Now that Steve Ballmer has stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO, following Bill Gates’s resignation as chairman of the board, the company is entering a new era where it may have to reinvent itself. Having dropped in market capitalization from $600 billion in 1999, when Ballmer took over as CEO, to around $300 billion today, board members are more than a bit unhappy with Microsoft’s inability to keep up with change.
Like most Microsoft users, I suffer from Microsoft Derangement Syndrome. Microsoft all but forced me to scrap my Windows XP and Office Pro 2003 and make the leap to Windows 8 and Office Pro 2013. As I suspected would be the case, there are scores of changes in these two programs that make the user’s job much more difficult rather than easier. To say it’s annoying is a huge understatement.
For decades, Microsoft, while it had the luxury of being able to bully its competitors, got away with making idiotic changes just to sell more software. But I think the marketplace is bringing that kind of monkey business to an end.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos said, “Companies have short life spans, Charlie. And Amazon will be disrupted one day.”
When Rose asked him if he worried about that, Bezos answered, “I don’t worry about it because I know it’s inevitable. Companies come and go. And the companies that are, you know, the shiniest and most important of any era, you wait a few decades and they’re gone.”
How refreshing to hear a humble billionaire who understands the process of creative destruction in the marketplace. Clearly, Steve Ballmer had no clue. Now we’ll see if the new team at Microsoft gets it. If not, don’t be surprised if the company goes the way of other arrogant and lethargic ex-giants like General Motors and Chrysler.