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Poll Results: Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer?

See how your peers answered this question: Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer and hire a tech-savvy person to run the company?

On August 6, 2010, I asked the readers of the TechRepublic Microsoft Windows Blog this poll question:

Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer and hire a tech-savvy person to run the company?

Over 4,000 respondents took the time to answer the poll, which makes it one of the more participated in polls we have run in this blog. The consensus is that Mr. Ballmer is not doing enough to keep Microsoft on top in the information technology universe. I cannot disagree.

Now, that is not to say he has done a terrible job, at least from a purely shareholder perspective. Microsoft is generating a ton of revenue, maintaining a healthy market share, and returning a substantial dividend. However, those of us living and breathing technology and innovation and all that entails are wondering how much longer Microsoft can rest on its laurels.

What do you think? Should Microsoft spend more on research and development? Should the company strive to be a change leader or should it be content with market staples like Windows and Office? Who would you suggest Microsoft call on for a more focused source of innovation?

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

33 comments
SamFrench
SamFrench

This question should really have been put to two different subsets of the tech population: Microsoft Customers & Microsoft share holders. Sure, all of us wish we'd dropped a buck three-eighty on MS-Stock, anytime before "Windows 3.0" hit the shelves. Depending on the size of your investment, you could either be really rich or really happy with that purchase. Your only disappointments over time would have been related to selling the stock at a time when it stopped performing as well as it had in the past, only to see it "bounce back." Since then, MS-Stock has remained a pretty reliable investment for which those who hang onto it long enough aren't sorry they did. Microsoft customers, on the other hand, don't have much desire to hold onto their purchases in order to be happy with them in the long run. You're talking about five year product cycles --at the most-- and a lot of bruises from rolling with the punches of early adoption. The best advice is to buy when a product stabilizes and not to upgrade until what you're using becomes obsolete. Obsolesence and stability of Microsoft products is determined by Microsoft who is not violently pushed by any other market segment into production on a schedule they don't have virtually total control over. Under Ballmer, we've seen product releases driven by a new set of rules. Rather than circle a date on the calendar and tell stockholders and customers alike, "This is when MS-XYZ will go on sale" you're not seeing the "new" products until a pre-defined list of functionality and stability milestones has been completed. That's good news for customers, not such good news for stockholders whose holdings are calculated by more tangible means than "eventually happy" customers. Microsoft has gallactically failed very few times. They're a pretty savvy bunch who ultimately achieve market dominance with every product they develop. They've been greedy and taken over markets that were well-saturated before they got there (Internet browsers, for example.) They've also leveraged dormant products right out of the hands of industry leaders (Excel's takeover of Lotus, MS-Networking takeover of Novell, MS-Word's takeover of Word Perfect are three "WHO KNEW?" examples of MS market dominance nobody saw coming --especially IBM and Novell, who were about the only two chances this world had to stop the MS runaway train. If they desired, Microsoft could lead the PLANT FOOD industry by this time two years from now. They've got more money and more resources than anybody else to invest in product development. If they put their minds to it, they'll come up with a better version of any current market offering, any market. I don't see any of that changing, with or without Ballmer.

jmcse
jmcse

Who designed this poll? With 3 negative choices and 1 positive, are the results surprising anyone? Gates bailed when Microsoft was at it lowest point in popularity, according to all of the (much more professional)consumer polls. Ballmer took the Vista debacle and turned it into Windows 7, the most popular and best selling version of Windows in history that is still breaking all of the records. You need to get someone on your staff who knows something about creating a poll that isn't so skewed that the results are pre-determined.

jazzy5
jazzy5

Steve Ballmer is more like a cheerleader than a leader or visionary. That is what he was with Bill and at such he is not a player in the field. In Windows 7, it's a must. Windows XP needed to grow up but it already reach all the potential it could get. With new thing, comes changes and changes are good. If not we will still be caveman with square wheels. I have both OS. My old computer, since is old still runs on XP and my wife laptop was upgrader from XP media to Windows 7. I like it and it seems faster then the old XP that was replaced. Office 10. It's great, I am upgrading from Office 7 to 10 in the next couple of days. It took me a few days to get use to office 7 from 3 but soon I figure it out and love office 7. I try Office 10 as a beta tester and found out I like it more. But if you go with a negative mind, truly you will hate it from the beginning. I have gone from DOS to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95,95, 2000, XP and 7. Each one has been better then the previously OS and there was always a lerning curve. This reminds me of a movie with Danny Devito call "Others People Money" OPM. He mention to the stock holder than there was a time when one company making buggy whips was making the gold standard the best of the best but it went under because the world change to cars no more buggy pull by horses. He show you change and move or you die.

GrumpyGGA
GrumpyGGA

Not being tuned in to the ins and outs of the industry, I really have no opinion one way or another. But I wonder -- is this some kind of organized campaign to sack Ballmer?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

No organized campaign. I have been hearing Wall Street analysts call for a leadership change for a year or so, and I wondered if the IT universe was thinking the same thing. They are, judging by our poll, and that just adds to the overall pressure.

melias
melias

If his ego can handle the demotion, he needs to be made the CFO, where his experience as a CEO can benefit that office. A visionary CEO can take over and push for truly innovative and attractive products. It is not to late, but it is getting there.

execmicro
execmicro

While they certainly need some new innovation, it's definately NOT too late. Remember Apple? They were ready to turn off the lights and now they are riding high. Microsoft is the largest software company on the planet. They have the leverage, capital and experience to move into the future given the right mix of talent, direction and resources.

doliver11
doliver11

I agree that there is a need for more focus on innovation I am sensing that Microsoft is turn into a IBM of the day where the focus is on profit and not creativity for the user. There is so much out there that is being explored and the train at Microsoft seems to be still at the station. Love what I can do with the software.

ramnet
ramnet

For one - Balmer has MISSED the market potential for extending XP's life. Thousands of people in homes and business alike are NOT keen on Vista or W7 . As I see it despite the favourably biased market reports on W7 there are still 60% of people using XP . Why because they like it and the alternatives are NOT to their taste. If I was in Ballmer's shoes I would redevelop XP so that it kept all the features people liked about XP and incorporated some of the better W7 features. I would provide an easy upgrade path from old XP , give people the classic start bar as a choice and then include the old repair/restore option. Watch sales skyrocket then !! And that's interesting - that's what clients WANT .. not what Microsoft thinks they want !! So Balmer continues to deny a large percentage of the market what the market is telling Microsoft they want. That is why Ballmer will die on his own sword sooner rather than later. When shareholders realise they are handing someone else a golden market opportunity they will react. People forget this is exactly how Bill Gates got DOS from IBM and we all know what happened from then on. Ken

Gh0stMaker
Gh0stMaker

I like Windows 7, but I work for a network solutions company with 9,300 employees. We are not seeing many companies that want to migrate to Windows 7 in the near future (mostly due to the economy)... any comments?

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

...soon they will have to. That's the nature of the beast when it comes to hardware and software. Software companies need to keep the revenue stream steady and obviously they can't do that by charging you for service pack updates. There are far worse offenders out there. Look at Electronic Arts who releases a new Madden NFL game every year for $60 and it only includes roster updates and a fresh coat of paint. They use the same software engine for half a decade and release a new game at full price each year. We have to be reasonable, XP has been out for 10 years. Where were you 10 years ago. I was a sophomore in college and we were using Windows 98. It's time to move on. If Windows 7 lasted until 2020, I'd be ecstatic.

Systems Guy
Systems Guy

Good observation. One company can get by with telling the masses what they want (Apple). But they have the leadership to do that. Can the industry have another company telling customers what they want? It doesn't seem so based on comments from users about W7.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What do you think? Should Microsoft spend more on research and development? Should the company strive to be a change-leader or should it be content with market staples like Windows and Office? Who would suggest Microsoft call upon for a more focused source of innovation?

blarman
blarman

Microsoft has several problems: 1) Ballmer is too incendiary. Focusing on bashing other products just makes you look silly when it turns out you have nothing better to offer. If you're going to bash someone else, do it as a comparison. Steve Jobs excels at this, saying: you used to only be able to do this, but with [insert new gadget here] you can do this! 2) Focus. Microsoft's problem isn't R&D, but focus. They have so many irons in the fire that they don't focus well on any of them. 3) Microsoft needs to stop trying to dictate to users how to use their products. Case in point: the stupid Office Ribbon. I was trying to do some document formatting and I kept having to switch back and forth between the tabs that are supposed to speed things up. I am doing MORE clicking than I used to, and things are harder to find - not easier. Another case in point: the Control Panel. As an administrator, I find it appalling that every single new OS moves all the Control Panel applets around and burying the ones I use the most. LEAVE THE FREAKING ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROLS ALONE ALREADY! 4) Offer a stripped down version of Office. If Office is going to compete with OpenOffice, it needs to offer a stripped down version of Excel and Word for $40. That's together, not separately. Take out support for VB and macros and the fancy mail merge and all the extras that get thrown in that noone in the real world uses. 5) Product Development. Microsoft's internal battles only demonstrate the point: they try too hard to integrate everything together that they end up stepping on each others' toes. Integration isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's a very complicated process that requires strong leadership and good process controls. 6) Internal politics. This one goes hand-in-hand with #5, as it leads to a lot of development issues when you are trying to integrate multiple products. Microsoft needs to keep its internal commitments to other departments and cut out last time due to recoding based on a manager's whim. This goes double for meddling VP's.

bkindle
bkindle

I am in agreement with some of the posts about Office 2k7/10 but not all with the Windows 7 flames. Windows 7 is a solid OS, but you have to do some tweaking. I am old enough to remember when I switched from Win98 to XP (pre sp1) and it was a little tricky too. I wasn't fully satisfied with XP until SP2. Windows 7 has a SP1 update coming soon. I could only hope that it truly adds features and fixes some of the things that people are finding annoying, like the XP classic start menu theme. The Office "Ribbon" is one of the most annoying things about the new versions of office (2007 mainly), but I did see some retro features come back with Office 2010, like a actual "File" button and not the silly "Office" button. I can't tell you how many of my users are frustrated about that exact issue. For the most part though, most of them that have been upgraded have began to like the features of office 2007 the more they get accustomed to it. Balmer needs to go though, and Bill needs to find someone that has his level of passion that he had about Microsoft. Balmer just doesn't show that same level of innovative spirit Bill had.

carlsf
carlsf

Microsoft have lost me and my company WHY... Office 2007 and 2010 are NOT a better product, in fact I see NO advantage to buying them. REASON THE "RIBBON" is the MOST unproductive addition to the Office family. We will be staying with Office 2003 aqnd if MS decide to Stop us installing and using our ligimiatly purchased copies we will change to Open Office, which we use on selective computers. As for WIN7 well they have removed another feature we have used and willl continue to use that is the "CLASSIC" menu feature, not to mention the TaskBar, File system, Librays and Networking. It does NOT play well with Vista or XP.

iShango
iShango

I moved from Office 2003 to 2007 then to 2010. The leap from 2003 to 2007 just about blew my mind. The amount of time I spent re-learning all the little things like formatting and inserting signatures. Then I discovered that almost ALL of the keyboard shortcuts had been changed from what was, to me, an intuitive thing to something completely obscure. Because we are moving to 2010 I installed it with some trepidation only to be pleasantly surprised. The dumbass shortcuts still remain but the ribbon appears to have been tweaked nicely and I have just moved my wife to 2010 with very little pain. Nicest feature for me is the extension of the context menus especially in Word. I still resolutely turn off email editing in Word (a pox on MS for ever thinking of that). Excel, Outlook and Word are the three I use the most and while they are not perfect they are a far superior product to 2003. When Ms came out with Vista, I was really hesitant and seeing some of the early adopters around my office sruggling with it and the resultant rebuilds back to XP, I avoided it like the plague, even recommending to friends and others to stay with XP just a little longer. When the Win7 beta came out my machine had a horrible crash (too much plaque in XP does that) I decided to give it a whirl and that I would give it a month. I have never deviated since. As Vista was the "WinME" for the new decade Windows7 is the new XP. It is inherently a 'smarter' OS with far more reliable and resilience. It handles pretty much anything I throw at it to the limit of the physical resources,and I throw lots at it, and it just rocks along. I will add that I had something of an epiphany a couple of years ago around the adoption of new versions of software. My realisation was that as we trundle along our timeline, there are so many things changing around us that the least I could do for myself and my customers/users was to become familiar with the new so I could sort the chaff out. Each change has challenges and as I meet each one I grow in experience and expertise. Along the way I have used some absolutely terrible software and hardware but have also discovered some real Gems. I would recommend persisting with Windows7 and Office 2010. Neither are perfect but they are both better than earlier versions, and ultimately I have found they allow me to be far more productive. As for OOo its currently a great product and will meet the needs of all but the most proficient users (top 10%) BUT any bets on how long Oracle will keep spending money on developing it?

slam5
slam5

basically, you want status quo. when I first see win 7, i have the same opinion as you do. but once i used it for a few days. i changed my opinion in a hurry. you can get win 7 to look and feel like vista. it does take a little bit of tinkering. yes, there is something that is not available anymore but you can learn it in a day. btw, i spend some of my personal cash to update 3 of my machines with win 7. win 7 actually runs very nicely with my 2 three years old thinkpad. it surprise the heck out of me! All I added was a SSD to each of my thinkpad and it now boots in less than 45 sec. and it isn't a bare install either. i am running all the fingerprint, power management, and keyboard software from Lenovo. take some time to play around with it and see.

slam5
slam5

and i am not trying to be too bias here. I actually like Snow Leopard when I got my iMac. I thought, oh wow, why doesn't do something like that. now win 7 is out, I think MS had done something better. . SL is now very dated but nobody really notice. also, apple is very aggressive in their advertising. they actually was out right lying when win 7 came out. I wonder wny MS didn't counter that? Ballmer should take his glove off. No more being the nice guy here. as for ribbon interface, i embraced it with less passion but i also got used to it once I learn it. i start to like it too but I can't say that for everybody else.

Mr_Tech
Mr_Tech

Office 2007 and 2010 are NOT a better product, in fact I see NO advantage to buying them. REASON THE "RIBBON" is the MOST unproductive addition to the Office family. I agree. We will be staying with Office 2003 aqnd if MS decide to Stop us installing and using our ligimiatly purchased copies we will change to Open Office, which we use on selective computers. The entire world is communicating via office file types. Perhaps internally within your company you will use OOo but outside comms will have to be done via proprietary office formats as that is the only thing the business world understands unfortunately. As for WIN7 well they have removed another feature we have used and willl continue to use that is the "CLASSIC" menu feature, not to mention the TaskBar, File system, Librays and Networking. It does NOT play well with Vista or XP. I strongly recommend you see this then: (You have to see this, you won't be disappointed) http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1767&tag=content;leftCol Anyway, I hope that helps. Just for the record, I like the new Windows 7 start menu as well as Windows 7. You can also make the Windows 7 taskbar identical to XP but with more functionality. Select classic look theme Right click taskbar, Use small icons, Taskbar buttons = never combine. Right click taskbar, Toolbars, New Toolbar and type C:\Users\**user-name**\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch Unlock Taskbar buttons and you get an exact copy of XP taskbar.

Mr_Tech
Mr_Tech

You make valid points and you won't have much choice if you upgrade to Windows 7 (and you should). I know how you feel though. I was like you but once I upgraded to Windows 7, I never looked back. I am *not* making this up. I have installed so many programs (I am a developer), tools and drivers starting up and the thing is still very snappy. You will get used to the new taskbar. I can never go back to XP. The whole thing just looks healthy and it's been about 7 months since I installed Windows 7.

slam5
slam5

You don't have to but then again it will be less secure. Yes, there will be new way to attack win 7 but much less. also, you can't use features like "shake" and such. if you want to use things like solid state hard drive, it will take more work. XP is 10 years old (in car terms, 50 years old), your 50 yrs old car will still work but it will be break more often, hard to find parts etc.

carlsf
carlsf

Why should I have to download another app, or perform 4 steps to get what should NEVER have been removed. I/we uses our O/S and apps for production of money, Why should we have to relearn or adopt a interface that is unproductive/counterproductive, and who pays for the downtime loss of income?.

russgalleywood
russgalleywood

I removed Windows 7 from my laptop and replaced it with XP. I could see no advantage apart from it being pretty and it slowed my laptop down considerably! (It is a 1 year old dual core model). XP still does everything I need it to do quickly and with no 'bloat' or ridiculous, pointless security warnings! My staff occasionally ask why we have not upgraded to Vista/7 and Office 2007/10. I tell them that we need none of the features that these supply currently and that XP/2003 do the job perfectly for our business. Three quarters of our staff use Open-Office without detriment and are perfectly happy with it. I think Users in general are now far more wary about the idea that they must upgrade to the newest versions just because MS say they should after the Vista debacle. Microsoft must have a complete rethink of their philosophy if they wish to survive and Steve 'The Accountant' Ballmer is not going to push this! Russ

gechurch
gechurch

Agreed - it's really easy to set these options in OpenOffice (I don't know why they aren't the default - that would be make the software "Just Work" the way users would expect). But I'd be surprised if 95% of users in any organisations really are happy with OpenOffice. I used it exclusively for over a year, and it's horrible. Yes, technically it does the job. But it was very slow to load, opening files from a network share was particularly bad. I am so much happier with MS Office. I would prefer Office 97 or 200 to OpenOffice. There is little development going into OOo any more either, so it's not likely to get much better. There are some alternatives that look ok. I tried Softmaker Office a while back and that was great.

trainingdept
trainingdept

One needs to know about all options regarding any software. I thought that is what a test environment was for? I recommend software based on company environment and several other factors while keeping the bottom line in mind. I say replace the BUM.

russgalleywood
russgalleywood

It's not quite as difficult as it sounds! I set up an image of all our machines before issuing them to Users. I simply went into the OpenOffice 'Options' before setting up the image and set the 'Load/Save, General, Document Type' settings to .doc,.xls, etc. Most of these Users don't even know that OpenOffice uses it's own format by default due to this action. Little bit of effort saved a hell of a lot of licenses and cash! To be fair, most of these Users have basic needs from an Office program. Depends on your industry of course, but a lot of companies could easily use OpenOffice for most of their Users and save themselves thousands.

bboyd
bboyd

Yes after you install a compatibility pack. However if you want older grades of office to play well with 2007+ your best setting the saves to non-xml extended MS formats. Much the same as OOO benefits from setting it to default to them. For my own personal use the Open formats are great. But I recognize that people need to interact at a reasonable level.

nbsc
nbsc

You can open any of the new MS Office ?Open XML? file formats, as well as edit them, save documents, workbooks, & presentations,( e.g., docx) on most of the older versions of Office. You only have to download & install a ?free? compatibility pack from MS. You can find it here: (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyId=941B3470-3AE9-4AEE-8F43-C6BB74CD1466&displaylang=en I have been using the pack on several of my machines which are running several different versions of Office (2003; 2007; 2010) as well as Windows (XP; Vista; Win7). All with no problems at all. Jim Jmk-nbsc

bboyd
bboyd

.docx doesn't work with all those older office packages in offices so your 75% is a moot point.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

75% of my staff wouldn't know how to open a docx in OpenOffice. 95% of them would save critical loan documents in Open Office format and send them to their clients. That 95% would then start crying about how much of a hassle it is to make 3 mouse clicks or learn something new and then we're back to spending a pant-load on Office products. That's how it works in the real world.