A Microsoft sob story

“Steve Ballmer was sobbing. He repeatedly tried to speak and couldn’t get the words out. Minutes passed as he tried to regain his composure. But the audience of 130 of Microsoft’s senior leaders waited patiently, many of them crying too,” David Kirkpatrick reports for Fortune. “They knew that the CEO was choked up because this executive retreat, held in late March at a resort north of Seattle, was the last ever for company co-founder Bill Gates, as well as for Jeff Raikes, one of the company’s longest-tenured executives. ‘I’ve spent more time with these two human beings than with anyone else in my life,’ Ballmer finally said. ‘Bill and Jeff have been my North Star and kept me going. Now I’m going to count on all of you to be there for me.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Dork. Supposedly, Microsoft is Ballmer’s “family.” If true, that’s really sad. See: Microsoft CEO Ballmer: I’m outta here in 9 or 10 years; as soon as my last kid goes away to college – June 05, 2008. “Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go… I owe my soul to the company store.” Ballmer can’t even manage his own priorities, much less a multi-billion dollar company. Maybe they’re not just crocodile tears, it could be that he’s really, genuinely crying — because he knows there’s no unprepared sugared water salesbozo around to sign away Apple’s company jewels this time.

Kirkpatrick continues, “What the executives were witnessing was the end of an era. On July 1, Gates officially retires from daily duties at the software giant. He’s leaving in order to begin a second life as a full-time philanthropist and to explore his dizzying range of intellectual interests.”

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, the vertigo is intense when you’ve spent the last 25 years staring 850 miles due south.

Kirkpatrick continues, “But his departure raises some obvious and very large questions about the future of Microsoft: Can the now $60 billion behemoth keep finding new ways to grow? Will Ballmer and his lieutenants be able to successfully adapt their products to an increasingly web-driven world? In short, does the company have what it takes to thrive without its iconic founder at the helm?”

MacDailyNews Take: No. No. And no.

Kirkpatrick continues, “And then there’s Apple. From the iPod to the iMac to the iPhone, its products have cornered the market on cool. Apple’s small share of the PC market in the U.S. is growing fast – it was 7.4% in the first quarter of 2008, up from 5.1% a year earlier, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). Perhaps even more alarming, its ubiquitous ‘Get a Mac’ TV ads have painted the personal computer loaded with Windows software – the central achievement of Gates’ 33 years at Microsoft – as a loser. To a lot of consumers out there, Microsoft really does seem like that bumbling nebbish played by Daily Show contributor John Hodgman.”

“The feud with Apple is mostly about honor. It pains Ballmer and his troops react viscerally when they watch those Apple ads – and when they see how much they’ve harmed Microsoft’s reputation. The consulting firm CoreBrand calculates Microsoft has declined from 11th among global brands in 2004 to 59th today, and reports that the two-year-old ‘Get a Mac’ campaign has almost certainly played a role,” Kirkpatrick reports.

Kirkpatrick reports, “The ads hurt even more because they strike a nerve… Ballmer does not intend to keep tolerating Apple’s insults.”

MacDailyNews Take: “Buy a Dell and get a Zune?” Sounds more like a prison term than a marketing promotion.

Full article, in which Kirkpatrick looks at Microsot’s plans to make Windows “cool” with a new marketing campaign, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JES42” for the heads up.]


  1. I love using my Mac. At the same time, i don’t feel the need to bash Microsoft at every turn. If Steve Jobs retires, you’d be seeing a lot of people crying too. Apple is a company and Macs are tools. As much as I love my Mac I’d use something else if it was better for what i need my tool to do or what my tool can do for me.

  2. Some of those guys were sobbing with joy. Imagine being in a room with Barmier and him not being able to speak, truly an unbelievable, unexpected, unlikely to ever happen again, experience, one to savour.

  3. I’m no Windows fan and I think my Apple laptop rocks, and I have little doubt VIsta and the Zune player pretty much suck as products. But even if there is little reason to respect Steve Ballmer as a tech executive, making fun of his display of emotion over the departure of two people he probably really cares about, and calling him a “dork” for that display, is completely uncalled for, don’t you think?

    Whatever his faults, the guy is a human being and deserves to be accorded a basic level of respect to which we are all entitled.

    Maybe the resident dorks at MDN need to grow up a little.

  4. You can’t market cool. The iPod ads were ‘cool’ because the product was already cool.

    Apple now remains cool by saying nothing. MS will remain uncool by both their products and telling us how cool MS is.

    Ballmer has nowhere to hide now – the buck stops with him.

  5. From the article, He’s leaving in order to begin a second life as a full-time philanthropist and to explore his dizzying range of intellectual interests.

    There’s real news, Bill has intellectual interest, even bigger news, it means he must have intellect. No, that can’t be, must be a report in Forbes.

    From the article, Last year’s rollout of the latest version of Windows, called Vista, was a public relations and consumer marketing disaster.

    No it wasn’t, it was junk, pure junk. Fsck public relations and consumer marketing (BTW they are the same thing). It’s about customer experience.

    From the article The rest of the software industry, meanwhile, is either supporting its products with advertising, like Google, or starting to rent them as online services.

    Wrong again, there is one company that shuns saddling it’s customer with advertising and actually sells stuff (that works).

    From the article. But despite setbacks, despite image problems, and despite Google, Microsoft is in many ways stronger than it has ever been. Just look at the numbers.

    Spoken like a true bean counter.

    (PS, I am not a bean).

  6. Apple hasn’t damaged Microsoft’s reputation and credibiltiy nearly as much as Microsoft itself has by producing and mismanaging a poor product. It is as if they are blaming Apple for their own incompetence.

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