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Apple released the first iPhone in 2007. Microsoft’s Windows Phone didn’t appear until 2010.
That alone should tell you all you need to know about Microsoft’s biggest issue over the last decade: Despite record revenues, the company’s been far too slow to respond to the rise of new product categories. And Steve Ballmer is taking some responsibility for that: He was too slow.
“No matter how fast I want to change, there will be some hesitation from all constituents—employees, directors, investors, partners, vendors, customers, you name it—to believe I’m serious about it, maybe even myself,” the outgoing CEO told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.
In other words, while Ballmer wanted to move quickly to change Microsoft, he simply wasn’t doing it fast enough for Microsoft’s board, which pressured him to remake Microsoft faster than he — or perhaps anyone– could.
The board’s impatience is understandable. At a time when even former giants like BlackBerry are only a dozen quarters away from floundering, tech companies have to be able to respond quickly to market changes.
This is where Microsoft reorganization fit in. At its core the move was all about making Microsoft into a more collaborative, nimble company. But while Ballmer’s move was a smart one, it was too little too late — at least for him.
As Ballmer put it: “Maybe I’m an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on.”