Defending Steve Ballmer (Until Surface Pro Tablet Arrives)
Judgment Day for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer will arrive when the Surface Tablet running Windows 8 Pro arrives. As Surface Pro goes in early 2013, so will Ballmer’s legacy. Indeed, The VAR Guy has a sneaky suspicion that Surface Pro will be the defining moment in Ballmer’s career. But will that moment be a highlight or a low light? Hmmm…
Plenty of skeptics have called on Microsoft’s board to fire Ballmer in recent years. The skeptics believe Ballmer has wasted billions of R&D dollars over the past decade. Microsoft’s stock has basically flat lined for more than 10 years, and the company has struggled to gain mind share and market share in fast-growth markets like Internet search, smartphones and tablets.
Still, the skeptics overlook the fact that Ballmer has successfully extended Microsoft’s server business in multiple ways. Applications like SharePoint, Lync and Dynamics now generate big profits for both Microsoft and its channel partners. And even Exchange Server — launched nearly two decades ago — is still running strong and pushing into the cloud.
If Ballmer takes hits for the smarthphone and tablet misses, shouldn’t he also earn kudos for the business productivity successes? Hmmm…
Bring Your Own Device: The Real Story
The real story always comes back to the consumerization of IT. While Ballmer was busy fixing the Windows Vista debacle (“just wait for Windows 7”), Apple and Google were changing the mobile world with iOS and Android, respectfully. Fast forward to the present and Windows 8 finally puts Microsoft in the touch computing market — but here again Microsoft has yet to show the magic touch.
Those in the know say you gotta avoid tablets running Windows RT and instead hold out for Windows 8 Pro tablets. Alas, Microsoft’s own Surface tablet running Windows 8 Pro will miss the holiday buying season. At first glance, Ballmer deserves coal in his stocking for that late arrival. But perhaps Microsoft is wisely ensuring the Windows 8 Pro tablet is ready for prime time — rather than rushing it out the door prematurely.
If Surface can manage to catch on just a bit, the tablet could provide more pull for Windows Phone 8 devices and Windows 8 PCs. Microsoft has a lot riding on that forthcoming tablet. So does Steve Ballmer. In fact, his corporate legacy may depend on it.