Microsoft needs an outsider to lead. Ballmer ‘just a numbers guy’, says ex-senior VP

By Peter Gothard
11 Feb 2013 View Comments
Steve Ballmer at WPC convention

Steve Ballmer should be replaced by a CEO from outside of Microsoft in order to bring fresh ideas to the firm's leadership, an ex-senior VP of Microsoft has told Computing.

Joachim Kempin, who worked at Microsoft for two decades between 1983 and 2003, has recently released a book bashing both Ballmer and the Microsoft board generally. He believes that hiring another insider would "breed the same culture" for which he has already criticised Ballmer.

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"[Ballmer's successor] doesn't have to be from inside Microsoft," Kempin told Computing. "[The notion] that this person has to come from inside Microsoft is not necessarily good. There is a chance that this person will run the company just like Steve Ballmer did; the culture transfers itself."

Kempin cited the example of Louis Gerstner, who was appointed CEO of IBM in April 1993 at a time when many people feared the computer giant might go under following years of mounting losses. 

"Think about Lou Gerstner coming into IBM out of nowhere, from RJR Nabisco. He was making little cookies [at Nabisco] basically, right? Sure, he had a really good background in IT and technology, but everybody was still like, ‘Can this guy really do it?'.

"But he understood that in order to get the ship back on the right course, he had to break a few rules," Kempin told Computing.

Kempin also named Marissa Meyer, who took control of Yahoo last year, as having "definitely turned the corner for the company", and Steve Jobs, whose time outside Apple enabled him to ultimately return and "make that thing successful".

"They had to change the way they were approaching the business," said Kempin, "but if you get somebody from inside Microsoft, maybe that won't happen."

Kempin said he would look to poach someone from Google, Apple or Facebook.

The choice would have to be "somebody who understands the technology trends", and is not "just a numbers guy", said Kempin.

When asked if he believed Microsoft's board may be set on recruiting an insider, Kempin replied: "Because of Bill [Gates] and Steve are very close, I don't see an immediate change happening anyway. But I don't know really what that board is thinking at the moment, or if they're even thinking [beyond Ballmer]".

However, Kempin believes that "if the company fails to achieve strategic objectives and the numbers go down the tubes", there will "definitely be a change" soon.

"Because Bill can't let that happen - friendship or no friendship," said Kempin.

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