Ex-Microsoft SVP slams 'aggressive' Ballmer and 'lame duck' board

By Peter Gothard
22 Jan 2013 View Comments
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer is not the right choice for Microsoft CEO, and is holding onto a power base by removing those who may challenge his position. So alleges ex-senior vice-president Joachim Kempin.

A day ahead of the release of a tell-all book about his time at Microsoft, which he left in 2002, Kempin lambasted Ballmer and the rest of the Microsoft board.

Further reading

"Is he a great CEO? I don't think so," said Kempin.

"Microsoft's board is a lame duck board, has been forever. They hire people to help them administer the company, but not to lead the company. That's the problem."

Kempin said the company needs "somebody maybe 35-40 years old, a younger person who understands the Facebook generation and this mobile community.

"They don't need this guy on stage with this fierce, aggressive look, announcing the next version of Windows and thinking he can score with that."

Kempin accused Ballmer of blocking the advancement of other executives who could one day threaten his position at Microsoft, implying such action on Ballmer's part caused the departure of personnel including ex-COO Richard Belluzzo, Bill Gates' designated "big picture thinker" Ray Ozzie, Office boss turned Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, and Steven Sinofsky, who departed the company in November 2012 just after the Windows 8 launch.

"Ozzie is a great software guy, he knew what he was doing," said Kempin. "But when you see Steve (Ballmer) and him on stage where he opposed Steve, it was Steve's way or the highway."

Kempin also criticised Microsoft for squandering an early lead in the mobile space.

"They missed all the opportunities they were talking about when I was still in the company," said Kempin. "Tablets, phones... we had a tablet going, we had tablet software when Windows XP came out, it was never followed up properly."

Kempin also described Microsoft's release of its own tablet, the Surface, as an "insult", blaming the decline of PCs partly to the company's inability to handle relationships with third-party hardware makers.

Kempin's time at Microsoft was hardly exemplary, however. If he wasn't running over antelopes in his car on hunting trips, he was being linked with Microsoft being hauled into court on antitrust lawsuits with third-party hardware manufacturers in the late 1990s - a period in the company's history Kempin calls on his blog "worse than a crime...a blunder - unfairly diminishing America's number one IT company!".

Despite his strong criticisms, Kempin does admit that, in his opinion, Ballmer is "a very good business guy" who, if made COO, would make sure a business is "going to go gangbusters".

But the fact remains, says Kempin, that there are "some limitations in what [Ballmer] can and can't do, and maybe he hasn't realised them himself".

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