Saturday, September 26, 2009

okay, Ballmer isn't exactly a doofus, he's just drawn that way

Take the time to watch TechCrunch's recent interview with Steve Ballmer and you'll discover that he's actually possessed of a fair amount of intelligence, in sharp contrast with the derisive caricature he's created for himself through a string of reckless, ill-informed comments. Still, one reasonably candid, semi-articulate interview does not a rehabilitation make. Ballmer has shown himself all too ready to resort to ostrich argument to make Microsoft's dominance of the PC industry appear more unassailable and make its prospects in other businesses appear brighter than they really are.

As well he should, I suppose, as CEO of an important company, the value of which is largely a function of its ability maintain near-monopoly market share in the PC operating system and office suite markets. Anything less than self-assurance beyond reason on his part could translate to billions of dollars worth of market capitalization shrinkage, leading to a roomful of angry investors demanding his head on a pike at the next shareholder's meeting. You might think of it as his own reality distortion field, a notably stronger one than that generated by his predecessor, who more than makes up in the odd combination of happy-go-lucky attitude and killer instinct for what he may lack in charisma.

In the end, of course, the antics of its leadership matters far less than Microsoft's ability to execute, which remains in serious doubt following years of half-baked initiatives. If the new projects Ballmer mentions in the interview don't prove more substantial, the company is in real trouble.

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