Should Bill Gates come back to Microsoft

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    Posted: 08 July 2010 02:55 AM

    The recent defection of HP with its acquisition of Palm, and the embarrassing flop of Kin are the just to latest signs that something is deeply wrong at Microsoft. That raises the question- should Bill Gates return. By one measure Gates is a CEO to rival Steve Jobs- He built a corporation with a capitalization twice today’s AAPL, in dearer dollars and in half the time.

    By another measure he had one major failure- planning his succession. He left on his own terms, when he wanted, and he chose his successor. Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, but if you place Steve Ballmer at one end of the scale of competence, and Steve Jobs at the other end of the scale, Cook stands much closer to his boss.

    So how would Microsoft do if Mr. Gates returned. Whether he has the wherewithal, he is certainly the person who would have the greatest moral authority to address Microsoft’s deeply flawed culture. I believe he also has the ruthlessness. Whether he would have other qualities necessary to turn it around I leave to the AFB.

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  • Posted: 08 July 2010 03:39 AM #1

    The problems at Microsoft are more indicative that he stayed far too long and that’s not even getting to whom he appointed as his successor.  In my view of the world he’s just another old guy who ran out of ideas long ago.  Steve Jobs is still executing his now 30 year old view of the future and soon Apple will be in need of the guy who can see down the road for the next few decades.  Is that person already in place?  Don’t know but if anyone can find him I’m betting on Steve.  Tim Cook is (and will continue to be) a great operations guy and as crucial to it’s current success as Steve is.  Same with Ron Johnson and the retail arm.  All of these pieces may or may not have been identified by Steve but it was he who did the recruiting.  Both took an enormous risk with their careers in joining Apple and it’s a testament to Steve’s recruiting skills that he made it happen.
    Microsoft needs to find the next (not the last) generation of leadership.  Just as they’ve shown no ability to build their own operating systems in house, they’ve equally shown no indication of being able to identify the next generation of creative or managerial talent.  It’s over.

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    Posted: 08 July 2010 11:27 AM #2

    BillH - 08 July 2010 06:39 AM

    The problems at Microsoft are more indicative that he stayed far too long and that’s not even getting to whom he appointed as his successor.  In my view of the world he’s just another old guy who ran out of ideas long ago.

    I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Ballmer is of the same generation as SJ and BG. They need to find someone new. Someone that is today, the brilliant ideas guys they were twenty years ago.

    M$ reminds me of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The people at the top keep getting older and older. They ran out of ideas long ago and keep trying to replay the games of their youth. Ballmer is their Brezhnev. It will take an overhaul on the scale of what happened to Russia for MS to recover their former glories. I’m sure that somewhere in the lower ranks, unable to move up is someone that can become M$s Putin.

    Not that I’m hoping for that. I like the M$=Inept world we have right now. I like a world where no one has such a dominant role. I want MS to have 1/3 of the OS, and browser, and Office markets. That would IMO be much more healthy for everyone.

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  • Posted: 08 July 2010 01:33 PM #3

    No, Microsoft can fail just as well without Bill Gates as with him, maybe even better.  smile

         
  • Posted: 08 July 2010 03:25 PM #4

    Bill Gates never had what it would take to bring MS back. Very smart, yes, very competitive, yes. Imaginative or visionary no; long term evolutionary planner no.

    The world walked blindfold into the old MS monopoly; I don’t think that will happen again. And the rapid ramp-up of market cap. was all done by blatant smoke and mirrors accounting and stock option manipulation, combined with total lack of product copy protection, ensuring that everyone could use MS software, whether they paid or not, until the technical lock in was complete. MS was for several years more or less a Ponzi scheme to defraud american pension funds.

    Apple is the company that could turn around and impose an MS style lock-in, but the evidence is that they won’t. The business model made MS the slave of the market - forced to preserve backward compatibility, forced to do what the customers ask for, forced to bring everyone along, forced not to change CPU architectures. Unable to innovate even if they wanted to.

         
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    Posted: 08 July 2010 03:53 PM #5

    sleepygeek - 08 July 2010 06:25 PM

    Bill Gates never had what it would take to bring MS back. Very smart, yes, very competitive, yes. Imaginative or visionary no; long term evolutionary planner no.

    I’m glad someone else pointed that out. I remember the statements, whole books in some cases, that BG made that at the time that I thought thought were blatantly absurd. Under his leadership they ignored mouse input or gave just a half hearted attempt, Win1, 2, and 3,. The assumption was that DOS was the way to go. Later they ignored the Internet and the browser world and then threw a bunch of money at it and used lock in to catch up. Through the ‘90s it was a joke. You could always tell what the next big thing was going to be because Microsoft would buy someone out to get into it. They haven’t ever lead, they react. I just don’t think in this economy that following and throwing money at something when the market is established will work any more.

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  • Posted: 08 July 2010 06:55 PM #6

    I think Bill is smart enough to know not to come back as CEO. After all, he’s still on the Board so he knows well what’s going on.

    I’m amazed that Ballmer is still there - his tenure is long-ago worn out.

    MS needs to adapt to the new environment but they’re stuck in the old one by virtue of their dependence upon Windows/Office.

    Remember the antitrust decision - the one that was appealed and overturned? That would have broken MS into several divisions and, truth be told, was probably really a good thing for them. They appealed it and it was overturned and look where they are. Sad.

    Sure -  Windows and Office make lots of money. That’s about where IBM was in the late 70’s. Did they embrace change? No. Does Microsoft embrace change? They try but the culture kills it. Google/bing “KIN” if you need reassurance.

    So will MS continue to be a force? Sure. Will they be the driver? Not unless they have a revolution in Redmond, and there’s no evidence of that. After all, Steve is still there. Need more be said?

         
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    Posted: 08 July 2010 10:53 PM #7

    vpndev - 08 July 2010 09:55 PM

    I think Bill is smart enough to know not to come back as CEO. After all, he’s still on the Board so he knows well what’s going on.

    I’m amazed that Ballmer is still there - his tenure is long-ago worn out.

    MS needs to adapt to the new environment but they’re stuck in the old one by virtue of their dependence upon Windows/Office.

    Remember the antitrust decision - the one that was appealed and overturned? That would have broken MS into several divisions and, truth be told, was probably really a good thing for them. They appealed it and it was overturned and look where they are. Sad.

    Sure -  Windows and Office make lots of money. That’s about where IBM was in the late 70’s. Did they embrace change? No. Does Microsoft embrace change? They try but the culture kills it. Google/bing “KIN” if you need reassurance.

    So will MS continue to be a force? Sure. Will they be the driver? Not unless they have a revolution in Redmond, and there’s no evidence of that. After all, Steve is still there. Need more be said?

    Since BG is the chairman (non-ex) he is still very much in the know. His relationship with Ballmer goes back to Harvard, so don’t look for there to be a change anytime soon. MSFT has hit its limits. When Apple gets to 240 bil in the bank MSFT might be in trouble. Not that the FTC would ever allow the takeover, it is fun to think about. Personally I don’t even look at Apple and MS as being competitors. Apple makes hardware and MS provides software. All of these large corporations get the monopoly syndrome. It will happen to Apple one day. My direct answer to the thread is, there is no way BG returns to operations at MS.

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  • Posted: 08 July 2010 11:40 PM #8

    mbeauch - 09 July 2010 01:53 AM

    there is no way BG returns to operations at MS.

    Agreed. He’s too smart to do a “Michael Dell”

         
  • Posted: 08 July 2010 11:51 PM #9

    mbeauch - 09 July 2010 01:53 AM

    When Apple gets to 240 bil in the bank MSFT might be in trouble. Not that the FTC would ever allow the takeover, it is fun to think about.

    I do not believe that Apple would ever even contemplate buying Microsoft. Buying Adobe would make more sense but they’re not doing that.

    Why would Apple even think about it ?? It’s just a big bag of hurt.

    Heh - “Microsoft is just so twentieth-century”

    And that’s not where developer mindshare is today, monkeydance or no.