Microsoft announced today that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within a year as soon as a successor is named. The stock market treated this as very good news (courtesy Zero Hedge)
As always, I expect the traders got carried away by unwarranted exuberance. Mr. Ballmer may have been unable to break Microsoft out of its large company doldrums, but it isn’t obvious that the Microsoft board will find anyone who can.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”
Large companies always seem to believe they need slogans to inspire the troops (and shareholders) and "devices and services" is Microsoft’s current one. It will be interesting to see how long this slogan survives a new leadership and whether Microsoft can be rejuvenated short of a near death experience. For the moment though, Microsoft still has a sturdy herd of cash cows that can fund a lot of continued floundering.
In the meantime, here’s a reminder of happier days in Redmond:
The European Union Commission has fined Microsoft Corp. €561 million ($733 million) for breaking the terms of an earlier agreement to offer users a choice of internet browser.
The penalty is a first for Brussels — no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before.
The commission’s top regulator, Joaquin Almunia, said at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium Wednesday that negotiated settlements are vital for enforcement to be carried out quickly. But he warned that the whole point would be undermined if companies then don’t abide by the terms of the settlement.
"They must do what they committed to do, or face the consequences," he said.
Almunia added that the large fine took into account the size and length of time the company violated the terms of its agreement, as well as the need to defer other companies from backsliding on their promises to competition authorities. He said the fine was less than it might have been because Microsoft had co-operated with the investigation.
Quite a profitable racket they have there.
A top Dell executive warned Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer not to call its new tablet operating system “Windows RT” because the operating system wasn’t compatible with other versions of Windows and the name would only lead to widespread confusion.
Speaking to analysts at the Dell World conference in Austin last week, Dell’s vice-chairman and president of its PC business, Jeffrey Clarke, said he told Mr Ballmer the “Windows” brand was meant to signify that an operating system was compatible with Windows applications. As Windows RT couldn’t run Windows applications, it should be renamed, he said.
Mr Ballmer had replied that the Windows brand was too important a franchise to not be used with Windows RT, Mr Clarke said.
Had Microsoft listened to Dell, it could have avoided one of the major criticisms of its new operating system: that Windows RT looks so much like Windows 8 it’s too easy for a consumer to mistakenly buy a Windows RT device, not realising it’s not a regular Windows device.
Instead, Microsoft has reportedly had to offer relaxed return policies for its own “Surface with Windows RT” tablet, specifically for customers who got the tablet home only to discover their favourite Windows applications wouldn’t run on it.
They could always have called it Windows Mobile. Oops, that’s been used. Maybe just something more distinctive than "RT" would do? How about Windows Zune?
Actually, I would worry more about consumers buying a PC with Windows 8 and not realizing it isn’t a regular Windows device.
Windows unit president Steven Sinofsky is leaving the company, effective immediately, AllThingsD has confirmed.
The move comes less than a month after Sinofsky presided over the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet–products seen as key to the future if the PC software pioneer is to retain its position amid a market increasingly dominated by phones and tablets.
Sources have said the move came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives. Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for.
Sinofsky has been widely reputed to have an abrasive personality for years, so one really has to wonder at the proximate cause of his departure. Still, team player or not, Sinofsky has to get credit for the Microsoft recovery from the Vista debacle with Windows 7.
The official press release is even more opaque as expected, but here’s the new leadership:
Julie Larson-Green will be promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller retains her roles as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer and will assume responsibility for the business of Windows. Both executives will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.