“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.]