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Sunday Tech Bits

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30. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 19:46 Beamer
 
Ballmer has only been Gates-free since, what, 2009? And, frankly, I think Microsoft has improved since then.

But yes, his 13 year tenure isn't exactly distinguished by fostering innovation or doing things well. They've made up ground for all the crap they missed when Gates was still a daily player (e.g., read how he squashed the Courier.)

I don't think you can lay all 13 years of bad on Ballmer - Gates deserves some of that, too.
 
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29. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 18:55 Creston
 
All good points mentioned, from both sides of the isle (though I'm not sure that major shareholders are that heavily interested in dividends versus value growth. If you want dividends, you buy government bonds, not tech stock. But the dividends did rise a lot during Ballmer's tenure, and that probably had impact.)

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is Ballmer's absolutely fucking TERRIBLE takeover record. Just look at the businesses they bought to enhance their search technology (one of Ballmer's biggest pet projects):

(full article of takeovers is here . It's a staggering list.)

2006 - Motionbridge - 18 million.
2008 - Farecast - 75 million.
2008 - Fast Search & Transfer - 1.2 BILLION.
2008 - Greenfield Online - 486 million.
2011 - Videosurf - 100 million. (not sure it qualifies as search, really, but oh well.)

And there's a few more with no dollar value assigned to them. The result? Bing. Which apparently gets used by some subset of people, but doesn't make a single dime.

Now, 1.7 billion isn't a lot of money for MS, but it's still basically wasted, since Bing is a pure loss-leader.

Then there was the acquisition of aQuantive, for 6.3 BILLION dollars. And the acquisition of Skype, for 8.5 BILLION dollars (Skype! A company that hadn't made a single fucking dime up to that point!), Yammer for 1.2 billion, etc.

That's ~ 17 billion dollars which has made Microsoft exactly zero cents in profit. That's solid leadership right there.


 
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28. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 12:38 Jivaro
 
I have been reading through a bunch of notes and articles about stockholder meetings this morning. Beamer's assertion got me curious.

It would seem that there were plenty of "small" investors that would ask questions at the shareholders' meetings like "why should we keep our stock?" and other more pointed questions...but it never seems to be taken very seriously or even really answered. As an example, one lady spent some time really laying it on thick, made it sound like her retirement was lost, asked Ballmer why she should bother to stay invested and his reply was vague, indirect, unsympathetic, and terse. This appears to have happened often over the years but there doesn't seem to be any concern shown by Ballmer or MS in general. Forbes and Quarts often quote these folks which leads to an impression that investors are unhappy, but nothing ever really seems to be taken seriously or have any impact on the direction of MS.

I could find no evidence that any of the major players were voicing much in the way of concern other than an episode in 2011 where hedge fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital publicly called for Ballmer’s removal. That made for some good headlines but it didn't go very far obviously. (which of course proves Beamer's point)

This past July that appears to have changed. ValueAct wanted a board seat and Capital Research supported the idea. There was a lot of frustration with the company's choice of focus. I didn't read enough to see how that all turned out but the articles I did read made it sound like even though Ballmer was handling those negotiations personally, he and the company were resisting the idea. I guess opening 600 retail stores inside of Best Buy has been quite a dividing point among the bigger players. Interestingly enough they also seem to be annoyed because they feel Ballmer puts too much focus on consumer products rather than enterprise.

Bottom line: He seemed to have the major players' support, despite individual shareholders complaints and a long term weakening of the stock overall. In July, after announcing a 900 million dollar write off and a 33.7 billion dollar loss in market value, he lost his support among the largest shareholders. Here we are in August and he announces his retirement in the coming months saying that MS needs someone else to take them where they need to go.

Given all of that, I have to wonder about the future of those 600 retail stores and the Surface. A new CEO could make a lot of friends in the right places by cutting that kind of fat it would seem.

This comment was edited on Aug 26, 2013, 12:49.
 
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27. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 11:37 Quboid
 
I've heard it said that the only thing Ballmer was any good at was keeping his job; dividends to keep the big stockholders happy would be a part of that.  
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26. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 10:40 Beamer
 
Quboid wrote on Aug 26, 2013, 07:10:

That is not what Beamer said. He said this is why major shareholders didn't have an issue with Ballmer - not quite the same thing.

Yeah, I'm certainly not saying he was a particularly good CEO, or that Microsoft shouldn't have done better, or that he had vision, or anything, really.

I'm just saying that investors were never looking to run him out on a rail the way internet message board people have been (particularly gamers, and at that, very regularly PC gamers who feel slighted.)

What your biggest investors, typically institutional investors, want isn't necessarily what's best for the company, and what Ballmer gave them could very well have been something to placate them, but a company giving great dividends that grow rapidly will make pretty much any large scale investor happy. It makes the stock a remarkably safe, predictable and steady stock to bolster their portfolio while they go after riskier ones.

It may have just been Ballmer being crafty and appeasing the people that could actually influence the board, but to say that investors have been crying for him to leave forever is really not true.
 
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25. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 10:23 Jivaro
 
You are correct Quboid, and Verno explained my angle better than I did.  
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24. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 08:53 Verno
 
The problem with relying on Microsofts financial success alone is that quite a bit of it has been short term, stop gap solutions that will hurt them long term. They've been consistent for shareholders

Look at Server 2012 licensing. Per processor? Fuck off. Hell the SQL licensing is so loose and absurd that technically speaking you might need a license for everyone connecting. Nothing more patronizing and unwelcome than a CAL audit from Microsoft either. They'll ding you for 10k a license and you'll end up with a 3mil bill but hey they'll do you a solid and settle for 400k right then and there. This is why organizations are doing what they can to get away from Microsoft in the long term and welcome the shake up.

Think of how much better their dividend performance could have been without wasting over a 100 billion dollars on consumer failures in the past 10 years too.
 
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23. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 07:10 Quboid
 
They got sued for monopolistic behaviour because they took that approach instead of trying to be innovative. They could have used their position to establish their position as defacto web standards leader. Instead, they stopped all innovation and tried to stifle competitors.

that dividends matter when it comes to measuring the success of a CEO and whether or not he has been bad or good for a company

That is not what Beamer said. He said this is why major shareholders didn't have an issue with Ballmer - not quite the same thing.
 
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22. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 06:25 jdreyer
 
Great points in this thread about Messenger and IE. With all the other high profile failures, I had forgotten about those. I would like to add Hotmail to that list. In the early aughts Everyone had a Hotmail account. It was a captive audience of 100s of millions of people. Now everyone uses something else. Google especially made gmail enticing with all of their added features. MS missed that boat too.  
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21. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 03:00 Jivaro
 
You are right Beamer, I can't speak to "dividends". I will have to take your word for it that dividends matter when it comes to measuring the success of a CEO and whether or not he has been bad or good for a company. Forbes, WSJ, and others have not mentioned them in anything I have read since his announcement. They have been speaking to the stock prices, particularly the difference between them when he took over and what they are now and how they jumped when he announced he was leaving, they always have as far as I have seen. Those of course make for the best headlines and catchy phrases, regardless of their actual value in the big picture, and subsequently may not mean a damn thing. If you are correct, that would explain how he has held his job through so many failures and disappointments. There usually is a bigger picture that explains the unexplainable. It doesn't change my bottom line, which is that he has been terrible for the company. Rich people might have gotten mildly richer while he was in the chair, but the company is looking at some big problems that they could have easily avoided.  
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20. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 26, 2013, 02:44 Beamer
 
Contrary to this thread, the big MSFT shareholders, therefore the only ones that matter in this system, never had a big issue with Ballmer.

And this is why.

Dividends are constantly ignored whenever people on this site mention stocks. Look how those increased.
 
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19. Re: Into the Black Aug 26, 2013, 02:42 NegaDeath
 
I think his failure can be summed up quite simply. When he took over Microsoft it was the king of the tech world. Under his watch other companies came in and took it from them damn near uncontested. Its like the race is over and they're stuck at the starting line because they didn't hear the gun go off. Financially they're still quite healthy but mostly due to legacy divisions that existed before Ballmer took over. As the top of the food chain ultimately the buck has to stop with him. Arrogant, terrible marketing, slow to respond and utterly unable to predict the changes in the market.  
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18. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 23:28 Jivaro
 
Flatline, I am not forgetting anything, and in fact that very situation proves the point regarding Ballmer, MS, and missed opportunities.

MS chose to be the bully on the block and push a monopoly on people through illegal means rather than through product innovation and value. Had they chose the latter rather than the former they would most likely still have their huge market percentage and they would not have been sued/fined. Because they chose the path they did they gave the competition the window of opportunity they needed to gain not just a small piece of the pie but a very large one.

The situation rather definitively demonstrates the entire view on Steve Ballmer. There is nothing selective about my recollection. It was a bad call by MS and it killed them long term. Too much energy focused on telling people what to do and not enough energy focused on giving them a reason to do it. The story of Ballmer's reign in a nutshell.

This comment was edited on Aug 26, 2013, 01:51.
 
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17. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 23:25 DukeFNukem
 
@Jivaro,
Very well said my friend. I wanted his ass gone for one reason alone. Perpetuating the biggest fraud of all time on the American public. And that is trying to market Windows 8 as a desktop operating system. Clearly, there was hardly anything to differentiate Windows 8 on a tablet from Windows 8 on a desktop.
I thought that Microsoft had finally realized that old saying, "Don't bite the hand that feeds you" in my anticipation of the release of Windows 8.1. But Windows 8.1 proved that they still don't get it. Windows 8.1 is as bad a failure as Windows 8.
Goodbye Ballmer. Please, do not let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. The customer is always right. If you don't believe that, you shouldn't run a business.

This comment was edited on Aug 26, 2013, 01:14.
 
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16. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 22:39 Flatline
 
Quboid wrote on Aug 25, 2013, 21:15:
Jivaro wrote on Aug 25, 2013, 20:31:
Windows Phones have gone nowhere under his watch. Android is filling the gaping hole that should have been Microsoft's foothold in the smartphone business. It is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology. Ballmer owns that.

I'd pick something else as the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology, but also by Microsoft: Internet Explorer. They had 96% of the browser market in 2002 (according to Wikipedia, with no citation). Even if that's exaggerated and it was was "only" around 90% they practically had the world wide web in the palm of their hands and they pissed it away.

Dude they're still getting sued in Europe for monopolistic behavior for packaging IE in with Windows. The US sued the shit out of them too, that's when the browser market fragmented remember?

Selective memory... christ...
 
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15. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 22:23 Tom
 
All of the criticisms stated so far here are valid. I would just like to add the massive brain drain that has happened over the last decade, with many (most?) of the most talented people at MS leaving for Google and others. Really heartbreaking in some cases.  
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14. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 21:21 Jivaro
 
Quboid wrote on Aug 25, 2013, 21:15:
Jivaro wrote on Aug 25, 2013, 20:31:
Windows Phones have gone nowhere under his watch. Android is filling the gaping hole that should have been Microsoft's foothold in the smartphone business. It is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology. Ballmer owns that.

I'd pick something else as the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology, but also by Microsoft: Internet Explorer. They had 96% of the browser market in 2002 (according to Wikipedia, with no citation). Even if that's exaggerated and it was was "only" around 90% they practically had the world wide web in the palm of their hands and they pissed it away.

It took them years to release IE7 and it's taken them a decade to produce a browser which isn't bad. Not even good in any particular way, just no longer awful; and this without them having any real influence on how the web has developed. We'd all be using MSML (Microsoft Markup Language) instead of HTML if they'd played their cards right. Phew.

That is a fair point indeed. I was approaching the "missed opportunity" concept from the angle of "new venture" rather than "established venture". I would agree that IE is easily their biggest flop when it comes to having the market secured and yet managing to piss it away.
 
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13. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 21:15 Quboid
 
Jivaro wrote on Aug 25, 2013, 20:31:
Windows Phones have gone nowhere under his watch. Android is filling the gaping hole that should have been Microsoft's foothold in the smartphone business. It is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology. Ballmer owns that.

I'd pick something else as the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology, but also by Microsoft: Internet Explorer. They had 96% of the browser market in 2002 (according to Wikipedia, with no citation). Even if that's exaggerated and it was was "only" around 90% they practically had the world wide web in the palm of their hands and they pissed it away.

It took them years to release IE7 and it's taken them a decade to produce a browser which isn't bad. Not even good in any particular way, just no longer awful; and this without them having any real influence on how the web has developed. We'd all be using MSML (Microsoft Markup Language) instead of HTML if they'd played their cards right. Phew.
 
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12. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 21:14 Cutter
 
Yeah, shareholders have been bitching long and loud about getting rid of Ballmer. He's basically screwed the ppoch on everything. And anything done right has been in spite of his incompetence. There's are plenty of reasons Forbes called him the worst CEO of all time and eery other business mag out there has said the same thing. He should have never gone beyond being a salesman. However, that was Gates big mistake.

 
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11. Re: Sunday Tech Bits Aug 25, 2013, 20:31 Jivaro
 
CrashtestDummy....you obviously are not a stockholder, a tech that has to work with any of their products made in the last 10 years, or a gamer that remembers what PC gaming was like on Windows before the XBOX was released. Had you fallen into any of those 3 categories you wouldn't be so confused. If you do, then I have no idea how you can possibly be so oblivious as to why he "gets so much hate". On the surface of it your post makes it sound like you do indeed recognize at least some of his limitations, which confuses me to say the least. There was no point in MS's Ballmer history where the stockholders have been "happy". They have been at best "pacified", but they haven't had anything to be truly happy about in a long time. The Washington Post had an interesting article you should look up regarding all that.

But let's move beyond that. I will give some very black and white reasons for the hate, and most of them have nothing to do with gaming.

He alienated the people within his company and fired the ones that dared to tell him when he was missing the boat. Essentially, when nobody will tell you that you are wrong because they don't want to be fired, you can't be wrong until it's too late. Vista, Windows Phone, Zune, Windows 8, XBOX One....the list goes on and on of example of products that everybody knew had problems before release...except Steve Ballmer. How is that? edit: I forgot to mention the 900 million dollar write off due to the failure of the Surface.

Vista happened under his watch, and it shouldn't have. The guy that saved his ass with Windows 7 was the guy he threw under the bus for Windows 8. A pattern of behavior every executive in the company has noticed in their CEO from the day he took over.

Windows Phones have gone nowhere under his watch. Android is filling the gaping hole that should have been Microsoft's foothold in the smartphone business. It is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in the history of technology. Ballmer owns that.

Despite Windows Messenger being alive and well when social media began to really grab the mainstream's attention, he dragged his feet again...called it frivolous...and missed the boat that Facebook and Twitter decided to catch. Part of that is MS's inability to properly grasp cloud networking, part of that was the assumption that the Windows and Microsoft name would keep people using Messenger despite it's limitations and lack of innovation. In either event, like the Windows Phone, this is an area that MS should have been a major player in. They are a bystander.

His "everybody for themselves" type of management pitted divisions against each other which led to massive problems and a lack of innovation. (google 'stack rating') Where they did choose to innovate always seemed to be places the customers didn't want them to touch, which is why so many people feel that Ballmer is responsible for a MS culture that believes they can dictate to the customer rather than looking at customer demands and trying to satisfy them.

I suggest you read the link for "Why Steve Ballmer Failed". If you can't understand at least 80% of the hate after that, you are simply choosing not to. This isn't about his looks, his salesman pitches, or his sweaty videos. These are very real and very justified criticisms.

This comment was edited on Aug 25, 2013, 21:17.
 
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