Microsoft Gets It

Microsoft CEO Steve BallmerMicrosoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been taking a lot of heat for his comparison of Microsoft and China and Bill Gates and Mao (see quote below). But the guy speaks off the cuff, he has a certain cool, nerdy cred and he can get away with it.  Contrary to what we might expect, Microsoft has been an innovator in allowing employees to freely blog, while rival Google is much more restrictive. The video podcast interviews of Ballmer are engaging – he comes off as a big, smart kid who will always get off on what cool technology can do.

These skills are essential for Microsoft right now as the company goes through a critical transition. Although the company has performed admirably in the past five years its stock has languished. Ballmer talks in three’s: Let me give you at least three things to think about, which I’m happy to defend - he says to the Wall Street Journal in a Q & A (subscription) You cannot counsel a client in better message delivery. 

The big question of course: can communication drive the company? So far, it hasn’t. Microsoft has a great story but the stock is a huge disappointment. The C-level response to that is that they are patient, they make big bets, and they have surprised the Street, investors, partners and customers before. A lot hinges, of course, on the success of the new OS, Vista, scheduled to launch 1Q, ’07. Regardless, Ballmer has done a lot to mute the Evil Empire image of the company that Gates was not able to shake. – Mark Rose in New York

WSJ: Many companies faded away after their founders left. What can you say that would assure people that, now that the co-founder is moving on, Microsoft is in good hands?

Ballmer: There have been many companies who lost their greatness post their founders… When did China get great? China didn’t get great under Mao Zedong. China got great under – in the recent years – probably got great under Deng Xiaoping.

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