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4/26/2014
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Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired

Steve Ballmer didn't get the credit he deserved, as evidenced by Microsoft's strong financial position when he resigned. Here are 10 reasons you've never heard about why he stepped down.
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(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who retired in February, didn't get the credit he deserved during his extraordinary 34-year career at Microsoft. While he was CEO from 2000 to 2014, the company generated an astounding $120 billion in profits and shifted its strategic focus and much of its market-leading software to the cloud. As of the beginning of the year, Microsoft was sitting on $84 billion in cash and cash equivalents. No small feat.

Microsoft's financial report on Thursday shows some of the big chinks in that armor -- a soft Windows business and a flailing Windows Phone business among them. But the fact that the company's stock is now trading near its 52-week high indicates that investors think Ballmer left a still-solid foundation for new CEO Satya Nadella to build upon.

Yes, Microsoft is way behind iOS and Android in mobile computing, remains an also-ran in search, is losing the browser wars to Firefox and Chrome, and is off to a very slow start with its Surface tablets. But it can't dominate every market in an age of rapid digital innovation and disruption. And while all of Microsoft's traditional strongholds -- Windows, Office, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL Server -- are under threat, that's the nature of the software business. It's worth noting that its SQL Server, System Center, Windows Server Premium, and Lync businesses grew by double digits last quarter, while its Azure cloud business grew 150%, thanks largely to the early success of Office 365.

Microsoft has managed a deft evolution in most of its core products (with the exception of Windows), and Nadella is now looking to tie them together under a strategy he calls "ambient intelligence." The goal: Make it easier for users at companies of all sizes to pull data from their Microsoft stores, as well as from sensors, social networks, server logs, and other third-party sources, to make more-informed decisions.

As for Ballmer, I hope he and his wife are enjoying their $20 billion in wealth and turning more of their attention to philanthropy now that he's retired. I had the privilege of interviewing Ballmer three or four times during my career, and I always found him to be personable and genuine, as well as overwhelmingly passionate. And he has a very sharp sense of humor, so I'm hoping he'd get a kick out of the following parody. Please weigh in with your own barbs.

Rob Preston currently serves as VP and editor in chief of InformationWeek, where he oversees the editorial content and direction of its various website, digital magazine, Webcast, live and virtual event, and other products. Rob has 25 years of experience in high-tech ... View Full Bio

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mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/26/2014 | 12:13:28 PM
More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
Mr. Ballmer didn't retire.  He took his money and ran as fast as he could. He saw all the lawsuits coming from consumers, partners, down-line, vendors and governments.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/27/2014 | 9:47:35 AM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
It's highly unlikely that a plaintiff would be able to pierce the corporate veil to endanger the CEO's assets.  That's part of the point of the corporation structure (the trade-off being double taxation).

The worst that would happen to him if a major lawsuit happened would be having to take time out of his schedule to testify in a deposition or a trial.

Inverse137
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Inverse137,
User Rank: Strategist
4/27/2014 | 10:57:32 AM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
True, and IF the corporate veil were pierced and they went after an individual there would most likely be criminal charges and it would not matter in the slightest if that person were retired.

 

Myopic comments by myopic people.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 12:29:09 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
It cost me $70 to install software to recover the data and applications Microsoft deleted without my knowledge or consent. How's that for a start? How about basically forcing users to use a Microsoft account to access their dekstops.  I have plenty of Microsoft accounts, but I have no desire to notify Microsoft everytime I log on or off of my own personal desktop on hardware I own.  It is none of their business. I prefer to use other services for what Microsoft offers, such as Google Drive, etc.  I don't own a Microsoft phone or tablet, and it is doubtful I ever will.  Microsoft's creeed is to try and force the user into a mold they may not want to fit into and they do it without the user's knowledge of the options or consequences. It is corporate averice at its worst and will only be challenged when Microsoft faces severe fiduciary costs for this horrible and offecnsive behavior.

I hope this answers your question.
TeaPartyCitizen
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TeaPartyCitizen,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 12:51:54 PM
Leaving MS with only a 4% share of mobile is not a "solid foundation"
A foundation like that would look like a piramid turned upside down.
anon0216885350
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anon0216885350,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:53:37 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
Mr Ballmer's rejection of the Business and Corporate community in favor of the mobile market (low end users) was irresponsible. That's why the majority of Windows computers still run XP, or more so, 7. I remember his Exec VP, Tami Reller, absolutely lying about the adoption rate of Win 8 and stating that "the touch screen is the future". I thought, here I am typing an 8 page engineering report with formulas and graphics and in the near future I'll have to finger in the details/data. Not going to happen. Then to add injury to insult, "we listened" and out came Win 8.1. Nothing but lip service. Now we're faced with Win 8.2 (update, upgrade, service pack 1, or whatever they're calling it). Unless they release Win 9 and it makes sense, MS will become obsolete. People have work to do and are not going to play games with MS, nor the cloud, nor Office 365.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 4:34:45 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
Yet Microsoft has just completed the purchase of Nokia! They have a very minor presence in the Mobil market and I just don't understand the thinking here. Is owning a phone manufacturer the key to deeper market penetration?  This sounds to me like a bass-akwards approach.  Mobil device manufacturers put OSs on their devices which consumers covet. Microsoft needs to break the barrier of acceptance. Instead they seem to be taking the tack they will just force it down the throats of consumers based upon the gadgets on a phone, not the quality of the OS on them. This would only be done by a desperate and misguided organization which has for too long weilded way to much perceived power over markets. This crash will be ugly.

The real travesty is that Microsoft is not listening anymore. They seem to relish in the act of killing the messenger.  The 'we know better than you do' mindset will continue to accrue losses and legal and market backlashes to their incredibly stupid and greedy approach to their users will mount.

If I was Steve Ballmer and I saw that kind of future, I would bail too. The sooner the better.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/28/2014 | 6:01:21 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
> They seem to relish in the act of killing the messenger

 

Is that a pun?  ;)
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/28/2014 | 6:07:29 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
> Microsoft's creeed is to try and force the user into a mold they may not want to fit into and they do it without the user's knowledge of the options or consequences.


Agreed...

...but name one non-open-source competitor of Microsoft that doesn't fit that description.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2014 | 6:40:08 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
I will give you this example.  Let's say you want to download a song from iTunes.  While I would have to authenticate to the iTunes site in order to download apps or songs, I would not have to log into my computer with my apple ID in order to do that. In order for me to download the 'free' Solitair games Microsoft offers, I could not just authenticate to their download site, I had to change the authentication method on my computer in order to be enabled for downloading these free apps. While federated services (single sign-on) can be a good idea, it cannot be forced on the user. Microsoft has taken an opt-out philosophy, which goes against every grain of independence I can think of, especially when the only opt-out option is to eliminate Windows altogether as you seem to think is a viable option. Well that is not a viable option for a large swath of consumer and corporate users and it is only averice on the part of Microsoft which would give them the idea that this is acceptable.  It is not. Not to me and I would venture to a very large part of the user base as well.  Some savvy lawfirm is going to recognize the opportunity here and will enjoin this fight with Microsoft. I believe there would be a huge amount of public and political support which would wither Microsoft's resolve back reality. And this is not just in the US.  The EU is much tougher than the US.

 

There is another issue I want to ellucidate. The product Micorsoft is selling is named Windows.  Where did that name come from? It came from the ability to take applications and resize them any way you wanted in multiple 'windows' on your desktop and move them independently around your screen. By the new methods in version 8 the OS should be renamed Half Pipe as you only have two choices in 'window' size, full or half screen, period.  And it wasn't until the latest update to ver. 8 that you were even given the ability to minimize or close an open application! Microsoft has betreayed their own legacy.  It is only because they have completely lost their way would they force every user into the same mold. That is antithetical to the idea of the founding value of Windows.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 11:06:26 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
Apple, I would suggest, is the epitome of companies that tells customers to sit down, shut up, and listen to how it's going to be for them, for better or worse.  (Your computer won't boot correctly?  Time to buy a new Mac.)

But that aside...

> While federated services (single sign-on) can be a good idea, it cannot be forced on the user.


Yes it can.  It's called a licensing/terms of use agreement.

Just because something is highly disagreeable doesn't necessarily elevate it to the level of legal travesty.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2014 | 7:29:50 AM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
< Just because something is highly disagreeable doesn't necessarily elevate it to the level of legal travesty.

That is precisely what a legal challenge is.
Inverse137
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Inverse137,
User Rank: Strategist
4/27/2014 | 10:55:42 AM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
What, exactly, will "the world" be suing microsft over?

 

The beauty of the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice.  The curse is that everyone uses it.
anon0216885350
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anon0216885350,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:57:53 PM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
For pain and suffering committed against the masses. Sounds like a good lawsuit to me.
jbelkin
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jbelkin,
User Rank: Strategist
4/26/2014 | 6:18:05 PM
He was 50% An Idiot
You are free to kiss his *** or yea, there's no reason to beat a dead horse but you broight it up. When Gates left, it was a simply the high tech industry. By 2000, it started to cleave between an enterprise tech market and a consumer high tech market. If MS concentrated on the former, you can see where they would be - massive with 80% margins and HUNDREDS of BILLIONS in the bank or also owning other major brands in the enterprise tech industry. Instead, because Ballmer wanted his legacy to be as great as Steve Jobs-Bill Gates, he WASTED HUNDREDS of BILLIONS chasing the consmer market that they clearly had NO BUSINESS in now and then. Just as Cisco bailed on their consumer brands, Ballmer figured by sheer will, they would be hugely successful. Here's the difference - in the music indstry, Ballmer tried to lock up digital with WMA by selling the DRM setup to the music industry - works great for them but consumers hated it - first with MP3's and later because Apple figured out that if you actually figure out what consumers wanted, they would win - in fact, through most of the ipod era, all itunes tracks were still with DRm so it wasn't just that but the fact that MS' culture couldn't figure what consumers wanted. But hey, why not spend a billion on the ZUNE years too late to make a difference. The Xbox? MS spent $20 BILLION to launch it and eetually wrote it off - bottom line, they needed to sell 1-billion units to break even, they fell about 900 million units short - that is Ballmer's math. ANd what's worse, by selling a $5K WIN PC without virii and driver issues as an Xbox for $399 & later $299, they killed the high end PC Market ... or in 10 years, $1k+ WIN PC's wnt from 97% market share to less than 1% today. So, not only has the Xbox created a $30 billion black hole, how much did they lose by killing the $1k WIN PC market? Or his topper - predicting the iphone is NOTHING. The iPhone division is LARGER than ALL OF MICROSOFT - think about that. It's one thing to be defeated by a nimbler competitor but it's another where the CEO does NOT recognize the future AT ALL. Or Google, MS dismissing that search is worth anything so they basically gave up on MSN. How much as Google taken in ad sales in the past 10-years? Ballmer kept his job ONLY because he was Gates roommate in college - for shareholders, Ballmer probably costed them $250-$350 BILLON in equity (whether in market cap or dividends that were wasted on things like plays4aure, Bob, $6 BILLION for Vista, Zune, Xbox, KIN, win CE, win mobile, webTV, surface RT, etc, etc ...) in fact, Ballmaer had exactly ZERO consumer successes* in his ENTIRE career as CEO. Think about that. He may have cost one corporation the most amount of market cap & writeoffs in the history of corporations - so he has that ... and walks away with $20 billion after stock buybacks to prop up the stock after HE tanked it. Ballmer was a fine bad cop during the Gates early era of tech but BOTH of them were outclassed and out-clued when the high tech industry switched. Gates was smart enough to get out and be seen as a good guy. Ballmer was not a war-time general - he was fine when all you needed was a guy to shout to get people to march around nice but he was the Pearl Harbor commander who piled all his planes and ships together.
BeeR435
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BeeR435,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:18:08 AM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
jbelkin - That may be true, but a little formatting goes a long way - your giant wall of text could be more intelligently organized... and shorter - much shorter.  Also ALL CAPS often underminds your arguments... just aying.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 12:16:06 PM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
Like the guy they hired to shepard Windows 8 through the corporate rand at Microsoft.  He was universally despised within and they fired when he was finished. he will probably go down as the person whoi killed Microsoft. he was deaf to every objection staff and users brought before him because he thought he was going to be the next Steve Jobs.  This idiot had not a clue as to what it was that gave Steve Jobs his unique genius.  yes, Steve Jobs was difficult and explosive, but those are not the defining characteristics of Steve Jobs personality. In the case of Microsoft, it was.  And the leadership within Microsoft, like Steve Ballmer, refused to recognize the dangers. They were well outside the loop and blind and deaf to the true consequences of their actions.  It is time Microsoft pay for this and the incredible amount of cost associated with integrating their new OS and the philiosophy behind it.

In my estimation, the philosophy behind Win 8 is the ability to deliver it as a service to any device you own, as long as it is a Microsoft device.  The ability to deliver this service, known variably as Desktop as a service (DAAS) or Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) is controlled solely by Microsoft. Service providers can only provide these services in the user purchases their OS first, then pay for the service of delivering to them to their various devices.  Only Microsoft retains the ability to lease the software to consumers on a per device basis.  Unless you are familiar with this market, it is another over-reach by Microsoft.  

So not only has Microsoft pissed of the consumer and their serive provider partners, the enterprise IT folks are just as peaved. Managing Windows 8 in familiar ways is gone.  Let's say you want to deploy Win 8 desktops for corporate users.  Mind you, 99% of corporate users are not very tech savvy.  Their IT departments have spent untold hours making their user's desktop interface as simple to use as possible. Things like placing shortcuts to applications on desktops, and only those shortcuts, plus maybe IE or Chrome or Mozilla, etc. There is a scant toolbox for doing this in Win 8.  And the fact that prior to Win 8.1 there was no way to boot to a desktop exacerbates the issue. In effect Microsoft was forcing their corporate users to use the Metro interface.  Now I am an IT person and I am pretty tech savvy by definition.  If I struggle with this interface, you can be sure the nominal user will be totally lost.  What IT department has the time and the manpower to cmpletely retrain their employees on how to simply access files through an Explorer interface, or easily start Outlook or Word. The stupidity and bone-headedness of Microsoft cannot be underestimated here. And it is time they are severely taken down a few notches.  In my estmation the only way to do that is through their pocket book and that means class action lawsuits.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/27/2014 | 9:51:01 AM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
To be fair, the XBox Kinect has seen enterprise applications and successes.

Enterprise technology often gets adopted when it becomes popular enough in the consumer market.  Case in point: the iPhone (which CIOs largely hated at one point, back when Blackberry was cock of the walk).
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 11:55:57 AM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
I was not referring to suing Steve Ballmer, I was referring to the loss of value Microsoft is going to see when class action lawsuits start to bear on the value of Microsoft.

I recently upgraded to Windows 8.1.  What I found out is that Microsoft thinks they now own your PC to the point they decide when your old data will be deleted from your system without the slightest warning to the user. In my estimation, Microsoft does not have the right to do this and losses of data from millions of users is a good value proposition for the cost of a class action lawsuit against Microsoft. They also make it extremely difficult to use a machine with Windows 8 installed on it to work without a Microsoft account. It is very well hidden from the consumer how to use a local account in essence forcing users to create a Microsoft account even if they do not wish to have one. I recently wanted to update my games on the new OS (Solitair, etc.). Games which were native to every Microsoft OS before Windows 8.  In order to download the 'free' versions of those apps for Windows 8 I had to change my profile to a Microsoft account.  No way around it.  This is an abuse of power when a company reaches onto hardware you own and dictates how you must authenticate to your own hardware and the software you purchased from Microsoft. Purchased is the key. I did not lease it or rent it. I purchased it. For this and a slew of other over-reaches by the ill-conceived policies of Microsoft, they are absolutely ripe for class action lawsuits which in my estimation will seriously affect the viability of the company.  At this point in time, I feel that is the only way to ride the market of the scourge which has become Microsoft. And that would seriously affect Steve Ballmer's bottom line, hence taking his money and running.  Maybe then the will be sized properly to realizre their proper place in the market.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/28/2014 | 6:00:03 PM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
Just a general comment... You don't "purchase" software (not in the way you're referring to, anyway).  You purchase a license to use software under certain terms and conditions.

The company isn't reaching onto the hardware you own any more than you allow it to.  You're free to delete Windows, reformat your hard drive, and install Ubuntu or some other OS.

Not defending the policies, or -- for that matter -- singing the praises of Windows 8/8.1.  I just don't think this has much of anything to do with Ballmer's retirement.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2014 | 6:44:01 PM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
< Not defending the policies, or -- for that matter -- singing the praises of Windows 8/8.1.  I just don't think this has much of anything to do with Ballmer's retirement.

Please keep in mind my addition to the 'Top 10 list' was offered in the same tongue-in-cheek vein as the original article.
petey
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petey,
User Rank: Strategist
4/26/2014 | 8:35:51 PM
Credit
Maybe he is smarter than he got credit for? In this era of transformation maybe he was smart enough to step aside and let the younger Turks push the rock.
wdollar338
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wdollar338,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 12:01:19 PM
Bullet Head was a train wreck for shareholders
Steve Ballmer has a high IQ and a very low Social IQ! On balance he was a "train wreck" for the shareholders and Bill Gates never seemed to really care! Year after year Ballmer made horrible decisions and blew tens of billions of dollars and yet Bill Gates never seemed to care! But the good news is he is finally gone, and the new guy will get them back on track.
anon0216885350
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anon0216885350,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:41:43 PM
Steve Ballmer's retirement
Mr Ballmer didn't retire, he was shown the door.
A. Wolf
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A. Wolf,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:43:51 PM
Pretty sure the ten reasons were these.
DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS.
anon9762084328
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anon9762084328,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 3:04:23 PM
Because he wants to follow his true calling
That is to say, sleazy second-hand car salesman.
dericw
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dericw,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 3:11:03 PM
The markets changed- Ballmer didn't.
I think he was basically just the guy Gates trusted most to stay the course and to keep on doing things the way that used to work so well for them.  They were too slow to adapt and had fostered a self destructive corporate culture so it was time for Ballmer and many others to move on.

Metro simply belongs on mobile.  It should take the back seat to the classic desktop interface which allows people to be more productive.  Let the people who want it on their desktop enable it, not the other way around.

 
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/28/2014 | 7:21:26 PM
Re: The markets changed- Ballmer didn't.
< Metro simply belongs on mobile.  It should take the back seat to the classic desktop interface which allows people to be more productive.  Let the people who want it on their desktop enable it, not the other way around.

This is an excellent solutiion. Simple, straight forward and keeps decisions in the hands of the end user.  

It just seems Microsoft is a slave to their greediness. It cannot end well for Microsoft if they continue down this course.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/28/2014 | 7:28:18 PM
In the cloud, the customer tells provider what he wants to do
Steve Ballmer started the transition to the cloud, but it was going to take a different kind of personality to complete it. He had one foot in the old school of make the customer conform to what you want versus the new world of giving customers the opportunity do what they want. Amazon Web Services, Google, Rackspace, SoftLayer open up vast possibilties for what the customer wants to do for minimal upfront costs. 
asdmognep
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asdmognep,
User Rank: Strategist
4/29/2014 | 2:25:24 AM
MicroSlop failed, not Balmer
MicroSlop, like Yahoo, failed to be an industry leader like Google.. Microsoft was alway running after the companies that provided us with the things we really needed.


Google gave us email connected to our friends with a back up drive free, gave us android OS for tablets and phones that work very nicely.

What did Micro$lop offer? It upgraded hotmail to compete with gmail. it gave us win8, a total failure for PC's so they (as they thought if they actually think) could compete with the growing tablet and phone market.

Basically Microsoft failed since they did not encourage independent thinking to develop new products and new markets and were basically a look and see what is going and come up with a good imitation.

Office 365? for what? I can get OpenOffice, LibreOffice and Kingsoft Office for free. why should I pay for MicroSlop?

It was not Balmer that failed but the whole M$ mentallity that failed to actually think and in its stead, preferred to follow the market. That is where the failure was and still is.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 11:08:48 PM
Re: MicroSlop failed, not Balmer
> MicroSlop, like Yahoo, failed to be an industry leader like Google.. Microsoft was alway running after the companies that provided us with the things we really needed.



You mean like Wave, or Buzz?  ;)
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 3:23:55 PM
Re : Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired
Coming right on the heels of some major strategic changes at Microsoft, including Bill Gates' resignation from the chairmanship of the company to take on a more active hands-on role, it is easy for most people (especially those addicted to conspiracy theories) to assume that Mr. Ballmer was shown the door. But this is hardly the case; he has been in the company for more than 3 decades and it is during his tenure at the helm that the company was at its strongest financially.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2014 | 3:27:05 PM
Re: Re : Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired
I would say that Steve Ballmer did an excellent job at the helm of the company and the fact that his successor has managed to stay afloat without any hiccups, even in the face of major challenges from competitors and failing sectors such as its Surface tablets, is literally a testimony to the fact that he left a strong foundation. His leaving was simply to pave the way for someone better placed to take the company in a new direction and we all know that his successor is well versed in these, especially when it comes to cloud and mobile solutions.
EarthlingUS
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EarthlingUS,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/30/2014 | 1:25:03 PM
Why the intro?
Long, fawning intro kind of ruins the "parody" that follows.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 9:40:52 AM
Re: Why the intro?
I see your point and thought the same as I was writing the intro. But I wanted to give the guy his due. I still have a lot of respect for the man and the executive, even if I lobbed some barbs.
davelear01
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davelear01,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/20/2014 | 4:40:31 PM
Junk Read
Way to mail it in.  Did you write this at lunch?  We all get a good parody, unfortunaltly they have to be clever and witty which this was not.  Of course if I assume every bald man looks like SB, you may have something.   
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