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Ballmer Turns To Geeks For Salvation

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-luck-with-that dept.

Microsoft 370

jfruhlinger writes "One of the critiques of Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO is that, as someone who came up through sales, he doesn't really get what running an innovative tech company is about. With the company board starting to question his performance — he didn't get his bonus last year because of the Kin debacle, for instance — it appears that Ballmer is planning to install engineers in high places to turn the company around."

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It sounds like... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140560)

"Hello! This is the captain of the Titanic.. do we have any iceberg engineers on-board?"

Re:It sounds like... (4, Funny)

click2005 (921437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140588)

Shouldn't that be deckchair engineers?

Re:It sounds like... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140750)

AHAHAH! It's funny because he threw a chair!

Titanic Sunk Due to Weak Rivets and Bolts not bad (2)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141156)

Titanic Sunk Due to Weak Rivets and Bolts not bad engineers. No it's some cost cutter who put the cheap ones in

Re:Titanic Sunk Due to Weak Rivets and Bolts not b (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141304)

Titanic Sunk Due to Weak Rivets and Bolts not bad engineers. No it's some cost cutter who put the cheap ones in

The iceberg was the instigator, the bad fasteners just allowed the iceberg to do a great deal more damage, "unzipping" the hull.

Either by itself probably would not have sunk the ship. Both were required, and so both deserve a share of the responsibility. There was also an idiot that didn't know his "port" from his "starboard", and a bigwig that insisted on "full speed ahead" after the collision. No one single thing sank the titanic, it was more a comedy of errors.

I turn the other cheek... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140572)

...and fart in his general direction.

Re:I turn the other cheek... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140970)

Doesn't that take TWO cheeks?

Re:I turn the other cheek... (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141056)

'Ballmer turns to geeks to save his own butt' and you turn yours to fart in his general direction?

lolwut? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140578)

So what did they have in high places, if not engineers?

Re:lolwut? (4, Insightful)

Luthwyhn (527835) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140604)

Developers, developers, developers, developers!

Re:lolwut? (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140706)

Nope... marketers, marketers, marketers, marketers.

Re:lolwut? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141094)

Yo mama, yo mama, yo mama, yo mama!

Re:lolwut? (3, Interesting)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140630)

Business people. This is oddly similar to Apple actually, where they finally turned things around with Steve Jobs who, like Steve Ballmer, is not an engineer.

Steve Jobs may be all about sales, but he effectively placed smart people with the engineering mindsets where they needed to be.

I look forward to Microsoft doing the same, but I hope that they don't just promote/hire engineers for the sake of having an engineer in the position and actually find someone capable of doing both.

Re:lolwut? (2)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140756)

Well Ballmer's previous work experience was as an assistant product manager at Procter and Gamble. That seems more like John Sculley's prior experience at Pepsi than Steve Jobs as founder of Apple.

Re:lolwut? (5, Insightful)

Dracos (107777) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140820)

Unlike Ballmer, Jobs is visionary. He has an aesthetic sense, really wants to be innovative, and has the drive to be.

Ballmer is just a pencil pushing, number crunching marketing drone who doesn't have a creative or innovative bone in his body. Because of this, nothing he does will get MS out of its slump. The MS board can only hope that Ray Ozzie is interested in the CEO job.

Steve Jobs started in electronics (was Re:lolwut?) (2)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140966)

During high school he attended after-school lectures at HP and was later hired there (alongside Steve Wozniak), then after dropping out of Reed College he worked as a technician at Atari.

William

Re:Steve Jobs started in electronics (was Re:lolwu (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141092)

During high school he attended after-school lectures at HP and was later hired there (alongside Steve Wozniak), then after dropping out of Reed College he worked as a technician at Atari.

William

Yes that impresses and awes real engineers everywhere. Jobs is a salesman, not an engineer, you stupid fanboi nigger.

Re:lolwut? (1, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141152)

There's a difference: Steve Jobs is an asshole with taste.

So when he yells at an engineer because something is not "insanely great" enough, that engineer knows that Steve Jobs is right.

If some other asshole CEO was doing the yelling, the engineer would be thinking "when can we get this over with, I have stuff to do".

Yes you need engineers, but without someone with taste, the end product would look like a Dell or a Thinkpad. The stuff works, but...

Re:lolwut? (1)

truk138 (1839364) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140846)

Sales and Makerting Douche bots!

This won't work (4, Interesting)

watanabe (27967) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140606)

Microsoft is dominated by high-end market-consuming business strategists at the top. Bill could do both; Ozzie stepped down because he couldn't replace Bill in that role. There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

Much less five of these folks. I just don't see it -- in my opinion, Microsoft needs to acknowledge it's becoming IBM, and move on gracefully to another stage in its corporate development.

Re:This won't work (2)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140778)

There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

Why not? If the head guy says: "invite this engineer guy into your strategy meetings" when he wasn't otherwise, that's a potentially very good thing.

Re:This won't work (4, Interesting)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141112)

It's rarely that simple in large organizations. The head guy can say "Invite this engineer guy to your meetings", but that in and of itself doesn't mean much. Did you chose a good "engineer guy"? Did you chose someone with a strong will, who is willing to stand up to bunch of alpha male type business people? Did you give the "engineer guy" any teeth? Or just throw him in to "advise" (read: give advice that we will ignore becasue he can't do anything about it)?

Merely putting engineers into senior positions isn't enough if he doesn't pick the right engineers with the right vision; and make sure they have the will and corporate backing to make the vision reality. GP's post simply states that he doesn't think MS has that kind of engineering leadership sitting around waiting to be picked. That may be true, they've bled a lot of visionary engineers over the years. On the other hand they have a ton of money, and (love them or hate them) lots of interesting work going on. If they really went all out to find the right people (ignoring seniority, going out side the company, etc), and then empowered those people to really make decisions, it could work.

Re:This won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141186)

I've been that engineer. Turns out they are so fucking brillant, they won't listen to anyone that actually knows what is going on. Then when they fail, as always, they attempt to blame anyone and everyone round them. The end result is rarely any different and the engineer makes no impact.

Simple fact is, most corporate leadership in the us is completely disfunctional. They refuse to learn from their mistakes, and make it a matter of pride to screw everyone around them so as to avoid admitting to themselves they are root problem.

The fatal flaw is, engineers are all too frequently not granted the authority to push their side of the debate and are all too often punished if the are able to document the real source of the fuckup. Made worse is the all too often, engineers originate from the socially broken, and are simply unable to effectively do anything other than engineering.

Its a tough problem, but the easist solution is all too often to ensure no one from marketing or sales have any input whatsoever.

Re:This won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141210)

Why not? If the head guy says: "invite this engineer guy into your strategy meetings" when he wasn't otherwise, that's a potentially very good thing.

Sure, if they put the morons responsible for the Kin in those meetings - if nothing else, it'll take up their time so they stop creating shit products! But seriously, there's a big difference between "inviting" and "listening to" and MS has a long history of the former.

Re:This won't work (3, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141212)

Inviting them to meetings and giving them authority over the project (and diluting your own authority) is not going to happen easily, even with orders from above.

It is more than putting some engineering window dressing in the spot. What they need are people who can visualize how the entire system should work. This typically spans various products. This is why Apple is successful. They realize that in order to make the iPhone appealing, they need to have iTunes clients that run a certain way and connect to a large store of data in the iTunes store. Also, Apple is more than happy to have one of their products kill off another. They had no problem letting the iPhone kill the iPod. It is better for your own products to do that then your competitor's.

At Microsoft, you'd have the device engineers, application software guys and the backend store folks all fighting each other to increase their division's profit and relevance. Old established systems would never die and they would also kill any up-and-coming projects that might unseat them by eating all of their resources.

Re:This won't work (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141216)

There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

"Why not?"

In part because of the sheer number of shares Bill Gates owned.

If you throw around your "force of will" to senior management, and you own a huge chunk of the company, they don't have a choice but to listen. If you're "just some engineer", they'll push back if they don't like what they hear.

In many ways, Microsoft was a bit of a "cult of personality" in terms of running the show -- and that isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as it moves you forward. From the sounds of it, Ballmer didn't know nearly enough about tech to make things happen.

I think it's going to be very difficult to get out of the rut of being a huge megacorp ran by business-types -- those guys don't know how to create shiny new technology. They know how to do a different set of things.

Once you no longer have a tech company being led by technologists, it becomes difficult to get the real work done. I'm sure more than a few people around here have been the ones who make product that goes into the field, but the admin staff walks all over you because they feel their job is more important to the company and you're just the guy in the back room who does the fiddly bits.

When your company is the fiddly bits, losing sight of that can be a bad thing.

Re:This won't work (4, Insightful)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140854)

Except its largely what google does right now (they have a lot of engineers working in management) - which is what I think this change comes from.

Any business who's tried to setup a contract with google knows what I'm talking about - they are a much harder company to interface with than Microsoft.

Re:This won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140872)

I think a better option is to spin-off. Very large businesses can leverage the strengths of both business genius' and tech-gurus buy spinning off WOS. Of course, going the way of IBM is a viable option (certainly has worked out well for Big Blue). I guess it just depends on what MS wants to do when they grow up.

Re:This won't work (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140874)

I think they could turn it around if they where willing to be humble. That will be the problem can the suits give the geeks the respect they need to get good products.
Windows Phone 7 is a disaster at this point in time. If it had come out when the iPhone one hit the market they would have had a chance but it is behind in features.
1. No cut and paste. "releasing it to developers doesn't count. It will count when customers have it".
2. Less multitasking than the iPhone.
And The excuse that it is a now OS really does ring hollow... Windows Phone 7! it isn't Windows Phone 1. Microsoft has been in the market for around a decade folks.
Then you have the marketing side. I am really into tech and I know next to nothing about Windows Phone 7.
Does it have seamless integration with exchange? Better than or equal to Blackberry?
Does it have seamless integration with Hotmail? As good as Gmail is integrated with Android?
Voice commands as good as Android? Hey they seem to work really well with sync which is a Microsoft product.
What about Evernote and Dropbox? Pandora?
What about bar code readers?
What about shopping apps?

I am picking on Windows Phone but it seems to be a big part of the problem. Tablets? Well Microsoft pushed them for years but they failed to catch on. Apple knocked it out of the park.

What they need to do is make a dream product. Be bold and push the limits. They have a big pile of cash still and they better start investing it in some blue sky projects that will just blow peoples socks off.
Or maybe turn the tablet and phone projects over to the XBox team.

Re:This won't work (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141162)

Microsoft shouldn't even be in the phone market. Or the console game market, or tablets, or web search, or any of this ephemeral consumer crap. If they took all the money, time, and energy they've poured into these tar pits and put it into their core business, we wouldn't have monstrosities like Windows Vista. Ballmer's obsession with competing on every imaginable front is spreading them too thin. Apple and Google know this, and despite a certain propensity for the shotgun approach at Google, both of them know good and well where their core businesses are and act accordingly. Apple isn't even interested in enterprise computing, and Google, for all its prowess in other areas, isn't much of a threat. MS needs to stop looking for blue sky projects and realize that they're a mature company in a mature industry and act accordingly, or someone will eventually eat their lunch.

Re:This won't work (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141262)

I think they could turn it around if they where willing to be humble.

I think you should learn the fucking difference between "where" and "were", you mindless functionally illiterate piece of shit.

Re:This won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140894)

In your opinion? I'll accept your opinion on this matter when you do something besides hanging on Slashdot all day.

Might work if he starts at the CEO position. (3, Interesting)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140934)

Look at what happened to many tech companies (Intel, HP, Yahoo, etc) when they replaced the tech-founder-CEOs with suits. Growth stopped and the company stagnates. Same with Microsoft.

Re:This won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140996)

When were they ever innovative? Occasionally they try something that other people fix, and it becomes common. Mostly everything they try flops. Other people fix it, then they eventually copy what the other people did. Where other people come up with great ideas/products and they try to copy, they usually flop. Example: Bing, Kin, Zune, Mobile7, ActiveDirectory, C#, .net, NetBEUI (complete with lizard), Clippy, Bob, etc.

IBM is diversified. Microsoft is a one trick pony. (4, Insightful)

crovira (10242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140998)

IBM still makes mainframes as well as software consulting. They reinvented themselves and it worked.

I don't see Microsoft ever letting go of Windows and they'll crash holding onto 'em too. Microsoft's got an R&D division that the people selling product never talk to.

It costs to much if they do.

Re:This won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141008)

Ozzie stepped down because he couldn't replace Bill in that role

Huh? I thought Ozzie finished with Microsoft because they couldn't help him with his mind.

Re:This won't work (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141202)

Going from marketing guys to engineers isn't going to help. It's just exchanging one problem for another. It might be better to put in some people with common sense who are beholden to neither side and able to mediate a sensible strategy somewhere between those two extremes.

Tech Company... (4, Funny)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140608)

taking cues from tech savvy people. What a curious concept.

Re:Tech Company... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140834)

Engineers? In a tech company? How wonderfully decadent. And just as I was switching to linux.

What is happening to america? (5, Funny)

box4831 (1126771) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140650)

he didn't get his bonus last year because of the Kin debacle

A CEO performed badly and *didn't* get a bonus? What kinda crazy topsy-turvy world do we live in now?

Re:What is happening to america? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141138)

"Badly" in this case means that the shareholders got less money.

Re:What is happening to america? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141264)

that's the old way, the new chic is to do so badly one needs and gets bailout, then to spread the bonuses around

Ballmer as a Walmart greeter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140662)

If Ballmer can't revive the company's fortunes in emerging markets such as cloud computing, smartphones and tablets, he soon could be greeting Walmart customers.

Ballmer has the qualifications to be a Walmart greeter? Is he going to jump up and down and say "yeah.. I love this store!" like in the monkey boy video after greeting each customer? :)

Re:Ballmer as a Walmart greeter? (2)

click2005 (921437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140702)

or he'll just be shouting "Bananas! Bananas! Bananas! Bananas! Bananas!".

Forget the bonus... why is he drawing salary? (2)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140668)

It's not like Ballmer doens't have tons of options as he was there from the beginning. Why doesn't he just bail on the cash like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin? It's a wonder this guy is still around, but if he really wanted to do it right he'd lead by example and put some drive back into the company.

Re:Forget the bonus... why is he drawing salary? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141110)

He most likely still believes in the company and wants to make his mark on it. Otherwise you're right, he would've followed his college buddies Gates and Allen and gone off to do something else.

What's taking them so long? (4, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141146)

If I was on the board, I would have screamed for Ballmer's dismissal in September 1999, when he drove the MS share price down by 3.8% in a single day by saying "There is such an overvaluation of technology stocks that it is absurd. I would include our stock in that category." Ballmer might be a good business person, but as far as setting the corporate culture, he is an epic fail. The big question is, who should replace him as CEO?

Re:What's taking them so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141232)

Ballmer said that?

Then he gets credit for honesty right there.

I'd vote for him for President now.

cartoon gates? (5, Insightful)

Bold_Cucumber (458278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140670)

Not tremendously relevant to the discussion, but what happened to the old borg-gates icon? I don't like the new one.

Re:cartoon gates? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140722)

It's pretty bad. Gates retains far too much humanity. There's no frickin' laser beams.

Re:cartoon gates? (2)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141080)

I thought it was just me.

The old icon was at least a bit menacing. This one just looks silly.

Lies, lies and more lies! (1)

Utopia (149375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140684)

Redmond doesn't have a Walmart....

Re:Lies, lies and more lies! (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140904)

Redmond doesn't have a Walmart....

...yet.

Re:Lies, lies and more lies! (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141168)

If things go down the tubes, I'll bet Steve opens a BallMart. It will specialize in sturdy chairs and sweat-resistant dress shirts.

Well good. (4, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140698)

I don't simply dislike MS on principle, there's a few good reasons. Shifty market practices, bloated and unnecessary software, security issues everywhere, slow to innovate...I could go on. But believe it or not I'd rather like MS. If getting a few engineers a bit higher up in the system improves things in even the tiniest way then good. Cynically, I don't think it will, but here's hoping.

Re:Well good. (4, Insightful)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141032)

For me to like MS again, not only would they have to resolve the issues you mentioned, but also completely and utterly abandon their EEE mentality; embracing standards for actual, real interoperability sake, not to modify them and make markets hostage to their will. MS could do very well as a company even on a level playing field if they really did (i) allow interoperability, (ii) didn't insist on everything being a MS only world, and (iii) actually started trying to compete on merits and good products as opposed to these cannibalistic tactics that they've employed ever since BillyG, Ballmer, and co founded MS.

Re:Well good. (2)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141182)

No, what they need to do is split applications and operating systems into 2 completely separate companies. Much like the AT&T split up, this would increase shareholder value.

Re:Well good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141198)

Having just fought through Windows Genuine (dis)Advantage on a reinstall, my number one pet peeve is don't make it hard for your legitimate customers to use your products. Otherwise they are likely to switch at the first sign of someone treating them with respect.

Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (2, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140730)

Come on. The icon is retarded and it was several years ago since Gates was with MS.

Re:Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (5, Funny)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140878)

One hopes for an animated GIF of a fat, sweaty, bald, dancing, chair-throwing monkey.

Re:Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (1)

Albert Sandberg (315235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141274)

Just an icon with a chair would be funny and insightful at the same time :-)

Re:Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (2, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140922)

The only thing worse than people who whine about New Slashdot (waaaah Idle sucks waaaah I hate kdawson waaaah why isn't there a CowboyNeal option in every poll) are the people who whine about Old Slashdot. At least the former group has to come to grips with some kind of change, regardless of how petty or minor, but dude, really, this is what you signed up for. It's not a surprise or a secret. If you don't like it, there's the door. After all, if they ever changed it, it would just be another thing for the other group with no life to whine about.

Re:Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141026)

Oh, but for the want of mod points right about now...

Pity shame the whiners wouldn't listen even if this was (Score: eighty hojillion, Absolute Truth), but you hit the nail on the head. I wonder when we'll get Mikey Kristopeit in here. I'm certain he's got all sorts of fun things to say about this new layout! And then he'll call us all "nothing" in that charming way that makes me think of Colonel Klink, only more bumbling.

Re:Please get Rid of the Stupid Borg Icon (3, Informative)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141196)

People have been telling them for years that the American flag icon is missing a red stripe at the top, but they don't care about that. Good luck!

so (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140740)

so you are saying salespeople SHOULDNT be running every company in the country? yes, i agree.

Ken Olsen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140762)

I hear he's not doing much of anything these days.

He was always proponent of the engineers in high places.

Re:Ken Olsen? (0)

Cheeko (165493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140782)

crap forgot to log in... :(

"...running an innovative tech company..." (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140774)

So what's that got to do with managing Microsoft?

The End is Nigh... (2)

coofercat (719737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140784)

I've seen this happen a few times, and it almost always fails. Either the top guys 'just get it', or they 'just get' that they need to equally represent finance, engineering, sales and administration by getting experts to help them. If he hasn't been getting it thus far, he's not going to now (probably), he'll just hire some people and make sure they're seen to be 'adding value', but won't actually achieve very much.

These 'top engineers' are going to come up with SuperWhizzo 1.0. They'll pitch it to him, and he'll either:
1) Accept it because he's got to accept some technical ideas
2) Reject it because he still just doesn't get it
What he won't do is evaluate it on it's merits, and then facilitate it's execution because he's actually on-board with it.

(Contrast this to what you know about how Apple works, for example)

Engineers don't know either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140884)

Top engineers don't necessarily know what the market wants. They just know what they think is technically "cool" - not what sells.

None of Apple's stuff is technically new or even the latest and greatest tech, but Jobs et. al. know that people love ease of use, style, and the cachet of being in the "in" crowd. For example, a few years ago, people were wearing Apple earbuds, even when they didn't have an iPod, just to look "hip" and "cool".

DEC was an engineer driven company and look what it got them.

Ken Olsen? (0)

Cheeko (165493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140792)

I hear he's not doing much of anything these days.

He was always proponent of the engineers in high places and had a rather large disdain for business type folks.

Re:Ken Olsen? (2)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141208)

> I hear he's not doing much of anything these days.

Being dead will do that to you. Might still be a step up for Microsoft, though.

Four Lettered Words (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140796)

They should have made it the "Kinn" so then it'd be a four lettered word we were never allowed to say (or think about).

Those commercials still make me shudder...

News Flash! (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140798)

Tech company CEO decides to put engineers in positions of responsibility.

Brilliant, Holmes, brilliant! Why didn't we think of this before!

Why is Mr. Ballmer still running the place? (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140822)

Once Microsoft's BoD realizes where the problem truly resides, then and only then will the problem be fixed.

Engineers making decisions? (4, Insightful)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140824)

Engineers making decisions?

Because that worked so well for Nokia....

Seriously, Nokia was an engineer driven company, which worked fine when all the issues were about new functionality and such, but when it came to fine polishing and figuring out non-engineering based problems they just stumbled around.

Software engineers suffer from the same basic issue. They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards (inter-face, something which is the area where the user rubs against the technology), when the interface is the personification of the whole system, as well as the public face of the program and the company itself.

Palm got this for a while, so did RIM, so does Apple (at the moment) and so does that Shuttleworth fellow (Ubuntu). Microsoft has never got this, and giving the engineers more power is not likely to fix the problem. Each specialised class of people is likely to view most problems as being solvable by their particular brand of hammer, and one of Microsoft's problems has been too much engineering/marketing against too little understanding of what the user actually needs to do. Use the engineering hammer to solve this problem and it is likely to get even worse.

Just my 2 cents.

Re:Engineers making decisions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141052)

What about pairing an engineer and a guy from marketing?
Like Ballmer + someone else.

cap: systemic

Re:Engineers making decisions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141066)

I think you are spot on. It takes a curious combination of engineering, finesse and vision. Without being partial to anyone.
Tough balance to reach.

-S

Re:Engineers making decisions? (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141090)

You know "engineer" also covers a position known as UI engineer? It might be a stretch to think that Microsoft's execs will actually make a GOOD selection, but it's not absolutely impossible. With experts in all the required fields driving the company, it could just work.

Also, I'd much rather have engineer-driven companies than suit-driven ones. HP took a nosedive with the departure of Hewlett and Sony's products and policies have degraded with time as the founders left key spots. On the flip side, Google is still going extremely strong with Brin and Page having a hand in a large part of the company's operations and, while he has no degree beyond high school, Jobs has grown up as a geek and has a much more engineer-like mindset than traditional CEOs.

To me, it only makes sense that a company is driven by an expert in the field, be it food products or technology.

Re:Engineers making decisions? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141250)

The problem I see with Ballmer was he's merely a manager; he's not the leader that Gates was. He lacks the strategic vision and MS has been reacting to instead of leading the market the last 10 years. Take for instance the 'Vista Compatible' debacle. Some exec lower than J. Allard made the decision to reverse course and certify the Intel video chipsets as 'Vista Compatible' when they couldn't run Aero. This caused a lot of OEM grief and consumer confusion. Did Ballmer step in and address it before it became a PR blunder? No. He only stepped in afterwards. Same thing with the Kin.

Re:Engineers making decisions? (4, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141252)

"Software engineers suffer from the same basic issue. They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards (inter-face, something which is the area where the user rubs against the technology), when the interface is the personification of the whole system, as well as the public face of the program and the company itself."

I think this perspective is heavily colored by the rise of software engineering as a mainstream career, and the youth-dominance of the late 90's early 00's. When I was a 28 year old code cowboy in 1998 NYC, working with other late 20's code cowboys, I would have heartily agreed with you. Now, however, those same cowboys (and I) are significantly more focused on ROI, usability, and discovering the customer's desires. Software engineering is maturing, and so are software engineers.

Frankly, I have had as hard a time -- if not harder -- getting the sales people to put together a credible revenue projection to justify a new project as with getting engineers engaged in considering value for dollar. The engineers are interested in solving the problem once you show them it is just math and measurement. The sales people want to run with their gut and tend to be optimistic (admittedly; because that is important to successfully engaging a customer) about the probable revenue.

Not happening (2)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140826)

>"it appears that Ballmer planning to install engineers in high places to turn the company around."

Except he won't listen to them. I'm wiling to bet people took risks with their careers to give Ballmer good advice over the years and he ignored them. I find it highly unlikely he's going to start listening now.

This is either for show or so he's got someone else to blame for the next Zune and Windows mobile.

Depends how he uses the engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35140916)

Hiring engineers to design more aerodynamic chairs may improve his throws but it won't really make the software better.

I'm shaping my degree with this in mind. (1, Offtopic)

Rifter13 (773076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35140968)

I am going to college and getting an IT Management degree with an emphasis in development. I am getting a minor in Marketing, and will go on for a Master's in Business Administration. I will have been in IT between workstation, server, and network admin as well as web development for 20 years or more when I get my degree. I am trying to get myself in a position to be able to interface well with developers and pitch the cool stuff to upper management to get buy in. I should have the business credentials to get management's respect, while having the knowledge of the tech side to be a valuable interface between the two sides. At least, that is my vision, at this point. :-)

Microsoft Speak (2)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141022)

MS needs to toss its whole marketing team. The two best commercials they've ever done:

1) The rip-off of "I'm a Mac" adds where the guy points at the polar bear (or was it a whale?) and says, "I'm a PC. And I'm trying to save that." There were more "I'm a PC" examples in that commercial and while not original, they got the point across that it's about the effective tools that MS provides and people use.

2) The Windows 7 Phone "Really?" ad. Clever. 'Nuff said.

Most of their speeches and marketing use industry, not public, buzzwords. They're on the "Our users love the Windows 7 Phone because it allows them to consume content quickly" kick right now. I'm sorry, I don't consume content. I check email. I watch movie trailers. I read Slashdot. I'm a person, not the Blob. If MS wants to market to people and not businesses, they need to target their ads. Two different groups, two different commercials.

Re:Microsoft Speak (2)

cozzbp (1845636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141132)

MS needs to toss its whole marketing team.

If you don't believe this, then you obviously haven't seen the "To The Cloud!" commercials. When the majority of people don't even understand the commercial without having it explained to them, then you have a problem.

Here's a clue for Microsoft (0)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141038)

Eliminate the need for antivirus software and you might have something going for you. The lack of security on Windows and other software that MS peddles, and the need to pay the equivalent of protection money to keep MS software safe ("Pay the antivirus companies, kid, or the computer gets it.") are the chief reasons why I stay away from MS as much as possible. The fact that no one there seems to recognize this problem for what it is and can get it corrected seems to me to be the biggest problems they face.

Re:Here's a clue for Microsoft (2)

dadelbunts (1727498) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141136)

The only reason there are so many viruses for Windows its beacuse its the most widely used OS anywhere in the world. Any other OS with the same level of popularity would have viruses.

Yeah, right (2)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141042)

Putting a few engineers in executive positions is not going to change a corporate culture that thinks stealing search results from Google is "innovation"

Help me don't sell me (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141096)

Initially .net was sort of an answer to Java. It had features that made programming easier. It broke away from activex and that was cool. But then the marketing machine seemed to have guided it from then on. It became a tool to try and get my programming to use more and more MS products. This didn't work for me so I turned to more and more open source. Not out of some philosophy involving openness and free love but simply because the open source products help me solve problems. Then I switched to Mac because at its heart it works with most open source stuff.

So here I am a geek programmer with zero interest in anything MS.

So if MS wants me back then they have to give me tools that I can use to solve problems I have. Not their problem of crappy sales. Then maybe along the way I will use a product or two of theirs.

He think's he's copying Google (5, Insightful)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141124)

And he is, except for one thing.

Google has always been about engineering excellence, with market dominance being a welcome side effect. When it works, you get Gmail, when it doesn't work you get Wave.

Microsoft has always been about market dominance through engineering mediocrity and barriers to entry. This has led to the teetering tower of kludge whose pinnacle is Windows 7.

Microsoft CAN'T be engineering-driven the way Google is. Google can change its search engine implementation and strategy continuously and overnight. Microsoft can only change Windows in big increments, with lots of concern for backward compatibility.

Microsoft is really a bunch of tech companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141130)

Off the top of my head:

  • A desktop software company with the two best cash cows in the industry (Windows 7, MS Office). Competitors: none (viable)
  • An enterprise software company (Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, business intelligence, along with service revenue). Competitors: IBM, HP, SAP
  • A consumer products company (Xbox, product of the month phone OS and handheld media player). Competitors: Apple, Sony
  • A web 2.0 company (MSN, Bing). Competitors: Google, Facebook

I'm sure I've missed/forgotten lots. Ballmer remembers, though. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to do a superlative job managing such diverse businesses under one corporate roof for an extended period of time. GE did well under Jack Welch, but remember most of their businesses are in old line industries, not IT/entertainment which can change radically from year to year.

One could say that Ballmer is making these changes to buy more time before the board kicks him out. But another worry would be that a someone like Carl Icahn could buy into the board and lobby shareholders to split up the company. Frankly, that might not be Microsoft's worst future.

Most good engineers want no part of management (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141158)

That's been my experience with 25+ years in a major IT player. What engineers want, is someone that will listen to them. And someone who will grab them under the arms and pull them up and support them when things get ugly, and they get knocked out cold. It's quite simple actually, but it's quite amazing how few managers can do it right. I have seen a few cases exemplary performance. When I was in southern France, doing some firefighting on a project where the shit had hit the fan, and knocked the damn thing over. A couple of the employees there told me that they were coming in on the weekend to work on problems. This was not an order from the management there. Their attitude so impressed me, that I said, "I'll be in with you guys!" The second line manager got wind of the renegade action and showed up in the lab on the weekend. She didn't ask any questions about progress, but just discretely sat at a terminal, and did manager email stuff. And brought pastry snacks for the folks. But you had the feeling that she was there for us, in case we needed anything. One manager did a great job of filtering us from nasty emails about bad management decisions, that would be reversed anyway. Some folks in another department asked us, "Hey, did you see the email about capping our overtime pay?" There was another email a week later, that it was retracted. So our manager had tried to shield us from some unnecessary stress.

On the other hand, my manager left the company. A manager from another department was appointed as his successor. He did nothing for a month, aside from forwarding management and policy notes that he received to us. He didn't even come by to introduce himself. Well, duh! I started the rumor that he didn't exist, but was actually some kind of ELIZA type forwarding engine. Then he invited is to a meeting.

One brilliant engineer colleague of mine had excellent people skills, but declined to be put in the manager career path. He told me, "I don't want to explain to employees all day, why they can't have a bigger monitor."

So, back to the point, Ballmer has a very aggressive ego. I'm not sure if he will be able to take advice from a "mere" engineer. And I'm not sure that good engineers will be able to take his abuse for long.

Too bad Ballmer (obviously) doesn't read Dilbert.. (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141164)

Or he'd realize that the instant he puts his tech people in positions of corporate power, they will grow pointy hair.

Actually, Microsoft-and-squishy is so bloated that at this point, the only thing that can rescue them from themselves is being broken up into lots of little Microsofties. Or is that Microsoftettes? How long has it been, after all, since MS last had an actual Idea, all by themselves, that they didn't just steal and then use their usual moves of creating FUD, yanking the OS-level code base around to give the FUD some basis as they break competitors' code, and finally leveraging it into their contracted market on a preferential basis until they dominate the market and people gradually forget that it wasn't MS's idea in the first place. Word processors? Spreadsheets? Integrated development environments? Web browsers? Mail clients? Windowing interfaces? Java? Windowing interfaces with multiple desktops (ooo, forgot, they still haven't figured that one out, have they)? All NIH.

Wait, I know! Vista!

I guess they've still got it...

rgb

Look, (1)

SethThresher (1958152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141192)

All I want from Microsoft right now is Windows Phone 7 to be on Verizon, as soon as possible. While I'm at it, a free version of Visual Studios 2010 wouldn't hurt either.

Apple does it right (1)

hilldog (656513) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141226)

While I am not a fan boy of Apple and don't run their stuff I must admit they do it right. The combination of innovate ideas, first out of the shoot and an eye to style has always had MS drooling. Now add Google in the mix and Android and just what is left for MS? They run a distant 3rd at best and frankly if they did have tech at the helm its too little too late in my opinion.

more of the same problem.. (4, Interesting)

romanval (556418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141254)

Like it or not, computers are becoming appliances, so everything in the future needs to be designed with a UX in mind... which is why Apple places UX and OS designers in the top position, while all the engineers and salespeople work below them.

Better late and already wrong once than never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35141284)

My favorite Ballmer story is how he fired the executive developing Microsoft's own dedicated tablet software, after it managed to generate a positive buzz, a month before the I-pad came out, because Ballmer didn't think it would make any money. He's the problem, not the guys that decided to buy the tech behind Kinect or the developers who made the rather nice Windows Phone 7.

Sounds Like Egypt (1)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 3 years ago | (#35141298)

Getting some heat from your "constituents"? reshuffle some underlings and call it change. Ballmer isn't going anywhere anytime soon...
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