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Microsoft insiders question top leadership

Given the number of high-profile executives leaving Microsoft in recent months, there are some inside (and out) of the company that wonder if Steve Ballmer is the problem, rather than the solution, for Microsoft.

Some even speculate about a “draft Bill” movement to bring back co-founder and chairman Bill Gates as CEO. That may be wishful thinking by the cadre at the company that view Gates much like the Apple faithful viewed Steve Jobs, who returned from exile to “rescue” Apple with the holy iTrinity (iPod, iPhone and iPad.)

That seems far-fetched given Gates’ work with his foundation. He now has real outside interests, after all.

 The latest exec out the door in Redmond will be Ray Ozzie, Gates’ hand-picked successor as chief software architect. But Ozzie was preceded by Stephen Elop (a relative newbie brought in less than two years from Juniper ago to run the Office juggernaut. Elop left last month to become CEO of Nokia.) Robbie Bach, who’d headed games, left this fall after nearly 20 years. J. Allard, of X-box fame, also called it a day, although allegedly continues to serve as an advisor to Ballmer.

The natives at Microsoft are, indeed, restless about all these exits.

From Mini-Microsoft:

“…there’s been serious concern that Mr. Ballmer is clearing the executive bench at Microsoft. Or is it cleaning house? Since we’re unable to criticize any mistakes our departed leaders have made, it remains a big unknown.”

 Wall Street is not enamored of Ballmer who spent big on Internet search, Windows phones and other things where Microsoft has yet to achieve substantive market share. Given that the last quarter went very well  based on very strong sales of Windows and Office, one might think they’d give the guy a break.  (Microsoft’s profit soared 51% for the first quarter.) But not clear they’re doing so.

For its first fiscal quarter–the first full quarter of sales for Office 2010–the company said that division’s sales rose 14% to hit just over $5 billion compared to $4.52 billion for the year-ago period. The Microsoft Business Division also includes the company’s ERP and CRM software, but Office is by far the giant in that group.)

Windows led the company this quarter, with sales of the relatively new Windows 7 up 66% to $4.79 billion compared to $2.88 billion for the comparable quarter last year.

Still, for all that goodness, doubts around Ballmer’s leadership–and his huge gambles on Internet search and Windows phones– persist.


Here’s the money quote from  The Wall Street Journal.


“The coming quarters will be big tests of Chief Executive  Steve Ballmer’s big investments in new consumer markets. The company continues to lose money in its online services division, as its operating loss in the group widened to $560 million from $477 million in the year-ago quarter.”


There are even those who whisper about some other CEO replacement possibilities. One longtime Microsoft insider even dropped the “H bomb,”  speculating that Mark Hurd might be a suitable CEO-in-waiting for Microsoft. Hurd, as you may have heard, is co-president at Oracle Corp., after a profitable sojourn as HP’s CEO.  But as we all know now, for many high-powered execs, there’s nothing like the CEO slot. Does anyone doubt that Hurd wouldn’t jump ship if such a plum were proffered? 

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at, or follow us on twitter.

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