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Steve Ballmer: Should he stay at Microsoft, or get the boot?

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by John C. Dvorak, 09 May 2013Blog
Steve Ballmer: Should he stay at Microsoft, or get the boot?

Various members of the investment community have been calling for Steve Ballmer to be removed from Microsoft. Yesterday, The Street's Jim Cramer once again accurately analysed the situation but then wrongly suggested throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Ballmer must go, says Cramer.

This is all about Windows 8 and, to a lesser extent, Windows Phone. As far as I'm concerned, Windows 8 is still a work in progress. Windows Phone, on the other hand, is part of a long tradition at Microsoft. Microsoft was making crummy phone operating systems way before Ballmer took over the place. What else is new?

Microsoft has traditionally entered into arenas where it has no competency. It couldn't make a telecom product as we saw with Microsoft Access – the telecom product, not the DBMS. It couldn't roll out a radical OS shell as witnessed by Microsoft Bob. It couldn't do any sort of networking protocol – NETBUI comes to mind. There was also MSX, Microsoft at Home, and Microsoft at Work. It even once developed a proto-spreadsheet program called Multiplan some years before Windows and Excel.

You can always find someone to complain about something Microsoft is doing wrong. Unfortunately for the complainers, the company does so much right (think Exchange Server on the backend and Microsoft Office) that the conversation dies.

To compare Microsoft to other companies just ask around about its customer service, especially for the big iron back-end products. IT folks generally rave about it.

I probably moan about Microsoft as much as the next guy but my beefs are always with aspects of products and lack of effective marketing rather than with Ballmer, customer service, or even the overall quality of its employees.

The only reason someone like Cramer would want to see Ballmer ousted is to get the stock to jump around frenetically. You know, like the old days when it doubled every year. Now it moves up a few clicks, stalls, drops back a few points, stalls… it stays in a narrow trading range and doesn't pop up and down. There is no easy money in that sort of movement.

The company still makes a lot of dough and still cannot do certain things which it never could do. It has always thoughtlessly bought companies without quite knowing what to do with them. Remember WebTV? Ballmer had nothing to do with that fiasco.

Right now the users are trying to adjust to Windows 8. I've made peace with it by using the Classic Shell utility and have never looked back.

Is Microsoft going to persist with a dumbed-down OS based on a failed Phone OS? It would surprise me if it did. It can take a hint. In the end the company is lucrative and only messes up the cash flow when it spends big bucks on companies it should stay away from.

Do you think Ballmer should be fired? If so, answer me two questions: "Why?" and "Who should replace him?"

You'd better have good answers for both.

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