Hang on Fast – Ballmer out!

Business Speak

ballmer2 webActually, it was a brilliant move on Microsoft’s part, when they announced Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s pending retirement (last week) on a slow

news day--a Friday in late August. Better yet–the Ballmer news competed with the Windows 8.1 Release To Manufacturing (RTM) rumor, so it was diluted. It’s right out of the Washington DC political playbook: Release bad news on a Friday in late August!
But was it really bad news? Microsoft’s stock scored robust gains (7%) on Friday, following the Ballmer news. Early gossip in the close-knit SMB channel is that Ballmer’s departure is likely a “good thing,” but I would personally balance that with, “be careful of what you ask for in life – you might just get it."

A look back at the Ballmer era reveals to me that his love for SMB peaked during the 2003-2005 time frame. The acclaimed SBS 2003 product had shipped in October 2003 at the Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans and was the “focus.” If you recall that era, SMB was mentioned consistently in keynotes, workshops and even the closing party. Furthermore, the marketing director for SBS, Katy Hunter, went on to become Ballmer’s speech writer, giving SMB IT Pros instant access to the top.

Fast-forward the Ballmer movie 10 years, and SMB is rarely mentioned anymore. Now it’s all about big data, cloud, hybrid, devices and services. I understand that yes, times change, but with all due respect, so do people occupying the corner office.

Being Seattle-based, I’ll continue to monitor this situation closely over the next few months. Although Ballmer is saying he’ll take up to 12 months to leave his post until a suitable successor is named, MarketWatch today reports that Ballmer’s last day could be sooner. That’s not a big surprise as organizations such as Microsoft tends to make your departure announcement date your last day on the job. Just ask anyone who was RIFed in Redmond in June and received a 60-day paycheck on their way out the door.

My hope and desire is that Microsoft doesn’t transform into Amazon (translation: a highly efficient direct model with little room for the partner). However, I still do believe that an SMB IT Pro is touching nearly every IT transaction as very few SMBs are truly Do-It-Yourself (DIY).

While there is much speculation as to who will land Ballmer’s job, it is my hope that the position goes to a channel-friendly outsider, rather than someone internal like Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s current COO. For the record, and at the request of Lars Andersson, a long-time reader, I’ve already submitted my resume…LOL!

PS – Steve: If you are reading this, I hope you focus on bringing an NBA basketball team back to Seattle!

PPS – Thank you for your stewardship over the years at Microsoft. Take a bow….