Under the care of its second CEO, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has either been an unprecedented success or an embarrassing failure for the past thirteen years. Strictly in terms of profit, Steve Ballmer has brought Microsoft great success, but in terms of failed and ignored new products and the trifling stock price, Ballmer did not do Microsoft any favors.
While he was CEO, Ballmer did not always listen to the wishes of Microsoft’s investors. They wanted a more conservative approach which focused on the profitable projects, such as Microsoft Office and Windows Server. Instead, Ballmer has seen through the debt-driving projects of Surface, Zune, and Bing. The primary problem with the Zune is that it came out years after the iPod, yet was modeled after it with few perks that the iPod did not already have. The primary problem with Bing is that it is running as a direct competitor to the Google search engine, and yet, by virtue of being brand new with a set of engineers that cannot compete with Google’s long-term employees, cannot hope to compete with Google.
The primary issue with the Surface is that it is one in a million tablets, coming out years after its competitors. These three products follow a distinct pattern of following in the footsteps of other products, offering too little too late. Profit-wise, Steve Ballmer’s reign brought great success, but in terms of investing in the future of the company, creating new products that people want, Steve Ballmer performed abysmally.
There are two distinct problems which are interfering with Microsoft’s successes in its new products. One problem is that Microsoft has become less popular as a company. When people think of new, innovative technology, Microsoft no longer comes to mind. Microsoft is for the essentials built into every personal computer, not for cutting-edge pop culture gadgets. Because of this idea that people carry as a whole, new Microsoft products are less likely to be picked up when there are similar products being offered by other companies. In order to work around this obstacle, Microsoft would need to move back into software, focusing on products like Word and Windows Server, which are still widely used, if taken for granted. If Microsoft were to come upon an innovative new piece of software to replace Word, perhaps Microsoft would build its own niche in the modern market.
The second problem interfering with the successes of Microsoft’s new products is the lack of new ideas behind them. On one hand, all of Microsoft’s new products in the 21st century have been failures. On the other hand, Microsoft hasn’t created any new products. If Microsoft has not had any success creating new products, then perhaps the fix is to start from a vision of a new, original product not copied from existing technology.
In regards to the short-term, Steve Ballmer brought an era of tremendous profit to Microsoft. However, he brought difficulties to the long term by failing to break into the modern technology market. In order to rescue Microsoft, the next CEO would most ideally bring in exciting new ideas to the software department, thereby satisfying both the customers and the investors.
It is not necessarily important for Microsoft to adopt a special strategy to keep stock prices up while making investments into research and development. It is, however, necessary for Microsoft’s research and development investments to turn success. Microsoft’s stock price is abysmal at the moment, but all would be fixed by the appearance of new, creative, successful products. In other words, if Microsoft’s investments under Steve Ballmer had been into something truly new, the stock price likely would not have suffered at all, creating a continuous cycle of investments and profit once again.