Showing posts with label Bill Gates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Gates. Show all posts

August 24, 2013

Ballmer Led Microsoft Into The Ground

Steve Ballmer, one of the forefathers of Microsoft (with a career spanning 3 decades there) and its CEO since 2000, is finally retiring.

Well what can we say except, Thank G-d!

The Wall Street Journal reports how the markets cheered yesterday with Microsoft stock rising 7% at his exit and that's with no successor identified.

In other words, better nobody, than Steve Ballmer somebody!

Ballmer managed to take the genius of Gates and a company stock valuation of $603 billion in 2000 and turn it into less than half--$290 billion--by the time he announced he was going.

Not bad destroying over $313 billion of value in a little more than a decade.

Gates was the visionary--the inventor (with the help of Apple) of Windows and Microsoft Office.

He was brilliant and he left us with products that still today dominate desktop computing, which was predominantly what existed up until he handed the reins to Ballmer.

But since 2000--we have smartphones and tablets--bringing Microsofts's share of market to just 15% today.

Ballmer was an operations guy (not what you need in a fast-changing technology market), while Gates was a innovator (who could spearhead the change itself).

Ballmer was the wrong man for the right job.

A technology guru could've taken the lofty perch Microsoft sat on in 2000 and used it as a springboard to the technology stars and beyond, but an operations nerd could only run it into the ground.

Yes, Microsoft is still highly profitable at almost $22 billion last year on sales of $78 billion--nothing to sneeze at--but the problem is they are fighting last decades technology war.

That's why Apple, Google, and Amazon eclipse Microsoft in prestige and excitement, if not all by market share (yet).

In almost 14 years, Ballmer couldn't manage one major fully new product innovation--except Xbox in 2001 (let's cough that one up to Gates), Bing in 2009 (a Google look-alike), and Kinect in 2010 (Ok, maybe one cool thing).

Ballmer couldn't even put in a place a viable succession plan and is leaving the company in a chaotic leadership void for the top spot.

Gates was smart to sell the vast majority of his stake in Microsoft--not because they are not a great company with lots of talented people, but because without a true leader at the helm, they are lost in the vast technology sea of change without direction or innovation of their own.

Ballmer, it was 14 years too long, maybe now there is still hope for Microsoft to rise and be great again. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


November 13, 2011

Designer Bobigner

In a book review in Fortune Magazine (7 November 2011) of "Steve Jobs: The Biography...His Rivalry With Bill Gates", one of Apple's early employees from the 1980's is quoted as saying "Each one thought he was smarter than the other one, but Steve generally treated Bill as someone who was slightly inferior, especially in matters of taste and style."
While Microsoft seemed to lead for many years especially in terms of "business acumen," in the end, Apple built the "more valuable company"--Jobs was the design extraordinare and his imagination for user-centric product designs like the iPhone, iPad, iMac and more touched people in ways that no "other business leader of our time could possibly match."
I have found that not everyone overtly appreciates the importance of design--and in fact, some people make fun of it, almost like children chanting "designer bobigner"--whether because they value function over design or they simply don't have "taste and style" like Steve Jobs complained about his rival.
In either case, I think people who seem or act oblivious to the importance of design are missing the incredible power of those who can develop products with an eye towards beauty, novelty, and functionality combined. A computer is a magnificent thinking machine, but an Apple is generally a work of art.
Think about how people neurotically cover their Apple devices with all sorts of protective cases as if it were a precious jewel instead of a just a phone or computer.
Art is treated as priceless, but a computer is often just a commodity. However, Steve Jobs knew how to combine the functional power of a computer with the design of a master.
While "Big Box" retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco continue to grow and expand, our world seems smaller because of it--their shelves and aisles are stocked high with rows and rows of commodity, look-a-like goods of toothpaste, sweat pants, and TVs; it is easy to forget that those products that are really valuable to us, usually aren't just good to use, but great to hold, feel, and look at.
In this light, I found two product designs that I thought were pretty cool to share.
The first is the white milk container that says Milk and the other is a box of tea bags, each bag with its own hanger for display and use of the side of a cup. The ideas are so simple, yet somehow so creative and appetizing. Two age-old commodities like milk and tea can be made new and special by how we package and meld with it in our environment.
Like the Chinese concept of feng shui, there are brilliant ways to develop our surroundings that energize and inspire, and great design is a magical element in a commodity world and what was not so long ago dominated by the one color black Ford Model-T.
Thank you Steve Jobs and the many other great design minds out there--keep the special things coming that make us say, "I want one!"
(Source Photos: here)


January 30, 2011

Computer History Museum - Check IT Out!

I am very excited about the Computer History Museum housed in Mountain View, CA. (Silicon Valley) since 2002 (although I don't think that their overview video necessarily does it justice).
The computer museum was recently revamped with a $19 million renovation in large part from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to BusinessWeek (Jan. 31-Feb. 6 2011), "the museum documents the rise not only of computers but also of technology over thousands of years."
The museum and nearby research warehouse include a collection of over 100,000 artifacts and describe "how we came of age" from a technology perspective.
Innovation is critical to where we are going to, but history is from where we are coming and from which we must preserve and learn--the Computer History Museum is the bridge between the two and can educate as well as inspire.
While I personally have not made it to the exhibits yet, I look forward to getting there soon.
And when I am there, I want to wander the halls and ponder at how all the "bits and bytes" from so many great minds have helped to transform our lives, and where things go next.


June 29, 2008

Bill Gates and Enterprise Architecture

On July 1, Bill Gates is stepping down from his day-to-day duties at Microsoft, but will continue to serve as Chairman. Bill Gates grew Microsoft into the worldwide software development leader with revenue of $51 billion for fiscal year ending June 2007 and 78,000 employees in 105 countries and regions.

As the prior CEO and chief software (and technical) architect it is definitely worthwhile to look at the legacy that Bill is leaving behind at Microsoft.

Fortune Magazine, 7 July 2008, provides four lasting imprints that Bill Gates is leaving on Microsoft and here are my thoughts on these as relates to enterprise architecture:

  1. Software can do anything—Gates has a “utopian view of software. He believes it can do anything.” Like Bill Gates, we need to believe in the mission of our organization. Such belief is critical in inspiring passion for and dedication to what we do. However, blind belief that any one thing can do anything is folly. For example, software without hardware is a no-go as is hardware without software. Both are non-starters without the people to innovatively apply them to our greatest challenges.
  2. Engineers rule—“Microsoft employees about 30,000 programmers among its 90,000 employees. In operating groups, engineers are involved in every major decision…Microsoft $8 billion computer science R&D lab is the world’s largest” Engineers are critical to solving our challenges, but you should not ignore marketing and sales either. Marketing and sales reach out and touch the people. You cannot ignore the human aspect to solving problems. Maybe it partially Microsoft’s obsessive engineering approach that has left it vulnerable on the people side, for example: “Apple’s biting ad campaign has successful painted Windows as uncool.”
  3. “Institutionalize paranoia”—“’It’s very Microsoft to prepare for the worst,’ says Gates…Bill and Steve (Ballmer) created what I guess I’d characterize as a culture of crisis,’ says chief software architect, Ray Ozzie. There’s always someone who’s going to take the company down.” Paranoia is a disorder, but fighting for competitive advantage is reality. Your competitors are not laying down to die; they are fighting for their professional lives, and you need to meet the challenge every day if you want to be the best out there.
  4. “Invest for the long term”—“Whatever the cycle is, we will keep investing through the cycle, because we know on the other side of whatever cycle happens, there is opportunity,” says entertainment division president Robbie Bach. The approach for long term planning is very enterprise architecture focused. However, the architecture planning without the good governance to administer structured, consistent, collaborative decision making is not very workable. Planning without effective decision making and enforcement falls short on the execution side. Again, perhaps here too, Microsoft could benefit from a less top heavy culture and a more open decision process, where all project and product stakeholders have a serious voice at the table. Then turning over the reins from Bill will not be as traumatic requiring approximately four years of preparation and turnover.

In the end, Microsoft is truly terrific company and Bill Gates is leaving a company that is nothing short of spectacular. Of course, even the best can get better with continuous learning and innovation and that is the next chapter for Microsoft in the world of the likes of Google and Apple.


January 24, 2008

Creative Capitalism and Enterprise Architecture

CNET News, 24 January 2008 reports that Bill Gates calls for creative capitalism “in a speech Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gates is calling on companies to think more broadly about how their products can benefit society.”

What is creative about creative capitalism?

For the last 500 hundred years or so, capitalism was considered the creative economic system based on private ownership of capital, a free enterprise, and a market economy. Capitalism was the economic “light unto the nations,” while socialism, an economic system, based on state ownership of capital and a managed economy, was deemed as inefficient and almost totalitarian in nature.

Capitalism generally refers to an economic and social system in which the means of production are predominantly privately owned and operated, and in which investments, distribution, income, production and pricing of goods and services are determined through the operation of a market economy. It is usually considered to involve the right of individuals and groups of individuals acting as "legal persons" or corporations to trade capital goods, labor, land and money. Capitalist economic practices became institutionalized in Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries, although some features of capitalist organization existed in the ancient world, and early forms of merchant capitalism flourished during the Middle Ages. Capitalism has been dominant in the Western world since the end of feudalism, It gradually spread from Europe, particularly from Britain, across political and cultural frontiers. In the 19th and 20th centuries, capitalism provided the main, but not exclusive, means of industrialization throughout much of the world.” (Wikipedia)

Well, as of today, Bill Gates has declared that capitalism is no longer creative, and we need a new capitalism called “creative capitalism”.

Is creative capitalism really a form of socialist capitalism, where the state and companies redistribute private capital based on economic and social factors? Hasn’t the country’s progressive tax system and various social programs (Medicaid, Food Stamps, Student Financial Aid…) been doing this all along, so that as a society we can take care of the needs of the less fortunate? This is an important aspect of social justice and an expression of humanity in our otherwise free enterprise system, where everyone must fend for themselves. In a purely capitalist society, you can be successful and rich beyond your wildest dreams, like Bill Gates or end up destitute and desperate. Socialist capitalism is a way to maintain an overall capitalist economy, but conceptually still take care of all people.

Is Bill Gates sincere?

“Forbes magazine's list of The World's Billionaires has ranked Gates as the richest person in the world from 1995 to 2007, with recent estimates putting his net worth over $56 billion.” (Wikipedia)

At the same time, Bill and Melinda Gates have become some of the world’s largest philanthropists (after Warren Buffet). “Much of Gates' work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has centered on two particular shortcomings of capitalism--solving health problems that affect only the poor and improving educational systems.” Of course, these are noble goals and the Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation’s contributions have been magnanimous. Moreover, “in July, Gates will step down from full-time work at Microsoft and shift his focus to the foundation.”

Then again, it’s sort of easy to call for creative capitalism, when you’re the richest man in the world.

From a User-centric Enterprise Architecture perspective, the need to take care of those less fortunate in society, rings true and just as a principled architecture goal. Our nation and our enterprises must remain human and charitable, even while we compete in the global marketplace. We cannot architect our nation and organizations to succeed merely based on economic factors, but rather must instill human dignity and altruism in the fiber of our nation, organizations, and as individuals. And while of course companies can help by being altruistic and developing products that are cost-effective for those less fortunate (some examples are the One Laptop Per Child Initiative or the $2500 automobile by Tata Motors of India), at the end of the day government must really play the primary role in ensuring that the fundamental needs of all people in society are met.