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May 30, 2007

Steve Ballmer does D5

Posted by David Hunter at 8:43 PM ET.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got his turn on the D5 conference hot seat today, but his performance mostly seems to have been soporific:

In a genial interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg Wednesday morning, Ballmer presented a picture of a plodding, predictable, unexciting company. He couldn’t quite say when Microsoft will make some progress against Google (GOOG) in its weak share in Internet search. He couldn’t say why exactly the new Vista operating system was overly complex when it was released. He didn’t particularly enlighten the audience on just why Microsoft is paying $6 billion to buy online ad agency aQuantive (AQNT). By the way, Ballmer won’t mention Google’s name, referring to it merely as “the market leader;”

Nice touch.

Microsoft has 78,000 employees today, and Ballmer acknowledged that getting things to happen outside of the “central planning committee” is a major challenge. Listen carefully, and Microsoft has become a company of excuses.

There’s more in that unfortunate vein by following the link, but there actually was some excitement as, in a bout of executive Tourette’s Syndrome, Ballmer trashed early Microsoft employees:

“The people we had then weren’t as good, weren’t pushing that hard.” Mossberg asked about Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Ballmer came back, “Paul and Bill were good…the rest weren’t, and they are gone.”

Those early Microsoft employees won’t be happy to hear that thirty years after the fact, and it’s hard to think of Microsoft as highly nimble and adaptive organization. As one Microsoft executive put it, the company is more like a cruise ship and you need to call the engine room to get something done and hope you get a response.

Mr. Ballmer seems to have a fondness for lashing the troops when they don’t deserve lashing while missing some oddities higher up the ladder.

Mr. Ballmer did get to do the introductory demo for Microsoft Surface and later in the day opined that Microsoft would not build their own cell phone.

Filed under Conferences, Coopetition, D5, Employee Retention, Executives, General Business, Google, Microsoft, Microsoft Hardware, Microsoft Surface, Steve Ballmer, aQuantive

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