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Will Microsoft's Next CEO Ditch Ballmer's Plan?
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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 1:35:52 PM
Re: Elop or Mulally
This is an interesting question, especially if Microsoft plans to double down on consumers. Ridiculous as it sounds to some loyal Microsoft customers, the company is often criticized as much for its PR troubles as for its products, and though I hadn't thought about this angle when writing the article, I think Shane's bringing up a legitimate consideration.

I've heard a lot of analysts talk in recent months about Microsoft's "uncool" problem. Most of the time, I've attributed this talk to not only product issues (e.g. Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been), but also advertising (e.g. The first round of Win 8 and Surface commercials were terrible, but the newer ones have wisely shifted from hyper-kinetic editing and boardroom breakdancing to a focus on what the products actually do).

But the "uncool" problem isn't just commercials-- it's also public-facing representatives, including corporate execs. Just an example: how much grief has Microsoft suffered over its Xbox One strategy purely because a few execs did a terrible job interfacing with the public?

Zuckerberg is a part of what Facebook sells, for better or worse, and Jobs was (and is) part of what Apple sells. I'd be surprised if Microsoft used "coolness" and "youth appeal" as determining factors when selecting its next CEO, but I think Shane's bringing up an interesting point. Any one else have thoughts on this one?
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 11:37:43 AM
Re: Elop or Mulally
I agree you should always lead with products not personalities. But consumer tech is different from the auto industry. This is the world of Steve Jobs (RIP), Jeff Bezos, and Sergey and Larry. Young, brash, self-made, famous. Consumers actually get emotional about these people. I suppose there's no reason you can't still market to the young and hip AND have a traditional CEO approaching his 70s, as long as the products are great. It's a good question, especially in Microsoft's case. What do people think? Would an older-than-Ballmer CEO be good or bad for Microsoft's image?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 10:14:40 AM
Re: Elop or Mulally
I disagree. Mulally isn't the "face of Ford" for its customers -- the face is the F-150 and the Escape and the Focus. Likewise, Microsoft needs its products to be the face of the company, not some star CEO. My 13 year old daugher won't buy stuff from Microsoft based on whether the CEO is 68 or 48 -- heck, we all look like old timers to her.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 9:53:20 AM
Re: Go Outside
Like Rob, I don't have the inside perspective necessary to choose among the leading candidates. But from where I sit, I wonder a bit unfair about commentators' attitude toward the "outsider" vs. "insider" idea. My kneejerk reaction about Elop is that he might, as you indicated, have too much "old Microsoft" in his blood-- but my kneejerk reaction to Satya Nadella, another leading internal candidate, is quite different. Microsoft's Windows and Office revenue streams have grown convoluted and, in some cases, clogged due to tactics designed to protect existing products and customer bases. But the enterprise and cloud products under Nadella's command have had fewer of these problems; indeed, whereas the Windows 8 strategy is largely about herding users into Microsoft's ecosystem and positioning Office as a differentiator over other tablet platforms, its cloud strategy has been far less partisan, and offers one of the more developed opportunities for Microsoft to cash in on competitors' success--e.g. by using Azure to deploy iOS or Android apps, etc.

 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 9:48:16 AM
Re: Elop or Mulally
I hope this doesn't sound ageist. But Mulally is 68 years old. If Microsoft wants to compete with Amazon, Google, Apple and Samsung for the hearts and minds of consumers (i.e. young people) Mulally's age could work against the company. There's no question that Mulally has tremendous experience and business acumen, but he would become, like it or not, the face of the company and Microsoft is already fighting the perception that it is not in touch with the times. If Microsoft backs off the consumer market (NOT its current plan) and focuses more on its core competancy -- enterprise software -- than Mulally's age is not as much of a factor.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 9:01:45 AM
Re: The right person for the job
Sometimes a bullet between the eyes is the only way to refresh a corporation's existing management structure.  A new light must be cast into the shadows because a divided corporation whose management has a lot of history will continue old practices rather than unite.  The delicate balance a new top leader faces is remolding those willing to think differently and replacing those who don't.  Although accepted at failing corporations, it's extremely dangerous at successful corporations.  New leadership will have to pick fights with quality, talented resources who for years have believed in all that they do.  Regardless of whether or not tech pundits believe they have lost their way, for the moment Microsoft is extremely successful and internally, those resistant to change have proof of their success.  In that environment, new leadership will be viewed as change for the sake of change.  For some, perhaps many, that's like messing with the 10 commandments.  They'll leave and if enough choose this path, it may cause their existing and highly successful products to languish.  

Microsoft languished for years but for the first time in a long time they seem to have a sense of urgency and are bringing out new products and ideas.  Unprofitable product lines must certainly be criticized but what is Microsoft if it drops the XBox, Bing and its new devices strategy?  I don't think Microsoft has the luxury of time to become another IBM.  IBM had the ability to transform itself into a services company while relying on existing product revenue streams.  The pace of disruptive tech is only increasing and given the strength of multiple competitors, all of Microsoft's current products are vulnerable.  If it isn't able to create new revenue-positive products, I don't think they'll die a slow death.  The first time revenue shrinks (not just missing predicated growth but an actual QOQ or YOY shrink), there will be blood in the water.  Customers and partners will be forced to pontificate how much they depend on Microsoft and for the first time, assess that as a potential risk rather than simply looking at how much it costs.  If that happens in numbers, it will snowball out of control.
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
11/19/2013 | 3:23:49 AM
Re: The right person for the job
I agree with wagner here, company wants someone to take MS in competition again, seeking to tough and suphosticated market i dont think Elop is best fit here, Elop was CEO for Nokia but being part of company he was unable to make comapany survive and at the end it was sold to MS at very low cost. I guess this is time to bring someone from outside the oraganization with broader view and judgement.
mwagner919
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mwagner919,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:42:53 PM
The right person for the job

I'm intrigued by the idea that the board might support Ballmer's reorganization plan but think that someone else might be best to implement it. Generally speaking, when a CEO retires prematurely, it's because the board wants a different direction. If they wanted to continue in the same direction, they would have kept the old guy.

People who want Gates to step aside as activist chairman are right. He's just not in touch with the industry anymore. The work Gates is doing is important and admirable, but doesn't keep him involved in technology. 

mwagner919
IW Pick
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mwagner919,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:42:05 PM
Re: Elop or Mulally
Mullaly is an intriguing choice. Can we really say that he has no experience with a technology company? Gartner has correctly noted that every company today is a technology company, and surely Boeing is a great example. Manufacturing giant jets is certainly not a low-tech operation!

Mullaly would bring perspective from a company that is -- or should be -- one of Microsoft's core customers. 
mwagner919
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mwagner919,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2013 | 6:39:30 PM
Re: Go Outside
Elop should not be the next CEO. He's got too much Microsoft in his blood, and does not have a record turning around a struggling company and making it successful. 
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