Bummer for them. Good for us.
Matt Bon 04 Jun 10
@Mike, you don’t think Ballmer could have expected a question about the iPad and the future of PCs?
joelarsonon 04 Jun 10
Watching Ballmer I kept thinking of Michael Scott
Tkon 04 Jun 10
Just to be clear, I think there are very few people you’d actually be willing to work for (money or no money).
SVEon 04 Jun 10
Job’s health is very worrisome. His vision of the proper future has been fantastic and would be a great loss to us all if he were to be gone. Here’s my proposal.
Just like Hari Seldon in the Foundation Trilogy scifi books, Steve should write down what he sees happening in the future and actions that should be taken at the 5 year, 10 year, 15 year, as far as he can see points. Lock these away in a time-operated vault to be opened at the proper year and disclose his vision for only that time point.
This way his influence and contributions can extend past his physical life.
Levi Figueiraon 04 Jun 10
I can’t afford to say that Ballmer is not a smart guy. Heck, he’s doing a lot better than me at what he does vs what I do. But I can’t help think that he doesn’t prepare or think his own words too well. Contrast that with Steve Jobs (and other CEOs for that matter). They measure every word carefully. They pause between ideas, they listen very carefully. Ballmer is the opposite. He sounds like a car salesman, speaking off the top of his head about things he’s 1) not prepared to talk about or 2) not qualified to talk about.
With everything I have against how Bill Gates ran his business, I miss him. Gates was/is a genius and a visionary. Ballmer is neither. Microsoft will lose all the battles they enter with Ballmer at the helm, I guarantee. They lost them all already, actually.
Sad to see Microsoft handing off a once power business to someone who clearly knows more about selling than he knows about running a business and setting a vision.
I’m actually sorry for Bill Gates. It must hurt having to witness this. But I’m not too naive to think he didn’t know exactly this was coming…
Daveon 04 Jun 10
I agree with many of the other commenters regarding the accuracy and inherent lopsidedness of the comparison.
One other point I would add: Ballmer took over from Gates when Microsoft was at the top of its industry in terms of market cap (or pretty much any other business metric you choose to examine).
Jobs took over at Apple when they were dribbling along the bottom. Give Jobs due credit for placing Apple on an incredible upward swing as of late. But Apple had nowhere to go but up at that point in time.
As for Ballmer, the only two options open to Microsoft (when he took over) were to maintain the status quo or start a long, slow decline. Judging by your chart, he’s managed to achieve the former (at least for now).
I don’t care much for Ballmer, but nor do I envy the task in front of him.
CJBon 04 Jun 10
David, you are correct, Ballmer is too emotional to lead Microsoft. I do believe at some point, in the very near future, Ray Ozzie will be taking the reins of the Microsoft ship—I think that is when things will shift somewhat for them as they need someone outside of the core founders of the company to lead them now.
It’s like Microsoft is Michael Jordan playing in his last year and the Apples, Googles, 37Signals, Jaded Pixels are like Kobe Bryant in his first years in the league (subtle dig at you Bulls Fans – Lakers 4 Life)!!!
In short, Microsoft will stay in this painful, pathetic decline until some new blood, new ideas and true innovation is infused into the company’s leadership.
Alanon 04 Jun 10
It’s unwise to label Ballmer, (and people like him), as less than a genius. You don’t rise to, and keep, the job of CEO by being a slouch. The problem with Ballmer, (and people like him), is they’re playing an entirely different game, and his game doesn’t include being innovative or creating new things.
The end result for people who want to create new things or be innovative is the same, don’t be an employee of the Ballmers in the world. There are, however, Ballmers around every corner in the business world, and underestimating them can set you back years.
Radoslav Stankovon 04 Jun 10
If you remember what was Ballmer’s role in a movie “Pirates from the Silicon valley” and how he get involved in Microsoft.
Brian Cardarellaon 04 Jun 10
@dhh I tend to agree about it being impossible to hate Microsoft under Balmer. I feel indifferent to them now. That’s a very bad position for MS to be in. (shareholders should be scared)
Jeffon 04 Jun 10
Stock price doesn’t reflect profits or performance. Stock price reflects more growth than anything else. Microsoft is dominant in the areas that involve business like Windows and Office but not much else. Apple is expanding it’s field into consumer electronics to the point where most people question if it’s line of laptops and desktops are #1 or #2 in Steve’s mind compared to iPhone OS devices (I doubt the iPod lineup ever got that kind of consideration).
It’ll be interesting to see how the future plays out. Investors care more about growth in new markets than success in old ones. It just means that a company can innovate and adapt if it has to.
Jakeon 04 Jun 10
Java sucks, amiright? lol
Thomason 04 Jun 10
I don’t think I’ve cared what Microsoft has been doing, good or bad, for ten years. As you say – not a good sign.
Alexon 04 Jun 10
In balmer’s defense, it seems like he was a lot less prepared for the question than jobs was for his. Jobs was able to put out statistics and things like that which showed he had at least done some research. Still.. balmer’s question wasn’t
Alexon 04 Jun 10
too out of the ordinary.. he should have seen that one coming.
Anonymous Cowardon 04 Jun 10
Steve Ballmer is to George W. Bush as Steve Jobs is to Vladimir Putin.
Jonon 04 Jun 10
@Jeff – Profits, particularly future profits, are exactly what stock prices are supposed to reflect. There are several reasons why these data are a bit less dramatic than their pictures, but there’s no denying that there has been a huge reversal of fate in the companies since the mid 90s.
Microsoft is out of the game because the first thing people load up on their computers and interface with isn’t IE, isn’t Windows. It’s, increasingly, a third party browser sitting on top of all of their stuff. Most of what they make is commodified and highly replaceable if you can get around their format lock in. Linux, Mac, OpenOffice, etc. are problems for them.
They should start focusing on what’s next in the office suite if they want to matter again.
Srinion 04 Jun 10
Totally on the head!
Also look at this – first video: http://d8.allthingsd.com/20100604/d8-video-microsoft-ceo-steve-ballmer-on-google/
This is like watching a monkey jump up and down. Gosh how did he even become CEO of a most successful company.
Anonymouson 04 Jun 10
Ballmer is the world’s most famous used car salesman. Simple as that.
Rick Sanchezon 04 Jun 10
Ballmer supposedly got a 800 on the math portion of the SAT.
Steve Jobs just happened to know Wozniak, and is completely incapable of doing anything technical. The people at NeXT didn’t even know if he knew how to turn on a computer. And don’t forget what an a-hole Jobs is. It’s too bad that Jobs didn’t die before he got his transplant. The world would be a better place without a-holes like him.
John Bootyon 04 Jun 10
I agree with DHH’s comments here in general. Personally I use several operating systems and do prefer OSX over Windows (though I don’t hate Windows)
Regarding Microsoft’s stock price since Ballmer took over… I may actually like Ballmer less than DHH likes him… but to be fair, you must admit that Ballmer took over at a time when Microsoft had already achieved almost total market saturation for their core lines of business (PC operating systems and PC office software) Microsoft had nowhere to go but DOWN, Apple had nowhere to go but UP.
Of course, Apple spectacularly managed to do what Microsoft failed to do: grow the company by creating entirely new lines of business (iPod, iPhone, iPad) while still growing their initial core line of business (Macs)
room34on 04 Jun 10
For the first time, I actually feel sorry for Microsoft.
HKJon 04 Jun 10
Ballmer comes off as so painfully low-class in this. His tone, his over-loud speech and blustery facial mannerisms are far more suggestive of a working-class hockey coach than the Fortune 50 CEO he’s tasked with being in his actual life. He gives off the energy of a bully, and has absolutely no elegance to his presence. What a liability for Microsoft’s image.
David K.on 04 Jun 10
The a-hole here is you. Wishing someone died because you don’t like what you have heard about them through rumors and second/third hand stories? Steve Jobs has a family, he has kids, and you want him to die? What kind of monster are you?
Ramon 04 Jun 10
To me, this is the most telling indicator about Microsoft’s fall from dominance. It used to be if you were doing a startup, you had to consider what Microsoft could do to co-opt your technology and steal your customers.
No one does primary opportunity-vs-risk assessments wrt Microsoft anymore, or has for 10+ years.
GadgetGavon 04 Jun 10
I think that MSFT stock chart just goes to show how savvy Gates is..! I bet the stock price would have done almost the same thing if he’d stayed but he doesn’t have to take the blame.
matton 04 Jun 10
@Dave – “But Apple had nowhere to go but up at that point in time.”
uh, wrong. they could have gone out of business, or to scavengers. it happens, you know. see Palm.
osing is very possible. jobs did the inverse.
Helmuton 04 Jun 10
People nowadays don’t seem capable of seeing forest for the trees (and the other way around too). What we have here is a clearly misguided obsessing over personalities. How’s that useful? It’s not useful at all. This blog has sadly degenerated into a lame gossip column. Perez, where are you when we need you?
If instead of obsessing over personalities (and, ouch!, Balmer is such a boar and such an ungracious person!), we were to pay attention to what these people are actually saying, we’d see that Balmer managed to bring up a number of valid points. Why not address those? Who cares if he’s butt ugly and has social graces of a horny rhinoceros?
Caleon 04 Jun 10
I’m not really sure how you compare those two clips considering neither had anything to do with the other.
I’m a big Apple fan, but Ballmer didn’t seem far off in that clip, either. “PCs,” “computers,” “devices” whatever you want to name them will continue to evolve like he said. The question is, will M$ continue to be a leader in the coming 10-20 years? Will Apple?
M$ is usually praised for their stable stock price. To me, that graph says Ballmer has been able to keep M$ at their financial peak for nearly 10 years. It’s tough to make more money when you own 80-90% of the market.
Jon Hon 04 Jun 10
“To me, that graph says Ballmer has been able to keep M$ at their financial peak for nearly 10 years. It’s tough to make more money when you own 80-90% of the market.”
You make more money by moving into new markets.
Microsoft keeps wasting time making geeky digital watches, like the SPOT thingy in 2004. Nobody wears watches anymore, because we’re surrounded by devices with clocks on them.
Nathan Nutteron 04 Jun 10
Great post but something is wrong with those video clips. I can hear the intro audio but even with volume at max in the app and on my system Walt is barely audible.
Nathan Nutteron 04 Jun 10
Never mind, it seems to be an issue with Flash. Happening in multiple browsers and with an YouTube video I just tried to watch. iTunes plays just fine. Sorry to post misleading info here.
wellingtonon 04 Jun 10
This article isn’t supported by the evidence it presents, i.e. the videos.
I watched the Ballmer vid, and I don’t think he said anything significant that I don’t agree with. There’s a subtle issue about the iPad/iPhone being a different kind of personal computer because it is not nearly as general purpose as the standard Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc. machines. There are fundamental restrictions (e.g. no shared file system, Apple Store app filter, etc.) that separate it from a general purpose machine. He almost started alluding to that but didn’t get to it. However, he wasn’t “just randomly running his mouth”.
In the Jobs interview, on the other hand, he was not trying to explain the subtleties of a paradigm shift (like Ballmer was asked to address). He was talking about a news event, which isn’t anywhere near as hard to address.
Bottom line: 1) the article is flawed, 2) I still hate Ballmer and he is truly evil, 3) he has a good side: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIk4qTKmKzE.
Johnny Roseboroon 04 Jun 10
@ Rick Sanchez “Steve Jobs just happened to know Wozniak, and is completely incapable of doing anything technical.”
You’re kidding, right? Way back in 1975, Jobs did the hardware chip design for the hit arcade game Breakout. There are hundreds of other examples.
dwmartinon 04 Jun 10
Amiga huh? I miss mine sometimes, but moving to the Mac was good for me. I moved from Amiga to Windows to Mac. Never looked back. Since 2003.
TMon 04 Jun 10
Jobs and Gates are, at their cores, technologists. They each have a feel for technology, where it can go, and how to get it there. Blamer is not, never was, and never will be. He is what many would call a “Marketing Weasel”. Listening to him you get the sense that he starts every day by playing buzzword bingo, and keeps score of how many terms he can fit in to each conversation. He may have a picture in his head of where technology would be in his own “perfect” world, but has no more idea of how to get there than he does of how to make it happen out here in the “real” world. Like the author, I was not a fan of Gates, but I did respect his talents, but I have NO respect for Balmer. His words are empty, and his vision is less than a mirage.
pmos69on 04 Jun 10
Microsoft made their own bed when they introduced anti-piracy measures like windows activation in their products.
They traded continuous growth and the maintenance of their absolute monopoly for short/medium term profits.
Roberton 04 Jun 10
As a paying user of your products, the last thing I want to read form this company is an article unnecessarily bashing another CEO.
Brandan L.on 04 Jun 10
That definitely was the question raised (somewhat implicitly) by Mossberg, but Ballmer never really answered it. Of course PC form factors will change in the future, but as of today, MS hasn’t proven that they can shoehorn either of their revenue generators — Windows and Office — onto these devices. So what’s their strategy going forward? That’s what Ballmer failed to address in his floundering, and that’s why he’s getting so much grief from us blog commenters. It doesn’t seem like even he knows where the company is going.
Nabeel Ahmedon 04 Jun 10
I also do think that microsoft needs someone who is young, enthusiastic & full of energy.
dannyo_0x98on 04 Jun 10
Here’s the theory behind market cap comparison. It is set via investors making assessments as to how many cylinders the company is running on and in how lucrative a race. It is one bit of evidence and for those who point out how nearly impossible it would be for Microsoft to keep the same slope as in the 90s, that’s a fair point.
Another point is that Microsoft has had a stock buy back and a dividend issue over the Ballmer years and those are supposed to increase stock price and they didn’t.
And look at that slope. A decline after the dot-com bubble burst, which is quite understandable, and then after that, flat. They have made a nice recovery since 2008, but it looks like they are back to flat. Taking into account inflation, a 2010 market cap that is about the same as the 2002 market cap is… well, it’s not time for ticker tapes and party hats.
Causes? The anti-trust suit took the wind out of their sales. Standing pat on IE6 was a colossal mistake. Longhorn’s meltdown left a mark. They went against Adobe (with a Photoshop competitor) and lost. They went against Intuit and lost. They bet on the wrong business model for music and lost. They put out XP and people wanted to stay with Win2000. They brought out Vista and people wanted to stay with XP. Vista wasn’t done as far as the Windows ecosystem was concerned (drivers) and it killed that product. “ILoveYou” and the consequences of poor security choices from the past tarnished the brand. They brought out the Zune. It did nothing. They missed netbooks and had to keep XP alive yet longer. They missed search. They spent a lot of money to buy search market share. It didn’t work. They chased after Yahoo and spent a lot of money there as their answer to Google. They missed smartphones and may or may not catch up. They continue to stand by the keyboard and stylus as pretty much necessary accoutrements to the evolved pc.
XBox was the only thing resembling a success and a reasonable person could argue that they spent too much in development, too much on studios to write XBox-only games and they spent too much subsidizing the console sales. They missed what Nintendo had figured out with the Wii.
But, even if it wasn’t the new/shiny version of their os, Microsoft kept selling Windows and Office, so they made money and tons of it. They seem to be doing okay in (not sexy) enterprise, but they had less success against Linux and Unix last decade than in the 90s. They’ve had to adapt their approach to interoperability because their customers are running mixed environments and Microsoft doesn’t have enough leverage to change that.
I put it all together and think the market cap stayed flat because Wall Street thinks as much money as Microsoft made, they would have made more, except for those mistakes and ventures which didn’t pan out.
And that may be laid at the feet of Mr. Ballmer, who, as CEO, should be choosing the battles with more discrimination than “any.”
TechBoyon 04 Jun 10
I’m a MS employee so my comments may be biased.
Ballmer is very smart, IQ wise. But that hasn’t helped him become an effective CEO who could steer MS into the next era. He is good at riling up the troops and inspiring them. But the inspiration fades quickly because execution is poor. MS is always playing catch-up, even in the glory days (with a few minor exceptions).
He talks about innovation endlessly but either he doesn’t understand the meaning of the word or he thinks he’s fooling everyone because MS doesn’t have a track record of innovation like other well known companies. But he like repeat how innovative the company is.
At heart he’s business/numbers kind of guy. His sweet spot is turning a few knobs and switches on the internal sales machine and making it hum. During MS’s rise in the 90’s, he lead the build up of the internal sales force and built MS into a credible enterprise class company. And he thought that would be enough. He couldn’t forsee technological trends soon enough and so MS is playing catch up in so many areas. And he’s also risk averse.
It will next to impossible to get rid of him because of his long history with the company. MS will need to endure a lot of pain to make fundamental changes. Sad…
Andre Richardson 04 Jun 10
Ballmer always sounds like a salesman to me. Don’t know what his bio is, but I bet he ascended the company ranks from the sales side of things. Jobs, on the other hand, sounds quasi-techie… maybe not a full-blown geek like Gates or Woz, but at least someone who gets the inner workings of these things and knows what he’s talking about.
pmos69on 04 Jun 10
One can also replace the caption on the left side of the stock chart for “without Windows Product Activation” and the right one for “with Windows Product Activation”.
RDGBon 04 Jun 10
I agree in general, but the chart is very misleading. Apple was “90 days from bankruptcy” (Jobs) when he took over. MS was riding high. MS is a value stock now, not a growth stock. Google will be a value stock in 3 or 4 years too.
Stekoon 04 Jun 10
Jobs famously said that eventually the sales people get put in charge and innovation becomes devalued. He was speaking about Sculley at Apple but also generally. Microsoft is currently living that nightmare with Monkey Boy and if anything it looks like he’s consolidating even more power in the company lately.
I’d also wager it doesn’t bode well for Phil Schiller taking over at Apple after Jobs hangs the mock turtlenecks up.
kizedekon 04 Jun 10
@ Rick Sanchez “Steve Jobs just happened to know Wozniak, and is completely incapable of doing anything technical.”
That’s a more than a little misleading. I think Woz left Apple right after the Apple ][ or ][e. The Mac, GUIs, Next Software, Pixar, iPods, iMacs, iPhones, iTunes and the iPad were all Steve’s babies. He seems to personally oversee the development of everything, and it doesn’t go out the door if it doesn’t meet his approval.
You might as well say the only technical thing Gates did was to buy DOS for a few thousand dollars, turn it into MS DOS and screw IBM over with it.
Then you can say that Ballmer just happened to know Gates (he was his roommate). And despite his maths skills, Ballmer is merely a salesman. Nuff said. If Ballmer personally oversees the development of MS products, well, you can tell. If he doesn’t, well you can tell the products are put out by a schizophrenic committee of self-deluded salesmen who together don’t have the technical ability that Steve and Woz had when they dropped out of school 35 years ago.
bobon 04 Jun 10
Ballmer, wow. As much as I sometimes get annoyed by Bill Gates, Ballmer is amazing in his lack of vision for Microsoft, and his inability to even communicate what MS is, except through trying to repeat the word PC.
His attempt to define “PC” is incredibly telling. As he went into a spasm of denial, pretending that PC means anything other than IBM PC. The Apple I was NOT a PC, nor was any Apple product. The Apple I was a “personal computer”. IBM invented the “PC”.
The PC is piecemeal commodity supply chain of weakly branded software and hardware which has not changed much in 30 years.
The PC is a tool for business, no product of apples is. What ballmer pretended he was asked was if these devices are computers. Of course they are nitwit. They are not PCs of any form factor.
Mossberg should have pressed him on this instead of letting him babble on and make a fool of himself.
As for working for Ballmer? Oh god, no. The best quality of a boss is knowing whats going on and making decisions, communicating effectively.
Clearly when hes on the spot, Ballmer goes into a really weak impression of his big brother Bill, and then gets lost in the misfiring of his own synapses.
Michael Pintoon 04 Jun 10
Wait—you went from using an Amiga to Windows! Dude what were you thinking…
bobon 04 Jun 10
I also like the comment about how we wont have 5 devices because we cant afford them.
Speak for yourself Ballmer. I know people who are of modest means who have an iphone, an xbox, a playstation |||, more than one PC, a tivo, and a macbook.
When people are provided something THEY WANT, they find a way to get it. And the more the better.
Nobody wants your shit Ballmer. Thats your whole problem.
Knaakon 04 Jun 10
Interesting chart, but I think it’s a little misleading. You should also show the S&P 500 during that same date range so you can gauge how well each CEO has performed compared to the broader market.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not trying to defend Ballmer. The guy is a loud-mouthed moron. But, let’s make sure the performance between CEOs is pegged to something larger, like the S&P 500.
HKJon 04 Jun 10
Fine, Helmut, let’s ignore the declasse behaviour (such as his showing of bare leg skin early in the video, the reason men have long trousers and tall songs in the civil world), and focus on his “important” statements you insist we entertain on their own merit:
1) “Where do you push?”
Windows PCs aren’t “trucks”, we’re told. Uh … okay. What’s he trying to say here? He’s spent five minutes trying to argue PCs are “general purpose” devices and thus popular in a country where “trucks” are actually very popular “utility” vehicles. If anything, Apple is putting out the computing equivalent to the Lotus Elise out there while Microsoft keeps trying to add new cladding to their Ford Explorer OS. So if you think there’s a point here, uh, please share it with us.
2) “Using PCs in great numbers for years to come …”
Yeah, no. I’m really not seeing that. Are you? I’m seeing fewer and fewer people gravitating to and purchasing what we once considered “PCs” in the classic Wintel Desktop sense.
3) “Form factor will change.”
Ballmer is not exactly giving Nostradamus a run for his money with this bold “prediction”. I mean, really? Everyone knows this. This is not CEO-level insight, guys.
4) “People will only use pocket-sized devices for certain things.”
Again, not seeing it. Not in a world of 3G/WiFi devices with full browsers, full messaging, document viewing, eBook reading, etc. ... I’m seeing people do more and more with a pocket-sized device. Ballmer is being optimistic to think this won’t continue to expand.
So, there you have it, Helmut. Based on the merit of his points, I am still not buying Ballmer’s windy bluster. He seems barely on message here, behind the industry, and lacking in vision.
Hamranhansenhansenon 04 Jun 10
I don’t blame Ballmer for this at all. I blame Gates.
It isn’t that Microsoft is artificially low right now, it’s that they were artificially high in the 1990’s due to illegal activity. Investors liked them because they had a couple of illegally-obtained monopolies and they had shown they were willing to illegally leverage them to monopolize other markets. The investors were not betting on growth, they were betting on cancer.
Even though Microsoft bought their way out of serious remedies from the anti-trust trial by lobbying the Bush administration, they were under much more scrutiny in the 2000’s. The secret was out. Gates left in part because he didn’t want to start playing fair. Ballmer is like a mob boss trying to take the family legit. Microsoft investors in the 2000’s now had to bet not on illegal monopoly growth but on actual growth, which Microsoft has never shown themselves to be able to do. There’s a kind of holding pattern now, with investors waiting for either some signs of real growth or for the monopoly money to run out.
You prove my point when you say you wish they “had their evil genius back”. You’re not asking for a better manager than Ballmer, you’re asking for the company to return to illegality. I get the joke, but I like it better now. I haven’t used Microsoft products for 10 years, but that used to require workarounds from time to time and now it doesn’t.
Yes, Jobs generating an industry-leading 95% customer satisfaction rate is a true reign of terror.
Danteon 04 Jun 10
I don’t even consider Apple and Jobs in a competition anymore, because there really isn’t any more growth room for the desktop where Microsoft competes. Apples only competition is the mobile space, i.e. Google, HTC, etc.
william maloon 04 Jun 10
windows is popular because it comes on cheap hardware. people just buy whatever is cheapest . sadly money is what rules the world and not quality.
how many times have I seen people that liked macs but that bought pcs because they are cheaper.
I think I’m gonna cry.
SockRolidon 04 Jun 10
Ballmer has only played defense for the last 10 years. The aggressive Windows OEM deals were all done in the ‘90s, back when just a few words of FUD could kill younger, more nimble, and more vulnerable potential competitors to Windows and Office.
But that success with Windows is what is preventing Microsoft from moving into the 21st century. They are no longer in the software and technology business. They are in the Windows business. Keeping corporate IT departments locked in and defending their turf is all their only success in the last decade.
The other hopelessly incompetent efforts into web services and consumer electronics are also defensive moves. But not against competitors. Ballmer is desperately flailing around to keep major MSFT shareholders from bailing out en masse by imitating other successful tech companies and their products.
But really, when Ballmer looks ahead, all he sees is Apple. And maybe Google too, but he never talks about them. He knows that the world knows that Microsoft can’t compete against “free”.
DavidCGon 04 Jun 10
Talk loud. Talk fast. Hope no one spots you’re talking bollox.
Jonklaason 05 Jun 10
What Ballmer is saying is true – the problem is it is not relevant. He gets hooked up on the word PC, and is struggling to accept that there may be fundamental differences in what is a good and bad user experience in different form factors. I suppose this what is happening at Microsoft overall. I do agree with him on one thing – that a General purpose PC/laptop will remain relevant for a long time – whether Windows does is another question.
Jim Harvieon 05 Jun 10
Yeah sure, but Ballmers half of the graph is a nicer colour.
anonon 05 Jun 10
I guess you have to be a bit smarter than what you are to understand that what Ballmer said is entirely correct and his answer was just fine.
Jon Astonon 05 Jun 10
I realize this is clearly the least intelligent comment on your blog, but – come on – everybody already knows that Ballmer is a douchebag. I’m surprised that people don’t throw stuff at the guy (You know: rotten tomatoes and stuff) and yell “Boo! Get off the stage! Douchebag!” at every event the guy attends. Especially Windows customers. And especially anyone who experienced Windows Vista/Mojave.
Do I sound bitter?
Bryanon 05 Jun 10
Frankly, I thought Ballmer’s take on computing device futures was fundamentally correct.
We do see a basic difference between devices that fit in our pockets, things intrinsically stuck to our desks, and all other formfactors. There will be a steady continued morphing of those “in between” devices – in the last few years we have seen notebooks, netbooks, smartbooks, tablets, slates, “Origami” coat pocket computers, supposed ‘wearable’ computers, Nokia 770, etc and etc and etc.
The introduction of the iPad has not halted this continued reimagining of devices in that middle ground between deskbound systems and those which fit in your pants pocket.
I’m no Ballmer fan, but the questions addressed in these two videos are fundamentally different from one another. Ballmer was asked to gaze into a crystal ball and predict the future; Jobs was asked to address a specific problem with one of his major suppliers. Is it in any way surprising that the answers were vastly different in character? No, not to me.
And the answers were cherry picked to make a point. If you want to see Jobs fumbling (at an answer he really should have had down pat), watch this one:
Jakeon 05 Jun 10
It’s funny that Gates is called ‘evil’ when here is, spending his fortune to help save the poor and less fortunate.
eddy Poonon 05 Jun 10
Ballmer’s answer sounds fine, he extended (to his advantage) the use of the word PC. Otherwise, he understand the problem that traditional PCs are, well, morphing and may be irrelevant.
The problem is, for the past ten years, Ballmer and his organization failed, repeatedly, to come up with successful products in addition to their old office and windows. They bet on the wrong horses in the past, or simply their go market strategy was wrong, or that their genes was just stumped and altered after the antitrust issue that they never got the guts again…
Nick Dangeron 05 Jun 10
I’m listening to Balmer right now. Someone here thought he sounded drunk. I’m wondering if he’s had a mild stroke.
Garyon 05 Jun 10
I think the chart does not accurately mark the end of the Gates era. From my recollection, his formal and complete dis-engagement began around 2006/2007. Up until then’ he was still chief xxx officer and my MS friends have told me, involved in technology decisions.
I think the company is better off without Him. It has taken a few years after he left to begin to see innovation again- Bing, Win7, Natal, Win7Mobile, Azure. These are all good products or appear to be good products. Some may be late to market and innovation may be slow but for the first time since the late ‘90’s, MS actually has interesting new products. Perhaps this is Ozzie gaining more influence with Bill out of the picture?
Rafelon 05 Jun 10
Silverlight is a wonderful technology, but they are failing because of not porting it to other operating systems and browsers. They simply do not understand that they cannot control what internet is. Otherwise, their products also seem to be lead by people who not value simplicity. For example C#, it is evolving into a so complex language that it is hard to remember all the things.
Stevenon 05 Jun 10
I did not find Ballmer’s comments as generally incoherent as you seem to have. However, what struck me most is that Ballmer does not appear capable of promoting that which he believes in. Most of his public statements quickly deteriorate into a series of thinly veiled potshots at Apple. Whereas, Jobs could go on ad infinitum about what he is passionate about and never refer to Microsoft once.
I think this is the primary differentiator. Jobs’ focus, in defiance of the skeptics, is indeed the making of great products. He is willing to pursue that goal and let the chips fall where they may, as it were. Ballmer is, at his core, a reactionary, hence his inability to articulate Microsoft without downgrading his opponent. There is a passion at the helm in Cupertino which is conspicuously absent in Redmond since Gates departure.
guruon 05 Jun 10
People who bash about Ballmer, you all need to know that MS is still rocking & in 2010, 2011 they have got hell lot of products which will generate high profit revenues in coming years!..Apple & Google for the other sake, need to always crash up against each other to be in top, once saturation starts (like it did with iPod & now Android) and when things tends to fall apart, you will know in another 5-10 years how the other companies are gonna be.
GeeIWonderon 05 Jun 10
Jobs wears black sweaters, talks truthyness and promotes a cult of his own personality. Which is pretty much bad for everyone, including Apple, except Jobs himself. Jobs could use a Ballmer.
While you were playing with Amiga’s and Ruby Microsoft and Gates were changing the world.
Now your ‘evil genius’ is doing it again. In a big way. Bill and Melinda are tackling real issue on a global scale while Jobs needs a team full of geeks to explain to him the latest cool stuff licensed under LGPL they can skin and/or what new veneer they should use (carbon fibre, anyone?). Substance over style, my man.
There’s a wider world out there and your supposed to be a fucking adult. Act like one or at least have the balls to acknowledge those people who are spending there time and money on real problems. Or get out of the way.
Read a book.
Gunnaron 05 Jun 10
Lucid and reasoned? He basically equates these suicides with high school copycats.
Farhan Thawaron 05 Jun 10
Not that I’m a Ballmer lover (although I am ex-MSFT), the comparison above makes no sense. Compare revenues of when Gates left to now, and Ballmer has made significant contributions.
That being said, Jobs is definitely the CEO of the decade.
Maybe you should compare Jobs and Schmidt :)
Ballmeron 05 Jun 10
David, we wouldn’t pay you to work for us.
My advise: stick to your coding and leave the stock analysis to the professionals.
steveon 05 Jun 10
MSFT built a dominant cash-flow position by leveraging network economies via Windows and Office. They defeated anyone they wanted to simply by competing based on cash flow. Around 2000, two things happened. The Internet started to displace the importance of network economies: e.g. SAAS vs. Exchange server. Also, Google laid the foundation for a competitive cash-flow (also relying on network economies, but less directly than MSFT in the 90s). The MSFT stock price reflects these realities more so than Ballmer’s influence.
One obviously issue with MSFT affecting the stock price after Ballmer took over was the incredible Vista failure. That was Allchin’s baby. Not sure whether Gates or Ballmer was responsible for letting that travesty happen. If MSFT had released Windows 7 as Vista, rather than Vista, the stock price might be different by now.
Anyhow, you’re overlooking some pretty important issues when blaming the CEO.
Apple & Jobs deserve credit though. Brilliant leadership AND management. However, the comparisons there are more about designing and selling cars vs. software. The WinTel set up was optimized only to sell low cost hardware. A terrible setup for optimizing decisions about design and feature sets. How about comparing Jobs vs. Michael Dell as CEOs instead??
Anonymous Cowardon 05 Jun 10
GeelWonder: You are so angry!
DHH: I agree with your characterization of Ballmer, but Gates is the same way! Watch one of his keynotes: lots of opaque abstractions.
anonon 05 Jun 10
this guy should be running an oil rig, not microsoft!
Victor Pon 05 Jun 10
Balmer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvsboPUjrGc Jobs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrLT4DOS1ds
Paulon 05 Jun 10
When Ballmer took over would have been a great time to reevaluate the enterprise cash cow. Splitting the company into two divisions or buying a large established company w vision was one possibility. I know about the monopoly problems, but they should have never allowed themselves to ever get into that position in the first place. Funny thing is, it’s still not too late for change at MSFT.
Ianon 05 Jun 10
Three big steps done by Ballmer:
Win7 (much better than OSX – and still with 90% OS market share), XBOX (very popular – won with PS3) and BING.
And he’s still running biggest software company in the world.
Compare MS and Apple in last 30 years. MS is the winner.
daveon 05 Jun 10
why would you have a company over to the guy who made this video… http://goo.gl/2D6D
Windows 1 wasn’t even worthy of RELEASE, let alone getting this excited over it.
Bobon 05 Jun 10
As a former MSFT employee, I had to sit through way too many http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvsboPUjrGc. And then when you’re working for MSFT and you see the lack of any coherent strategy, anywhere, it makes you wonder how 800 “partner”-level managers are making their million dollar bonus while just about every business minus Office and Windows is losing money (e.g. XBox, MSN, search, etc.). Microsoft got where it is today by taking DOS, stealing Apple’s idea they stole from Xerox, and getting Windows marketed to businesses very quickly and following it up with the Office suite. It continues to make money there because of those initial decisions and developments, not because Gates or Ballmer know what they are doing. Doesn’t hurt when they can wine and dine a half dozen executives for $10K dinners either.
Apple has over taken Microsoft in market cap by slowly working away at the consumer space. They get the OS and more importantly the experience (iTunes, App store) right then go looking for additional markets, e.g. phones, tablets, cloud.
9 years at Microsoft I never saw a strategy. While Apple might not be developing strategies I would like either, at least after the fact I can identify something akin to a thought process. With Microsoft, I see no thinking of any kind.
And graph the stock price any way you like to be fair, they all tell the same story – Apple is trouncing Microsoft stock. Doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t making tons of profit… just means what it says. Take it for what it’s worth. I suspect Apple with be highest valued US company in another year.
praxis22on 05 Jun 10
Took me while to find it again, but you need only read this outstanding article by John Gruber to understand that nothing’s changed:
Gruber really knocks it out of the park on so many levels. Especially the part about price differentiation.
Like Balmer, I doubt the PC will die any time soon, but then I don’t think the ipad is a PC. Nor IMO, does the average person understand computers any more than they have ever done. You’ve only to look at mainstream broadband advertising in the UK to know that: http://o2nobblingniggles.co.uk/
However, I do happen to think that the future of consumer technology is increasingly mobile, and in that space MSFT is scarcely a player any more. When was the last time MSFT released anything “cool” or even innovative in the mobile space? My guess is that you’ll find them in the budget end again.
A more subtle point is that watching the keynotes from Google I/O you saw Google take a few pot shots at Apple, they didn’t even mention MSFT, they weren’t in the race.
I’ve heard far better things about Windows 7 than I did about Vista, but the magic went out of MSFT years ago, it was post cool to work there even prior to the rise of Google.
IMO unless MSFT really begin to innovate in a way that grows market share in a meaningful way I don’t see a way back for them.
cjkon 05 Jun 10
Ian: Please back up your comment: Win7 (much better than OSX) Can I expect that you believe that Win7 is better then UNIX? In what way? UI? Technology? Capabilities? Compare just the printing subsystem of OS X and Windows 7 and the difference is night and day. Windows printing is substandard and fragile at best. Flexibility is not capability.
GeeIWonder: So much of your comments are based on partial truths as well as insults. It is important to review the working of everything and not make conclusions based on anecdotal or emotional statements.
Generally: I always read comments, they really help my understanding of issues but I get really annoyed because so many of the comments are based on emotions, non-sequiturs, anecdotes, partial truths, probably 1 to 5% are meaningful. I wish people would really think through there positions.
NJMatton 06 Jun 10
You have to calculate the earnings cum dividends (reinvested). It’s not as simple as looking at the stock price. Also, stock price is just one metric. Try looking at Net Worth (also cum-dividends) as well.
Harishon 06 Jun 10
Its a good comparison. Ballmer sucks. U need an inspiring leader like Jobs or Gates at top. When I 1st saw an interview with gates i wanted to get placed in Microsoft.But now I hate that company. I would be very happy if i get placed in google/apple
Samon 06 Jun 10
Man…I’ve been feeling this way for so long. What was Gates and the Board thinking when they let this guy take over? I mean, I hate to demean another human being for how they talk during these interviews, but he’s completely unfocused….like David pointed out.
And this stuff used to be funny:
Now you just wonder when someone…maybe even Ballmer himself…might realize it’s time for a change at the top? If Ballmer could actually be a leader – serve and empower those who work with him – Microsoft could become something greater than it ever has been.
I’m with the first Adam that posted about going to TechEd. I with you man….I’ve been to one RailsConf and wish I could go again someday.
GideonKlokon 06 Jun 10
Q: Is Ballmer to Microsoft what Scully was to Apple?
Ianon 06 Jun 10
@cjk: just like DHH said: if product is bad – people won’t buy it.
GideonKlokon 06 Jun 10
Who actually buys Windows 7?
Most people, the mass market, just buys any cheap PC and it comes with Windows 7 included.
Apple isn’t really selling the Mac to the mass marktet or the entreprise market. Apples market share in theses segments are next to meaningless. The only way to make money is trough high-volume: There is only room for one cheap commodity OS, currently it’s Windows 7. Microsofts focus is on it OEMs and the ICT department of huge enterprises, Microsofts main focus is making these buyers happy, not the actual individual users.
Apples focus for the Mac is on the high-end premium market for the creative professional individual and everyone who thinks they are and can afford the premium. Apple’s focus is on selling to the person who is actually going to use their products.
Focus and context makes all the difference.
Meon 06 Jun 10
Don’t forget that Jobs is an evil genius as well.
Merleon 06 Jun 10
Apple could not support the size and scope of the product and customer base that Microsoft has.
They are two different companies requiring different leadership.
Apple makes phenomenal, visionary computers and consumer electronics.
Microsoft is in the trenches doing the dirty work on a massive scale. Not even IBM or Oracle comes close to the scope of what Microsoft is doing.
Ianon 06 Jun 10
I think Wozniak can say something interesting about Steve Jobs.
Aaron Greenleeon 06 Jun 10
To be fair, does the chart adjust for any stock splits that may have occurred?
barringtonon 07 Jun 10
hats off to bill, he may have been an evil genius but the charity work he is doing now days is amazing! but hey i’m still loving my apple products tho!
Saraton 07 Jun 10
Ballmer is more like a baffoon. I completely agree with you. Few years ago I had a passion to work at Microsoft. It’s not existing anymore. I buried my feelings. Gates is a legend.
We can’t say that Gates is evil genius. Steve Jobs is more evil than Gates. Mac OS is closed, it has restrictions on both hardware and software. And on the mobile platform apple is more evil than Microsoft.
The form factor, the stable less features are the strong point of Apple. As Jobs said once, “Microsoft has not taste”. They’re failed to keep and make a culture. Mac is propagated as the best User Experience and luxury brand. While Microsoft failed to make it.
Paulon 07 Jun 10
Ballmer behaves like a clown. Period.
Adamon 07 Jun 10
You couldn’t pay me to work for 37signals. Blame and “I’m sick of…” culture.
Jorn Mineuron 07 Jun 10
“You couldn’t pay me to work for Ballmer”. Well, that is a matter of geography. If you would have been born in China, you would rather work for Ballmer than for Jobs.
This is what the New York Times writes about Ma Xiangqian’s situation when he worked at Foxconn, possibly assembling Macbook Pros:
“Mr. Ma’s pay stub shows that he worked 286 hours in the month before he died, including 112 hours of overtime, about three times the legal limit. For all of that, even with extra pay for overtime, he earned the equivalent of $1 an hour.”
I know quite a few people who work for Microsoft in Beijing (where per-capita GDP is about 40% below Shenzhen’s) and none of them earn less than 10 times as much.
So Ballmer takes better care of the people who build his products, and while Jobs might be “lucid and reasoned”, but he is also in denial.
Peregrine Soluson 07 Jun 10
“Generally: I always read comments, they really help my understanding of issues but I get really annoyed because so many of the comments are based on emotions, non-sequiturs, anecdotes, partial truths, probably 1 to 5% are meaningful. I wish people would really think through there positions.”
Interesting; I feel that same way about the majority of the Signals vs. Noise blog posts.
chrisBzon 07 Jun 10
You’re sort of comparing apples to oranges. Working for Foxconn is not the same as working for Apple and working directly for MS is not the same as working at one of their vendors.
remoorejron 07 Jun 10
Ballmer is more of a cheerleader than a visionary … and he’s a very aging cheerleader at that.
I’m kind of surprised that Gates hasn’t come out retirement and taken back the con .. but he picked Ballmer in the first place.
Hugson 07 Jun 10
Agreed, Jobs does sound more professionally convincing and more “normal” than Ballmer. But I wouldn’t want to be in either of these guys shoes: on one side Ballmer is getting over-lapped left and right on all fronts by Apple, Google and others. On the other side, jobs is bs-ing through his teeth (“Foxconn is not a sweatshop”, yeah right, ask anyone from main-land China) and looks awfully thin and sick. It’s like Apple has morphed into a beast that is even consuming it’s own ruler.
And the funniest is that in 10 years, we’ll have a similar graph of 2 CEOs, showing the decline of Apple’s stock.
The world keeps turning, but I wouldn’t want to work for either of these guys (then again they probably wouldn’t want me either, so that’s easy to say ;)
Jorn Mineuron 07 Jun 10
@chrisBz: just convince one Foxconn worker that his $1-a-day “salary” cannot be compared to other people’s salaries because, well, you can’t do that! that would be sorta comparing apples and oranges!
Ballmer might not have a clear vision, and he might be responsible for boring workplaces, and he might even be a bully (Salesforce). But Mr Jobs the visionary is responsible for workplaces where people get killed, and he is completely in denial.
Anyone who reads a newspaper once in a while can understand what happens at Foxconn, and knows what their swimmingpools are for. To hear Steve Jobs brag about his corporate responsibility is acutely painful and proves the opposite of David’s point.
Kenon 07 Jun 10
One of the problems with that graph is that it’s not drawn to scale. At first glance it looks like things are pretty stable but gently sloping downward under Ballmer, but drawn to scale, you’d see that under Ballmer the stock has dropped close to 50%.
Bobon 07 Jun 10
@Jorn Mineur: The only one responsible for someone’s suicide is themselves. Period. If they are being enslaved, that’s a story. If they cannot walk away from the job and go back to the farm, that’s a story. Instead they are taking a job offered to them and experiencing something they, maybe anyone, have a hard time processing. So they should either stay on the job and complain or leave it. And by complain, I mean all the available avenues, e.g. traditional, management, unions, strike, press, etc. If they did this and Foxconn or the companies like Apple that contract them (read, not manage) didn’t respond then the public reaction should be enough to deal a blow to them financially to respond, e.g. the BP outcry. Suicide accomplishes nothing. It would be hard for Foxconn to fully understand the ‘why’s’ until they stop taking this way out and start talking. And if Foxconn isn’t listening, there’s the press, Job’s e-mail, etc.
So Jorn, don’t by a new iPhone 4, or an iPad. Others may or may not decide to do the same. I for one think it’s silly to believe Apple is 100% responsible for the working conditions at Foxconn. Sounds like they are responding as they should, and I’ll continue to buy Apple products.
Bobon 07 Jun 10
@Ken: http://planetlotus.org/profiles/vowe-dot-net_71417 I’m not sure if he’s figuring in MSFT distributions, but having been a MSFT stockholder while I worked there – it’s pretty negligible compared to the value.
chrisBzon 07 Jun 10
I guess you can ‘compare’ any two salaries, they just may not have any coloration to one another.
If you compared Foxconn to a third party MS vendor, I’m sure it would be a wash—unfortunately, you never addressed that point in your long winded response.
Rickon 07 Jun 10
what it comes down to is you can not compare people like Jobs and Gates to a Ballmer, it is like apples and oranges. Jobs and Gates are passionate entrepreneurs’ who grew their companies from the ground up. Ballmer is the guy that got the job to run microsoft.
No matter he knew Gates in school or worked at Microsoft for years. He isnt THE GUY who built and never will be.
Russell Won 08 Jun 10
Windows machines are not Mack trucks in the exact same way that the Internet is not a series of tubes.
Jeff Putzon 08 Jun 10
My first thought about “you couldn’t pay me” was that you clearly don’t know what the pay and benefits are like.
To those who keep referring to the fall or whatever of Microsoft, the very real fact is that it’s the most profitable non-oil company in the world. That’s an indisputable fact.
To DHH: The video demonstrates nothing about Ballmer’s intelligence. It shows that Steve Jobs is certainly more articulate, or at the very least, better prepared. I’ve never met Ballmer, but I’ve seen him speak once internally. I think he’s got a pretty good grip on where we’ve sucked previously. Do you expect him to speak to the press as anything less than a cheerleader for the company?
The stock comparison is also pretty poor at making any kind of point. When Jobs took over, Apple only had two places to go: Certain death or major recovery. Thankfully, it was recovery.
If you really took a hard look at the company, or at last got involved in the developer platform (since that’s something you might be interested in), I think you’d find that the product offerings are generally pretty amazing. Against all odds, our dev stuff is iterating quickly and evolving to what customers are asking for.
You guys at 37signals are pretty smart folks, but until you’ve had a free soda and spent some time in Redmond, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Like any company this big, it has wild success and miserable failures. Making generalizations about Microsoft is like making generalizations about people (all of them). And if you’ve watched the press over the last few years about various re-orgs, I think it would be pretty obvious that failure is not rewarded.
Anonymous Cowardon 08 Jun 10
@DHH : hopefully the importance of the discussion can make up for being slightly off-topic.
@chrisBz : “I’m sure it would be a wash” : if you want to make a point, prove it.
@Bob : “The only one responsible for someone’s suicide is themselves.” That’s certainly a comforting thought, but that doesn’t make it true.
The New York Times quoted a Foxconn worker who had to clean toilets after a conflict with his team leader. Indeed, why did he do that? Perhaps because that was still better than going home? Did this man make a bad decision, or did he perhaps simply not have the choices that you say he has?
“If they cannot walk away from the job and go back to the farm, that’s a story.” Of course they cannot go back. You don’t need barb wire to keep people working there. They are feeding a family from that single dollar a day. It’s not Foxconn who forces people to work, it’s their families. (You would probably say “it’s their responsibility to force him to work there”.)
According to the New York Times, the copycat effect started after Foxconn offered the first victim’s family $15,000. The copycats wanted their families to earn that money as well. Now let that sink in for a moment. People committing suicide to get their families $15,000? Could anyone ever offer you an amount high enough to make you do the same thing (don’t worry, I won’t)? Why the difference? Is it that they are stupid and you are smart? Or is it that they are poor and you are rich?
“Complain”. One can never know the consequences of a complaint in China. Mr. Li Lusong from Peijiazhuang (Shanxi) just asked the local government to build a new school. He disappeared and came back with his tongue cut off.
“So Jorn, don’t by a new iPhone 4, or an iPad.” I certainly won’t. You might consider not buying them, either. Or at least send Steve an email before you do.
Jorn Mineuron 08 Jun 10
Sorry – the anonymous coward above is me.
CodeMonkeyon 08 Jun 10
LOL, very entertaining post.
Though I wonder how wise it is for the leader of a tech company to post such petty vitriol. I’ll definitely come back to this blog for more fun, but I’d think twice about applying for a job at 37signals since they seem to have their own evil headmaster.
Adam Ciliscoon 08 Jun 10
An open source developer giving advice to Microsoft on how to run a business… Brilliant. DHH, you’ve lost your focus, or perhaps you’ve lost your mind. Do the world a favor and do what you do best. Forget about things you know pretty much nothing about. (Unless your intention was to antagonize the Microsoft hating crowd, which is like taking candy from a baby.)
Please, go back to doing what you do best. Leave business to those who understand it.
Cascadianon 08 Jun 10
If you look at the stock history graphs, the two companies actually performed pretty similarly in the 1998-2003 period. Those who say that Microsoft has done poorly because of the internet era are missing that.
So what changed in 2004 or so? That’s when iPod sales took off, fueled by the iTunes store. It took Apple 3 years of mediocre efforts to finally get that right, but once they did, they took off. The entire market shifted to non-PC devices. Microsoft tried to start its own efforts (and in gaming actually succeeded pretty well with the Xbox.) But mostly it failed.
As for Microsoft’s core business of PC software, it’s no longer a consumer growth market. The growth is in enterprise software and servers, an area in which Microsoft is doing well and raking in the profits hand over fist. But consumers don’t care, and enterprise stuff looks stodgy and boring, and so the stock market doesn’t care and Microsoft’s undeniable enterprise successes have actually destroyed its once dominant reputation in the consumer market.
Microsoft has a choice, I think. Remake itself like IBM into one of the giants of the enterprise market. This is probably the most likely outcome and it’s already well underway.
The other option is to really go after consumers with consistently improving products. You don’t have to be there first-there were MP3 players around for years before Apple released anything-but you have to innovate compared to your own previous releases enough to retain customers. Apple never gets there first, but every release cycle is enough better than the last (and predictably frequent) to keep existing customers and draw in a few more. Do that every year and you kick ass. Microsoft, by contrast, releases every 3 years or so and there’s a diminishing increase in value with each marginal release in a product line.
El John-oon 08 Jun 10
Jobs is an Evil Genius too, just know one can see it yet… bwahahahahahahaa
Anonymous Cowardon 09 Jun 10
if one watches the all things d video where they discuss why google is developing both chrome and android, it becomes very obvious that ray ozzie is who should be running microsoft.
Adrianon 09 Jun 10
I enjoyed your post, however, you lost me on your “Tale of two ceo’s” chart.
Two completely different era’s for technology and economics. The rise of the web and the fact that computers began to proliferate consumer homes in the mid 90’s is a huge reason for the growth.
Just not a valid comparison. Ballmer does come across as a buffoon, but even a buffoon needs a fair comparison.
fung0on 10 Jun 10
It’s no long a growth market because Microsoft killed it. They made it impossible for other companies to compete, and then went on to produce ever-crappier products, with zero innovation. No wonder no one seems interested.
cooljaz124on 10 Jun 10
Very Intersting post. I have seen many videos of Balmers conference and seems very funny. Meanwhile, every move of Jobs is fantastic.
iPhone, iPad, iMac – When will Microsoft comes with another killer product ??
flynnon 10 Jun 10
doubt you could pay ballmer to work for you… just sayin’
This discussion is closed.