Microsoft, What Happened?!

I just read an interesting and heartbreaking article on 37signals that is a very frank discussion of the poor job Steve Ballmer is doing running Microsoft.

I'm not going to try and hide the fact that I've always been a pretty big Microsoft fan. After all, they drive a majority of the software I use every day to be productive, and I've grown to love (and financially depend on) developing in .NET. I also think that Microsoft is especially gracious to their development community (especially when you compare them to the jerks at Apple).

The stagnation of Microsoft's profits is especially devastating because of the future effect it will have on the market and development community. When Bill Gates ran the show it fostered some really intense competition between Microsoft and Apple. This competition led to better products, which in turn, led to more productive and happy customers. Now, Microsoft is on the decline (or at the very best stuck on a plateau) and Apple doesn't have a Goliath to compete with anymore. In this environment, everyone loses.

Here's an overview of Microsoft's stock while Gates and Ballmer were in charge.

Now, do I think that Ballmer is 100% to blame for Microsoft's performance in the past decade? Not entirely. There are plenty of things going on in the world that can affect a company's earnings. But, I will say that I think Ballmer is a huge part of the reason Microsoft isn't doing as good as it could be. And, if Bill Gates was still CEO, I imagine that he would have found a way to make Microsoft profitable.

Let me just end with this. If you are in charge of leading people - no matter how many - the image you portray will play a huge part in how your team performs and I think this 37signals article shows that. When you lead, it is vital that you set a good example for those working under you so that you all can be awesome.

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What do you think?