Ashlee Vance gets access to Ballmer and delivers a death blow. The Borg, Vance says, is on a “long and winding course toward irrelevance.” Seriously, this is a devastating piece. Money quotes (lots of them) after the jump. I’m still reeling.
Gist of the article is, the Borg isn’t scary or mean or evil anymore. They’re just a joke: bumbling, slow, washed up and irrelevant. They’re the M.C. Hammer of computing. Remember when you couldn’t start a software company because Microsoft would crush it or buy it? Now think of all the stuff that has sprung up and passed them by, all the opportunities they’ve missed: Google search. Google apps. Gmail. YouTube. Amazon. Ebay. Skype. Facebook. Twitter. iPods. iTunes. iPhone. The cloud. Think of the billions in revenue, the hundreds of billions in market capitalization, that have slipped through Ballmer’s fingers.
Listen to what people say about Ballmer in the article and then ask yourself whether this guy will still be CEO in two years. That’s the subtext here. That’s what is taking place between the lines. Nobody dares come right out and say it on the record, but I’m sure Ashlee Vance heard it off the record because every CEO or heavy-hitter in the Valley has been saying this for a while now: Ballmer needs to leave. Honestly, most of us can’t believe he’s still running the place.
Ballmer is coming up on his 10th anniversary as CEO, and his legacy looks like this:
Mine over the same period looks like this:
And here’s one that compares the performance of Apple, Google and Microsoft from the start of January 2000, when Ballmer took over as CEO. We’re up 700%. Google is up 400% from their IPO in 2004. Microsoft is in negative territory.
So here’s what people had to say:
Legendary Valley flack Regis McKenna:
Microsoft sort of disappeared from the scene.
They are trapped in their own psychosis that the world has to revolve around Windows on the PC. Until they stop doing that, they will drag their company into the gutter.
Ex-Borgtard Bruce R. Chizen:
They are not the company they once were in terms of market position. They no longer have a monopoly that is critical to the future of computing.
Brand guru James R. Gregory:
This used to be the company that everyone looked to for innovation and excitement. It has lost that edginess in a fairly convincing way.
Cloud computing pundit Nick Carr:
I think Microsoft is still moving pretty slowly as it shifts at least part of its business to the cloud. Some of that is due to its corporate culture, but I think most of it is due to it trying to protect very lucrative businesses with high profit margins.
They won’t fade away as long as there are PCs. But they are not delivering the future of our industry, either.
The scariest one, if you’re Ballmer, is the following quote from an investor whose fund recently bought 800,000 shares of Borg stock:
I am willing to give the present management another 15 months.
Um, right. Because in 15 months things are going to look soooo much better. Windows Mobile will be crushing the iPhone. Bing will be crushing Google. Azure, the Borg’s cloud stuff, will be a huge smash hit. Yup. That’s the plan. All they need is just a few more months. Right.
Goodbye, Fester. It’s been nice knowing you. Not really. But you know what I mean.
UPDATE: To read more on this, check out: