Replacing Steve

No, not me. When it comes to VodkaPundit, this site is run on The Highlander Principle: There can be only one! But it’s been months since Steve Ballmer announced his imminentish departure from Microsoft, yet Redmond still hasn’t announced his successor. Jean-Louis Gassée has a theory:


So where does Microsoft turn, and why are they taking so long? Once you put aside the Mr./Ms. Perfect fantasy, there’s no dearth of capable executives with the brains and guts to run Microsoft. These are people who already run large corporations, or are next-in-line to do so. Exec recruiters worth the pound of flesh they get for their services have e-Rolodexes full of such people — some inside the company itself.

Now, place yourself inside the heart and mind of this intelligent candidate:

‘Do I want to work with that Board? In particular, do I want Bill Gates and his pal Steve Ballmer hovering over everything I do? I know I’ll have to make unpopular decisions and upset more than a few people. What’s in it for me – and for Microsoft – in a situation where unhappy members of the old guard would be tempted to go over my head and whine to Bill and Steve? How long would I last before I get fired or, worse, neutered and lose my mind?’

Consider it a litmus test: Any candidate willing to accept this road to failure is automatically disqualified as being too weak. A worthy contender makes it clear that he or she needs an unfettered mandate with no Office Of The Second Guessing in the back of the boardroom. Bill and Steve would have to go — but the Old Duo doesn’t want to leave.


How does a board replace or sideline the company’s two largest shareholders? Short of a shareholder revolt, it just isn’t possible. But if Gassée is right, Microsoft’s necessary reforms can’t happen while Steve & Bill still sit on the board.

The company can soldier on for years, with its enterprise cash cows to keep on milking. But without any growth markets to exploit, the company will remain ripe for disruption until and unless it gets real leadership.

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