It’s probably callous, cold and indicative of my lack of a soul and possession of a dense lump of dark matter where my heart should be, but I don’t give a shit that Steve Ballmer cried a few tears yesterday at his goodbye meeting at Microsoft:
According to sources familiar with the meeting, Ballmer told employees “we will deliver the next big thing… we will change the world again.” During his hour-long speech, Ballmer discussed the Nokia deal and him passing over the CEO role to a new leader.
Ballmer’s right about one thing: once he’s gone, it’s probably more likely that Microsoft will do something big, because Bieber knows he did nothing but bobble opportunities while he was running that place into the ground. (Prime example: mobile.)
But I do have to give him one thing: he sure fucked Nokia hard. His double agent, Stephen Elop, went to Nokia and negotiated a contract that looked like this:
Elop was facing an instant, massive windfall should the following sequence happen to take place:
- Nokia’s share price drops steeply as the company drifts close to cash flow crisis under Elop.
- Elop sells the company’s handset unit to Microsoft under pressure to raise cash
- The share price rebounds sharply, though remains far below where it was when Elop joined the company.
Should this unlikely chain of events ever occur, Elop would be entitled to an accelerated, $25M payoff.
Through some strange coincidence, that very sequence of events actually did happen to take place between 2011-2013. Practically instantly after Elop was handed his contract. […]
Elop has refused to reduce the $25 million payout because he’s going through a divorce.
couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of oligarchs
I’m willing to give Bill Gates credit for being brilliant and ruthless, and (doing my ‘ancient mariner’ trick) I’ll give Tim Paterson credit for writing QDOS. Aaaand… that’s about it. Ballmer? Wasn’t he the car guy? Or was he the the soda guy? I could never tell the difference.
Just once in my life, I would like to fail upwards.
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when it looked like Microsoft would be the unchallenged tech hegemon for the foreseeable future. I’d like to credit Ballmer with helping to stop that from happening.
I wonder which OS is running computers at Bill and Melinda’s house these days. Does he still use the steaming wreck that was his legacy?
I think Elop and his divorce is being misread. That contract bonus is a marital asset. Both parties would have to agree to its reduction.
Bill E Pilgrim
Microsoft, eh? Good outfit? Intelligent?
Can’t place them right off the top of my head. “Computer” software makers you say? Those were, ah wait, I remember, like phones with separate keyboards? Heavy-set things. Sure. What the Dickens ever happened to those?
Well it’s also just a red herring since the real fucked up thing about the situation isn’t whether he or his soon-to-be ex-wife are willing to give up the bonus but the fact that the bonus was even part of his compensation to begin with.
I’m so sick of the businesses who not only fuck their customers but fuck over their shareholders just so the Board and the CEO can steal all the money. This isn’t capitalism, it’s outright THEFT.
This is not entirely relevant, but is the cult of the CEO and the perfumed banker, Jamie Dimon for example, reaching what might be its apogee. Larry Ellison of Oracle just “won” what was once called the America’s Cup. It is no longer a real sailboat race with real people and real sailboats. Instead, the America’s Cup has become a another sporting event that indulges the egos and wallets of billionaires and sovereign wealth funds from the middle east. (New Zealand, a country where real sailing takes place, is thinking of dropping out from future events because the costs of competing have become so enormous.)
One has to wonder when the self-indulgence and financial self-dealing of the CEO class will become so egregious that capitalism will once again effect its own collapse. The recent comments by AIG’s CEO Robert Benmosche were retracted, but they reveal the true sentiments of the one percent. When we witness $100 million dollar “yachts” tooling around San Francisco bay for the pleasure of billionaire CEOs, are we once again on the brink of the “deluge”?
@Bill E Pilgrim: Funny. That whole “we are entering the post computer age” thinking is what shaped Windows 8.
How’s that working out for them?
Ballmer’s insane practice of firing your bottom 10% (as rated by their peers, not by any objective system) of workers insured that Microsoft would turn from a tech company into a worker’s Thunderdome. Which is exactly what happened. Thousands of truly talented people left rather than put up with that shit.
You may think Microsoft makes shitty products and you may think Gates was history’s greatest monster, but for more than a decade, they had WON THE GAME. Not anymore. As of 2013, Android is the world’s most widely used platform and the only thing Microsoft has left in its quiver is Office.
@Judge Crater: If you think the America’s Cup hasn’t always been about incredibly wealthy men comparing dick sizes, then you don’t know anything about the America’s Cup.
Capitalism is the system where the guy with the capital makes the rules. And shareholders aren’t really capital-holders, they’re lenders. What Baller and Elon did was less akin to theft and more akin to strategic default.
Moral of the story? Don’t lend Microsoft your money. Do you think anyone is actually going to learn it? Fuck no.
That said, I made out like a bandit on a few hundred shares of Nokia, so I’m happy.
@Bargal20: I know a lot about the America’s Cup. Sure it’s always been an elite endeavor (no pun intended), but the past decade has seen a dramatic change in its style and substance.
Until recently, even paltry millionaires could compete. In the age of Ellison, that is no longer true. The boats, the crews, the venues were all on a human scale. How many Americans were crewing on Ellison’s boat? One.
We’re not talking about wealthy men comparing dick sizes. We’re talking about global fat-cats shooting their loads in public and calling it sport.
America’s Cup racing has always been the province of the ridiculously rich, and the yachts haven’t resembled real sailboats for a long time. It may have gotten even more ridiculous under Ellison’s watch, but it has been crazy for a long, long time.
Bill E Pilgrim
@joes527: Well, shaped it badly, I would add. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t something to consider. Mainly I was just doing Mr Burns, just struck me funny how the “they will dominate everything forever” meme already seemed so quaint now, as someone else mentioned.
I installed a Windows 8 Developer Preview in early 2012, and uninstalled it a couple of days later.
Ballmer did exactly what he was paid to do — maintain Microsoft’s share price.
Microsoft (or any company, including Apple) is only going to “change the world” if they have a CEO who is willing to gamble the stock price on a “change the world” idea.
If they want to do that, they need to bring back Gates.
@Judge Crater: @Roger Moore: @Bargal20: @Judge Crater:
In defense of Larry Ellison (never thought I’d type those words) — seeing waterborne jet fighters hitting freeway speeds just below the Alcatraz gun emplacements was wicked cool. I was actually touring the old prison during last summer’s 2/3s scale race series, and those craft were simply unreal. James Cameron sci-fi brought to the bay.
And the big ones were even madder.
Most important: credit Ellison for turning the Cup into an actual spectator sport. No more of this miles-off-shore nonsense where you need your own yacht to watch what were historically plodding monohulls tacking every 100 yards or so on the upwind legs. Yeah, J class boats were gorgeous — and stupidly rich men’s toys too — and so where subsequent designs, but monohull racing is still a very acquired taste. Ellison turned sailboating into NASCAR. And he did so inside the Bay — which made the event something that could be enjoyed from shore (with good binocs) for the first time in living memory.
In the great scheme of things — having rich men spend their money fast is actually not the worst outcome. The boats are ridiculous, but what the hell. So are corgis.
@Tom Levenson: I wasn’t criticizing the technology (which is amazing) or even Ellison per se. The wealthy in American, and elsewhere, have always indulged themselves. Why not?
I was noting the quantum leap in the scale of the indulgence. And its relationship to the equally obscene inequality in wealth that benefits people like Steve Ballmer who have produced little and failed a great deal.
Remember reading something long ago about Vanderbilt and AC racing during his time.
Owned a small sailboat decades ago and it was true of the local owners as well. Huge, very expensive boats just sitting in the water, used maybe once or twice a year, paying exorbitant maintenance fees so that it would be ready to sail (or more likely, to throw a party on) any time the little heart desired.
Complain then that the quantum leap in inequality is what is killing us, not yacht racing. Yacht racing is only the symptom, not the disease. And actually has been since the inception of the AC. The scale is different because the inequality is so much worse today than it was not that many years ago.
Sorry if I sound preachy, but rich people have always spent money like it was water they stole. Always. And most of them have felt that it was their absolute right to
stealacquire that water in the first place. Always.
Re: Ballmer bids tearful farewell to Microsoft, promises it will ‘deliver the next big thing’
The next big thing is this: Ballmer will soon be gone.
Will that improve Microsoft? We shall see. Meanwhile, if I could have a nickel for each brain cell I lost using Windows[tm], I’d be richer than Microsoft (& Ballmer).
I think the complaint is that he turned it into Formula 1, with its outrageous technology that has nothing to do with ordinary cars, rather than NASCAR, which tries to make its cars at least vaguely similar to something an ordinary person might drive. I think NASCAR is going too far in that direction personally- they only allowed cars to use fuel injection in 2012- but I can see the appeal.
Actually, the problem with them is that they don’t spend enough. If they’re rich enough, they can have the appearance of big-spending high rollers and still just have most of it squirreled away in low-risk instruments, keeping the economy slow.
@Ruckus: I love yacht racing. I’ve been sailing since I was a kid. I was merely pointing out the rapid change in scale of a sport that has become more and more exclusive. We’re living in a gilded age that refuses to die (the rich are getting richer and more entitled). I’m just looking for signs that tell me when the shit might hit the fan.
You’re looking for signs?
The fan, she is already all covered in … well, you know.
Bill in Section 147
@Bargal20: But they used to have pencil moustaches and jaunty caps as they stood on the necks of their real boats builders. They were all Makers then, a rollickin’ company. They made things run.
I been sailing since I was a kid too.
Late 60’s sailing up the coast from san diego to catalina island, off capistrano beach, the first hobie cat with hobie alter and mickey munoz on board came flying out to us from the beach sailed around our 30′ monohull, dad yelling what the hell is that. hobie yelling back, its a hobie cat!
Since then, friends of mine have been jamming on those affordable boats going 30 knots in a light wind.
Multi hulls have always been the bastard child of sailing.
So true. Read the “Innovator’s Dilemma” sometime. It explains a lot about disruptive innovation and why it is difficult to stay on top in a fast paced business sector.
If Elop screwed his wife as skillfully as he screwed Nokia maybe he wouldn’t be paying for a divorce…
On a happier note, summer days + lake + Sunfish.
@MattF: Ballmer was Gates’ buddy at Harvard, the soda guy ran Apple for a while. I’ve met him once, and have a buddy who’s related to him by marriage. He’s actually a nice guy, one on one, although I doubt I’d want to work for him, and don’t think much of Microsoft.
“I’ve only had one other job in my life, before Microsoft, and that was selling cookie dough.”
Ballmer to an employees meeting when I was an MSFT employee in the audience
Ballmer’s job at Microsoft was marketing.
which OS is running computers at Bill and Melinda’s house
By all accounts I’ve heard, Gates has usually been delighted with most Microsoft products, and has a hard time understanding why other people don’t feel the same way.
He was the most brilliant and ruthless business strategist of a generation, but the man has always had third-rate taste in technology and user interfaces.
Ballmer’s insane practice of firing your bottom 10%
Rank and yank is fairly widespread in large tech companies, although 10% is pretty draconian.
Other things about Microsoft bothered me much more — the management culture is like a shark tank.
@Judge Crater: you do realize the Kiwis were the ones to strip out the “native” sailor rules first during their run as Defenders, right? You can’t lay that change at Ellison’s feet.
I will never think of him in any other frame of reference than his famous “monkey dance” and “DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS”
@Ruckus: Wait a minute, I thought that was the definition of a boat : Boat n “A hole in the water into which money is thrown.” :-)
a sport that has become more and more exclusive.
See Lipton, Sir Thomas to set expectation levels for “exclusivity”
In his day, the _boom_ of an America’s cup competitor was well over 100 feet long.
I too liked the 12 meter era better than the recent boats.
These hard-wing foil cats sail more like iceboats —
not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I like iceboating too.
Howard Beale IV
They’ll pry my Nokia N900 from my cold dead hands. It was in the midst of working on the N9, the next iteration of Maeno and the N900, when Elop was brought on bard and put the shiv to it. The N9’s physical design form survived in the Lumia phones, and the N9 was DOA from a succession standpoint, with the decision to hook up with Microsoft well established-you can look at the tech press when the N9 was introduced, and realized that Nokia was one iteration away, but the die was cast, and Nokia lost time and resources while Elop was busy sewing Nokia’s fate. Hell Samsung built a damn fine Windows Phone 8 themselves with the ATIV S, but that was more of a sideline thing for them, as Android and the Galaxy series is the real kimchee king for Sammy. I noticed that Microsoft didn’t get the NAVTEQ IP, which is probably the best thing that happened to the surviving Nokia.
Howard Beale IV
@CONGRATULATIONS!: It’s not unique to MSFT. LOTS of firms practice the Top 10/Bottom 10 -Citi, GE and First Data were notorious. The problem is, the folks doing the stack rankings are clueless as to who is productive dnd keeping things working and who aren’t, and are nothing more than felchers. .
Howard Beale IV
@Bill E Pilgrim: I run my Win8 in Deskop mode 100% of the time, as I don’t have a touchscreen-and to add one is cost-prohibitive.
Howard Beale IV
@jheartney: And ironies of ironies, it was Gates back in the early 1990 who was gloating why folks were buying mainframes and ridiculting IBM customers paying IBM’s license fees for MVS-now, IBM mainframes can run thousands of Linux instances on a single zEC12-IBM hardware, where Microsoft has none. Remember Microsoft’s ill-fated entry into the PC market? Microsft’s only hope is in the lowe-end device market, becuase there is no way in hell that can stand up to IBM and HP in the enterprise market.
You obviously haven’t owned one that sits at the dock in salt water when not moving. If you had you would know that it is not a hole in the water, it is a giant money vacuum into which your wallet is sucked with such great force that it causes you to sacrifice all your worldly goods to avoid having your arm ripped off trying to hold on to it. It is fun though.