Steve Ballmer’s only failing was delivering sustaining growth (from $20 to over $70 billion in sales.) He did exactly what all managers are incentivized to do and avoided all the wasteful cannibalization for which they are punished.
If anything, Steve Ballmer avoided The Innovator’s Curse. Being successful with new market innovations would probably have led to an even shorter tenure. Destroying prematurely the pipeline of Windows in favor for a profit-free mobile future would have been a fireable offense. Where established large companies are concerned, markets punish disruptors and reward sustainers.
Steve Ballmer will not be remembered as favorably as the man who created Microsoft. But at least he won’t be remembered as the fool who killed it. That epitaph is reserved for his successor.
Maybe instead it’s the board that should quit within 12 months.
The line that really stood out at me though was, “Where established large companies are concerned, markets punish disruptors and reward sustainers.” That might explain why AAPL retreated from its highs and has mostly stayed retreated, with a dismal P/E.