Windows

Poll: Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer?

The TechRepublic Microsoft Windows Blog member poll: Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer and hire a tech-savvy person to run the company?

First a disclaimer: I really like Microsoft Windows 7 and I really like Microsoft Office 2010. I don't care that they cost money or that there are alternative open source products available for free. The company's two flagship products work well and, in my not so humble opinion, are worth the money. And for the record, I am not a Microsoft shareholder.

However, with the possible exception of the Xbox game console and perhaps the Zune HD MP3 player, most of Microsoft's other product offerings have either been misguided, mistimed, or ill-conceived. Since the departure of Bill Gates, Microsoft has not really been in front of any mass-market technological innovation; in fact, most of the time they seem to be playing catch-up and not doing that very well.

TechRepublic Editor and Chief, Jason Hiner, wrote a Tech Sanity Check blog post earlier this week that summed up much of Microsoft's problems quite well. Basically, Microsoft is suffering from a lack of strategic leadership, especially when we are talking about technological innovation.

Jason suggests, and I have to agree, that it may be time for Microsoft to make a change at the top. Steve Ballmer, despite his considerable ability as a salesman, is just not getting the job done in terms of leading technological innovation for the company. The money is there and the people are there, but the strategic direction is sorely lacking. It's the proverbial "vision thing."

But what do you think? Is it time for Microsoft to change its leadership and reestablish its corporate strategy? Is it too late? Should Microsoft be looking to spend its large cash position on an acquisition that will jump start the company's technological prowess? How much longer can Microsoft survive on the twin cash cows of Windows and Office? Who would you hire to replace Steve Ballmer?

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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.

121 comments
Jill_McGinnis
Jill_McGinnis

Comparing to XP and Vista, Windows 7 has plenty of significant advantages. And MS Office 2010 which I got installed a month ago works perfectly. I think while the products' quality is at a high level we shouldn't care so much about the issue. And by the way Avi to mp4 program http://freeavitomp4converter.com/ works good on Windows 7.

Spexi
Spexi

In my opinion it doesn't matter which leader they have if they looking for make something as big as XP became to be when it was new. Remember that internet arrived to the world together with XP and these two together made the kit to become as popular and something as big as we haven't met since we began to use car's and similar modern innovative creations for our daily living. MS can't do this again because then they have to make something similar like internet once again. When I now also have the facts on my table and had some time to use touch and feel Windows 7 I'm just asking myself..Alot of people have been suporting MS with hugh lot of money..They sitting with hugh many good skilled people all over the world in organizations that many other standalone smaller companies can't beat in no way. Even because of this they couldn't develop Windows 7 to become something that we never seen before in speak of cleaning old mistakes, improvements of lack of features that should be included many years ago, many new influences from other companies products could be brought into this new os. But noooo and I'm not sure they ever gonna improve it as they will continue collaborate with commercial interests in both hardware and internet based software partnerships whereever it is monney to earn. Right now internet has reached the edge where people who use it all over the world started to see these services as something that belongs to our human rights to use this modern technology in our lives. It started like a toy or game free to buy in a store but has grown during some years to something we can't stay without. Whole our society are now created by all computers and registers that takeing care of everything SO it is NOT one single companys right to sitting and take the important decisions in how this technology shall be used and how it's gonna look like in nearest years. We need an IT organization something like UN here and I think MS going to become replaced quite soon by other interests like several Linux distributors around the world. Time for the open source! Thank you

JD@Tassie
JD@Tassie

I voted "No he's doing a great job" but hey I'm a bit of an open source evangelist. Since I switched desktop to Ubuntu (nearly a year ago now) I'm a confirmed fan and think that the more MS ponder their navels the more market share Linux (and open source in general) picks up. So I guess it's probably more a vote for "Yes, ASAP". :)

dhays
dhays

Not necessarily fire him, but find a different job for him, maybe the face of Microsoft, but not the leader, for instance.

ns.grady
ns.grady

Microsoft's big stumbling block is the most basic of concepts. Advancing technology is based on hardware. While intel supply chipsets and some periphery support the main drawback to windows as a cutting-edge leader in the marketplace stems from a lack of system integrated hardware support. In the main this is caused by poor pricing structure leading to manufacturers and resellers continually having to compromise the efficiency and speed of the systems they sell to manage the selling price effectively. Microsoft need to manufacture and sell a dedicated PC at hardware spec that leads the market on the launch of each new Windows platform. Microsoft is too reliant on the expertise of others to help command its place as the market leader of computer platform and application software. AND if they really wanted to lead the market - then the easiest way has got to be to bullet proof the platforms from virus and other unwanted intrusion. If the system was encrypted and read from rom on system boot, such that every boot was a clean boot, with the present TrustedInstaller dedicated and secure running behind a dedicated handshake from their servers to ensure clean updates, then they would at least have what no other manufacturer could boast. If the sytem was loaded asychronously file by file into a core rom, with dedicated ram registers and stacks to isolate the program interface according to task, then this isolation would ensure self diagnostic curing could be done by the system on the fly. In addition, using the same technology to run the IE interface as an isolated VM would further enhance microsoft's reputation for ensuring a trouble free product throughout each platform's lifecycle. Windows is a system built on, and run on, other systems. AND THAT is its major and fundamental flaw.

JCitizen
JCitizen

YOU'RE FIRED!!! Couldn't have happened to a better guy! ]:)

cedric.tanga
cedric.tanga

I made the suggestion that he Steve Balmer had to go sometime ago when he was displaying the boreing grey MS tablet and it's big news now! He's not the casual visionary the Bill Gates or even Steve Jobs are. Simplicity is the key. The more simple the innovation that users can have fun with then said innovation will sell itself. Whether for business or play and that's what the iPhone & iPad do, they accommodate both!

puppadave
puppadave

As said, the Hi-Tech person may not always have the gud bus/management skills required.... Did BG have outstanding tech or outstanding management skills!!??!!

derek
derek

Mark Kaelin 'really likes Win 7 & Office 2010'! So do I but unfortunately Outlook 2010 running under Win 7 Pro 64 bit crashes every time you attempt to 'reply' to a message. For this alone SteveB should be pushed out of the door; head first!! p.s. Just to show how 'dumb' the Microsoft crew really are Outlook 2010 + Win 7 64bit works fine with Outlook launched in Win XP SP3 compatibility mode.

pohsibkcir
pohsibkcir

Microsft firing Steve Balmer would be like anyone trying to fire their mother. You may not like your parents, but you owe them respect for what they have done and continue to do on your behalf. Microsoft has the same problems they have had since Windows 95 was released. It's nobody's business except the stock holders and the board of directors. Has Microsoft failed to make a profit in a depression era economy? I would hope so. Companies making large profits in the type of economic climate the entire world is in at the present, are companies that thrive on the continued misery of others. It doesn't mean that people should stop trying to get ahead. The fact that hackers are contiuously trying to corrupt any, if not all of Microsoft's software offerings makes one wonder. Steve Balmer has kept Microsoft on track. Not an easy task, given that the economy is the pits and really won't show definitive signs of improvement until 2012, or later. People should be more bothered by the fact that Meg Whitman in California has spent 99 million on a Governor race she will lose. Why is that important? The average family of four spends a little over $1,000 a month for food (approximately $245.96 per week). At current figures, Meg Whitman has spent enough money to feed 95 families of four, for twenty years. There are just more important things to worry about than whether or not Microsoft should replace Steve Balmer. If you don't like Steve Balmer or, Microsoft ... Buy yourself an Apple iMac, sync it with your iPhone an iPod, then call your iPad and have it order a Pizza for you.

tolmr
tolmr

How about they hire Hurd? He's without a job at present, and he is (technologically) savvy... even if he's not so smart in other departments!

cq_lar
cq_lar

Let's see: the HBR rated Steve Jobs as 'Best CEO -Worldwide'. In the same list (of 100), Ballmer was not mentioned. MS has wasted more of the World's time with sleezy, crashing programs that hide behind obscure messages ('See your Administrative Obfuscatory Network Manager') (Great! What percentage of MS users are individual owners? We have NO access to support.). The problems were obviously so great that the mighty Ballmer simply withdrew tech support until it vanished behind a fee-for-talkie number in Bali. The man is suited to the monkey dance, that's it - anyone who let the 'ribbon' out in '07 was a fool or its doting parent. Better than firing Ballmer, give him to Obama along with most of MS. Take a dozen or so SHARP OS guys to an island and write the system XP was supposed to be, Vista never was and & that 7 only hints at.

gerbilio
gerbilio

No! He's Linux's (and Apple's) best ally! :)

Duggeek
Duggeek

Yes! Undoubtedly, unequivocally and irrevocably YES... now why wasn't this asked back in 2003?

horqua
horqua

Would you reconsider?

cedric.tanga
cedric.tanga

He has to go if MS is to remain a major competitor rather than a follower and the sooner the better .... Future thinking is needed ....

incurablegeek
incurablegeek

I voted YES, ASAP. Why? Because the "man on the street" could do a better job of Benign Neglect. Steve does not have a Bad Personality. He has No Personality!

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Microsoft would need someone who is business savvy. Judging from his last few years [when he took over] and even in the past [remember that TV movie on a lesser US network?], he is a bit goofy and opens his mouth up when he shouldn't.

Petetm
Petetm

He's been killing MS slowly, please let him finish the job.

BeyondITall
BeyondITall

Innovation? The words Microsoft and innovation do not belong in the same sentence. MS first OS was bought for $50,000 and MS renamed some of the commands. MS has long been notoriuos for buying, begging, borrowing and stealing their "innovation" from others. Their first GUI was devleoped by Zerox that MS tweaked. The ONLY innovation I beleive MS came up with was "Microsoft Bob". Anyone remember "Bob"? Bill Gates - "there is no reason anyone will ever need more than 640kb of ram" Bill Gates - "we missed the boat on the internet. we thought it was just a passing fad." Can anyone name a "first concept" introduced by Microsoft? MS Mouse - not even close Active directory was a rip-off of NDS of Novell's Novell Directory Service. XBOX gaming console? New for MS but not in the market place. Perhaps NTFS was all MS, but I doubt it. Innovation belongs to Apple and Steve Jobs. I do not use Macs for two resons. 1. Propreitary 2. Proprietary means EXPENSIVE. ( Remember Compaq and their proprietary power supplies? $300 for a power supply that sells for $40 from a generic.) Does MS make great products now? Yes, but do not think these are innovations. MS is an excellent marketing company of their products and that is about the limit of it. MS even tried to turn IBM's open source Java into a proprietaty MS product. MS Java. Microsoft has made great strides in other areas when MS starting hiring people to do research and developement in other areas than their OS and software products. That, I beleive, is MS best idea to remain truly a viable company in the future. IMHO

jgustafson
jgustafson

I think Microsoft has been price gouging for so long because they seem to think they are the only kid on the block. I for one welcome Google?s challenge to exchange and office products. I have however interviewed a large trucking company that has went away from using open source or free Office products to using Microsoft Office again because the free version was not walking the line. I think though that this will give some competition to Microsoft and inevitably cause Microsoft to sharpen its pensile when it comes to pricing and renewals of licenses. I am happy with Microsoft products but think they need to drop their prices so that in our current recession so many folks will not be forced to take the less expensive route to Google Apps.

oldthom
oldthom

He is no longer in touch with the market(s). He is trusted and accomplished (14 Billion is not bad for a prep made good), but old. Time to retire and pass the keys to a person who understands today's as well as tomorrow's market(s) (i.e. help create those markets.) Besides, he should take a long vacation and enjoy the fruits of his labours. Then, write a book. (Hopefully it is not too late.) 30 years rumbling around MS would be enough to make anyone's head spin and spit out pea soup.

Slayer_
Slayer_

The OS is just too bloated, it can do way to many things. All I want my OS to do is run programs of my choosing. When I compare Windows 95 to Windows 7, there is almost no added functionality at all, aside from some fixed API calls like transparent blitting and some kernel wait APIs. How does this justify the increase from 300mb to 10gigs!

piratesmvp04
piratesmvp04

If this were few years ago, I may have said yes. But, the company has gone through a major management overhaul this past summer, and big things have been happening at the company for the past few years: Windows 7, Zune HD, expansion of Zune across all Microsoft products, Bing, Windows Live, and now Windows Phone 7. The company appears ready to take a new turn. Ballmer is now directly in charge of several important operations where he wasn't before. I personally think this should be Ballmer's last chance. He's been in charge through the new ideas that are happening, and he deserves a chance to see those things through. If Microsoft succeeds in their goals over the next few years, he should keep his job. However, if these new ideas flop and we see more of the same, perhaps it's time to find someone else. That'd be too bad, though. I like Ballmer's animated personality.

interarticle
interarticle

Ain't just his problem. The entire Microsoft corp. has a problem every big corporations have after it got big enough. Check out General Motors. They aren't working together, they are working against each other, things like inter-department competition, it just isn't right.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

I don't necessarily think Balmer has to go, he just needs to relinquish control of the vision and strategy to the CIO. I think J. Allard would have been a great Gates-like visionary. The Xbox 360 and the Zune have been two things that MS got right. Microsoft needs to learn to take chances again and start gambling with tech instead of copying and trying to outspend the competition.

portable
portable

Yes! They need someone who understands how (non-behemoth) business and homes work. When I find something I like I use it until I need to do something that I can't do with the product. As I work I get comfortable with the layout and placement it lets me work faster! Then I go to get the latest and greatest. Right. It is now (2 or 4 years later) so bloated and slow, on top of which they have done their "cutesy" thing and re-designed the interface so now instead of doing what I purchased the product for I have to spend valuable time to go looking for those arcane commands - like print or copy. Perhaps a little overly cynical, but you get the idea. If it doesn't help me work faster and better DON'T PUT IT IN!!! Just give me good, solid software that works like I do and does it's job. If you feel you MUST put in your new artsy interface, make it an OPTION for crying out loud. I wrote my first program in 1966 and have found over the years that people want to work how they want to work. The most time I have spent on my contracts has been to get the user interface set so people can continue to work THEIR work-flow, not mine.

sborsher
sborsher

From a purely visceral POV, Ballmer looks like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein; and when was Frankenstein ever a good front man, and for what? Yes, Mr. Softy's products have always been a little scary, but I thought they were trying to play that down.

Howard.Hooper
Howard.Hooper

I personally think they where in the wrong direction when not choosing to make a decision like give away Windows 7 starter for free and then offer upgrades to the OS etc through subscription and on-demand services....despite what everyone says, Linux is making leaps into markets once held firmly by Microsoft due to general usability, cost and compatibility....come on Microsoft stop patching up old ideas, it's time for some new earth-shattering ideas!!!

Stovies
Stovies

Microsoft stinks. Yes their software works (sometimes quite well) but they have no customer loyalty. Take my situation, I change the motherboard and upgrade the workings, keeping the same case since looks don't matter) and then I cannot get my re installed software validated. I buy surplus software with key codes unused, through a bona fide magazine sales columns and they spy into my machine, with the software being accepted for installation (THE BIG GREEN TICK) and I register the software only to find that they claim it to be invalid. They must be using the information, name of original purchaser, and checking it against my registration and deciding I have stolen the software. You can sell your car second hand and register that you have done so. It should be the same with software. They should be prepared to prosecute me, or accept that I am telling the truth. BALLMER does not even know about exchange rate and I see software sold through Microsoft UK for the same value in ? (GBP) as you in America pay in Dollars. If Ballmer were a salesman he would be looking for every way possible to make a purchase easier for the customer and real exchange rate application would help. If Open source could supply drivers and proprietary software for Open Source UBUNTU or whatever, I would drop Microsoft like a stone into the sea. I would be willing to pay for proprietary software for open source use, one example is Serif PagePlus X4 a great publisher at a real value price and much better than Microsoft publisher.

deICERAY
deICERAY

I hate LOSE7 and there's no reason to go up to Office 2010, unless you want a less-friendly, messed up office suite. I haven't liked anything from Micro$oft in years and years and I'm still waiting for a non-crashing, backwardly-compatible, feature rich OS. Fire top management? Isn't it better to replace the entire shipping department? Maybe it's THEIR fault... if we're voting out politicians for fresh blood, why stop there? Replace EVERYBODY - I know millions of out-of-work people who would LOVE his job.

Rob C
Rob C

When you answer a Post, this site clears the Title box, WHICH FORCES YOU TO TYPE YOUR OWN UNIQUE TITLE That is a good thing, as we can peruse your Titles, and only click on the ones that interest us. However if you create a new Post, this site puts the Title of the Article into the Title box. That means there is no incentive to type your own unique Title. If you check the Posts, there are approx 10 Posts, all with this Title - RE: Poll: Should Microsoft fire Steve Ballmer? I don't know about you, but I AM NOT GOING TO CLICK ALL OF THEM, JUST TO SEE IF I AM INTERESTED IN THEM. So could you please type unique Titles. Rob PS I have been nagging this site for over a year, trying to get them to leave the Title box empty. That then forces us to type something in the box. And hey presto, we would get 100% unique Titles, allowing us to quickly discern which Posts we want to read.

JamesRL
JamesRL

The internet was around long before XP. I was on the internet for almost a decade before XP was released. And XP was not a revolution, it was an evolution of Windows 2000 and the Win 95 product lines.

carlsf
carlsf

Yes you are right up to a point, and that point is.... 1) The cost of the hardware has come down around 30-50% in the last three to five years, yet we have seen no reduction in the price of MS products, they just keep increasing. 2) MS have made NO advanvces with their O/S or Applicatuions (Office) since XP and Office 2003, except cosmetic changes to the interface. The have removed the "CLASSIC" option, adopted and today is still being used by 60% of users, the rest hate the new WIN7 interface and as for the "RIBBON" it is a hinderance to productivity. Unti they actually START listening to their USERS/CLIENST, they will continue to loose market share.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

... I am running Outlook 2010 on a PC running Windows 7 64-bit without the problem you describe.

gharlow
gharlow

Not that I am an Apple fan, but MS needs a bit of what makes Apple tick! Of course, the chances of Steve Jobs accepting a position at Microsoft? Naaa!

Joe_Wulf
Joe_Wulf

However, rampant immoral and continual unethical practices, tend to pursuade others within the Micro$loth empire (and even those without) to do the same. "Hey, my CEO, and his predecissor did it. Shoot, I can do the same, by golly!". It is a sad shame that there isn't a campaign on to promote solid leadership, compitentant management, visionary thinking AND being moral and ethical, too.

gerbilio
gerbilio

Microsoft has NEVER EVER been at the forefont of innovation. They are quick followers who market things better than anyone else. But now, people are steadily becoming more aware that there's better stuff out there, but those people tend to be the geeks. Most of the hoi-polloi are still going to be satisfied with Microsoft stuff, which--let's face it--works just fine. So no, I don't think they need to change.

LeonBA
LeonBA

I was thinking the same thing. As someone who uses both Windows and Linux and would like to see more people using the latter, I've been content watching Microsoft suffering from lackluster management at the top. When one OS has 90% market share, the only way for the little guys to make any real headway is if the big gorilla's cage gets shaken a little. I don't want to see Microsoft go away, but I would like to see the OS landscape become more level.

Joe_Wulf
Joe_Wulf

True, except the pain level for the rest of us is continually too high.

Joe_Wulf
Joe_Wulf

... or browbeat them into submission via their GROSSLY paid lawyers.

Joe_Wulf
Joe_Wulf

How about trying this on for size... I'll consider Micro$loth as doing something beneficial for the customers when I can see for 3 consecutive years a preponderance (an in this I'd gladly settle for 51%) of improvements to Micro$loth products via Micro$loth Update, vice Security Patches. So far, that has yet to happen for even 2 months!!!

wanharris
wanharris

Definitely, MS is lacking if innovations. Based on reports, since last year MS is not making much profits on Office product. This is due to the fact the emergence of cloud computing services. Most are available for FREE on the web. Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 is taking over the world currently. Unless, Ballmer is sacked and get someone who has the charisma to innovate quicky, it's like doomsday for MS. Users are getting more and more demanding. MS needs to feed customer's requirements, customer's satisfaction and customer's expectation to ensure their success in the IT arena.

mrc64
mrc64

Okay... Thanks, Oscar. Tell Earnie, Bert and the Cookie Monster I said "hi".

gueibor
gueibor

Seeing the same title a 100 times is a bigger turn-off than Kelsey Grammer in a bikini.

Spexi
Spexi

It wasn't more than a testphase if compare how it became to look like 5-10 years later. Yes I agree, XP and Windows 2000 are Windows NT based systems both of them. Sorry if my post made you upset Merry Christmas mate:)

carlsf
carlsf

Solid leadership, compitentant management, visionary thinking AND being moral and ethical, too. Dont mean to be rude but youd be lucky to find all these qualities in Church let alone at Microsoft. Get real MS would cease to exist if all these happened along, or maybe judgement day....

piratesmvp04
piratesmvp04

Yeah, Microsoft may be a follower in many respects, but I wouldn't say they market anything better than anyone else. Their marketing is actually very poor, though some of the Windows 7 and a couple of the recent Bing ads have been alright. They just have name recognition, and maybe their products are just better.

Joe_Wulf
Joe_Wulf

Micro$loth has NEVER been about satisfying customer's requirements. Please!

JamesRL
JamesRL

Well I'd hardly call it a test phase. I was running commercial applications over it, for millions of dollars. There were millions of users. The point is that the rapid rise of the internet started well before XP. In 1995 there were 16 million users, by December 2000 there were 361 million internet users. This before XP was released in 2001.