back to article Microsoft staff savage Ballmer at company confab

During Microsoft's annual full staff meeting, employees unmistakably expressed their displeasure about how the company is being run. Every year Redmond assembles the rank and file for a huge presentation about plans for the next 12 months, with senior management laying out current progress and future plans. According to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing most of us on the outside haven't already gathered. MS are in a bit of a tiz and need someone good to come in and give them a bloody good kick up the backside to get them motivated again. Get them back to their glory days when they knew how to make tech exciting.

    ( I'm a Linux fan and even I think it's sad to see the once great MS seem to have settled into a middle aged rut! )

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Knew how to make tech exiting"?

      And this was when? When they came up with the Clippy or were planning to kill that non-MS invention called the Web with their very own project Blackbird?

      To be honest they've hardly ever been very good at that. The only thing was they had managed to turn themselves into a monopoly and now they can't play those games anymore.

      1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        I dunno

        Just some of the silly highlights I enjoyed from MS over the years....

        The first time I used Excel in Windows 286 on a 286 machine after having used DOS Lotus 123.

        Moving from WordPerfect 5.1 on DOS to Word 2.0.

        Seeing Windows 3 in Russian Cyrillic fonts!

        Using the Word 2.0 Hebrew edition, typing the other way around was bizarre.

        The first time I used Windows98 beta, after Windows 3. Then later using WinXP for the first time.

        Developing apps and utils at work in Visual Basic for Ms-DOS ( anyone remember that! ).

        The first time I used a graphical email app.

        The first time I played a WinG ( remember that? ) game and later DirectX games.

        Using Access, a GUI based DB, after using the granted altogther better dBase III.

        The fun of fighting to secure enough memory to run big software using various memory managers in DOS!

        1. PeterM42


          .........don't forget (pun intended) working out the difference between EXPANDED memory and EXTENDED memory.

      2. Levente Szileszky
        Thumb Up

        RE: "Knew how to...

        Actually Project Blackbird was aimed at Hollywood/studios/etc, the entire MAFRIAA parasite network, to provide them a closed-source, controlled content delivery network.

        IMO they tried to preempt the inevitable arrival of dynamic web pages etc, see details here:

        Yes, it's still up there though you better save it as it will be taken down very soon now, after this post. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Just realized Steve Balmer reminds me of Kevin Malone of the US version of The Office.

      Could they be one and the same?????

      Developers, Developers, Developers.

    3. Ramazan
      IT Angle

      MS glory days

      When were they, please remind me? Only MS Altair BASIC was something never eclipsed by competing products IMO. MS-DOS had competition from DR, and it's not for MS-DOS itself but for all the great DOS games that we remember that era. NT was OK (up to and including 3.51), but it's API is a kludge. W95/NT4.0 were just adequate. Thanks to MS Office we now have OpenOffice and that's all that's good about MS.

    4. dssf


      That company is an unmitigated menace to numerous smaller competitors. MS falling into a middle-aged rut is a GOOD thing. Might give some breathing room to new upstarts and startups.

      On that tack:

      developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

      developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

      developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

      developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

      moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

      moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

      moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

      moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

      moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You can't really blame them... Gates vs. Ballmer - no contest and MS has truly lost its way (that said, MS Office still dominates).

    Will the same happen at Apple ?

    1. Gordon 10

      To be fair

      Monkey has lots of evidence on you tube for being a jackass

      Tim Cook has none of which I'm aware.

      1. dssf

        Speaking of jacks and asses... Lots of companies on the roadside

        are the flotsam of companies that got JACKED-IN the ass. Either they treaded on or suckled too much from ms and got the crowbar or vinegar -- or both... or, they got steel jacks and rubber balls inserted wrong-way, and are not able to walk right-way...

        Now, if his stage-flipping sub was Mini-Me or Herman, the crowd of 20k+ would have been really upbeat instead of beat up....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The same did happen at Apple. Then they brought Steve Jobs back in. Yeah, Microsoft do seem to be in a rut. They have stopped innovating and started imitating, and it could be a downward spiral unless someone with a huge amount of vision comes in and takes the reins. Actually that's not fair, they do innovate, just not in the mainstream consumer market where it can be seen by all. That's what Jobs had, and still has (health not withstanding), the ability to see what people don't yet know they want or knew was missing. Microsoft is big enough to be brimming over with ideas from young staffers with vision, but none of it seems to be filtering to the top.

      Windows 8 is a good example, I have it running on an Atom powered slate and it is good (for a preview release) and will do Microsoft proud in the market. However it is going to be 2 years too late by the time it is released, and lord knows what Apple will have the iPad doing by that time.

      So come on Microsoft, invent, innovate and give us cool stuff again, because if you don't, the alternative is Apple, and in a recession, that's the last thing we need.

      1. Hampshire

        Almost right

        "Actually that's not fair, they do innovate, just not in the mainstream consumer market where it can be seen by all." - True in their core business, but nobody can say the Kinect isn't the consumer market and you could almost argue it's mainstream.

        Microsoft seem to turn up in all kinds of places which imply they are considerably more astute than they appear to be. There is definitely some brains in the outfit, and they definitely use their size to try and be in the right place at the right time.

        The problem they have isn't in their company, it's in the dominant image they have created for their main product: Windows. Apple are blatently leading the way, and Microsoft are playing catch up. I think they employees have the right to be frustrated, but I also don't think this is SteveB's fault. They've been caught out by a company which continues to play its advantage.

        Microsoft need to regain the mindshare behind Windows, and they probably will need to do some serious innovation to do this. The problem is, a company can buy 99% inspiration, but all the money in the world can't buy the final 1%.

        1. Goat Jam

          @Hampshire, re: Kinect

          They didn't "innovate" the Kinect, that was done by an Israeli startup.

          All MS did was open their prodigious wallet and purchase it.

      2. Armando 123

        Microsoft never really did that much innovating in the first place. But yeah, it's what happens when a successful company is taken over slowly from the inside by the stuffed-suit MBAs. It's killed nearly every tech company that's gone down that path (for a broad definition of 'tech', in that a lot of manufacturing and engineering firms have suffered the same fate).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the comparison with Apple is bogus...

        MS is a software company that has so far been about getting Windows OS everywhere (with Office, the killer app, in tow). But the world is shifting rapidly towards consumer electronics in place of PCs, the web and clouds above it supporting myriad different apps and sites. This goes for the enterprise as well as the home. There are powerful forces behind this transition including Google and every company who has come up against MS and lost out as a consequence.

        Apple is a hardware company who make highly popular devices but who are also extremely adept at modifying their software platform to help flog these devices (witness the morphing of Mac OS X into iOS).

        MS need to give up with the "Windows, windows, windows" mantra and realise that the world largely does not care about that any more - it is all about apps, sites and clouds (or will be once Google and their friends get their way). No-one cares about the platform any more as long as it enables them to access what they want. Android is a good example - it's a means to an end for Google and not the prize.

        Whether or not MS have ever been innovators is really only flamebait; they are certainly not innovating now and are playing catch-up with so many different things that I'm not surprised to hear about the staffers' revolt.

        I seriously doubt that Ballmer is the man to change their fortunes - they need someone intelligent who is an innovator and maker of things rather than a bombastic imbecile.

      4. Giles Jones Gold badge


        None of the big tech giants innovate really. That's not to say they don't come up with loads of new ideas and technology, it's just they won't take the gamble of developing an idea that isn't almost guaranteed to rake in a load of cash.

        Microsoft has taken a few gambles recently, Kin phone (flop) and Windows Phone 7 (yet to meet sales expectations). So you can see the problem with trying to release something a bit too different.

        Startup companies can get away with gambles because the development costs are lower and time to market faster. A big company has to spend a lot of time getting approval from management, sitting in meetings, marketing meetings, test strategies, websites, support websites, branding etc.

      5. sisk

        "They have stopped innovating and started imitating"

        Er....when DIDN'T they imitate? They bought DOS off another company for chump change and Windows was nothing more than a cheap ripoff of MacOS. Office, for all it's domination in the market, really doesn't offer anything more than any other office suite (except a fugly interface). Even the XBox isn't really all that innovative. It's just an underpowered PC dedicated to video games.

        1. SanityFM

          Correction, Windows and MacOS were ripoffs of Xerox R&D.

          1. Robert E A Harvey


            I had to run the Gem desktop for an OU module. What happened to that?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Thumb Up

              Gem and the OU

              It went into the dressing up box along with the kipper ties, flares and nylon shirts.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge

          I gotte get my eyes checked...

          I read that sentence as "They have stopped innovating and started irritating" which I responded in the immortal words of David Byrne: "Same as it ever was..."

        3. Ramazan


          "Windows was nothing more than a cheap ripoff of MacOS". Really? Then MacOS was expensive ripoff of Xerox Alto.

          In fact, Apple licensed the GUI from Xerox and MS licensed it from Apple, so there's no quarrel. Everyone was free to develop their GUI shell as they liked. Xerox failed to commercialize Alto innovations. Apple succeeded. MS followed.

      6. Richard Plinston

        They have stopped innovating and started imitating

        No, they have _always_ imitated, it is just that they made more noise about their copy than the originals had managed.

        Altair BASIC (and all subsequent MS BASICs) was a copy of the DEC BASIC that BillG used while at Harvard (it is alleged that he managed to get hold of a copy of the assembler code of this).

        MS-DOS was a function copy of CP/M.

        Windows copied what was being done by Star, Apple, DRI's GEM and others.

        Excel copied what was already done by VisiCalc (the original), SuperCalc, and others.

        Many other products were bought in and rebranded, such as FrontPage, Publisher, Visual BASIC, MSC.

        Even Kinnect is a licensed product (developed in Israel) with software by Rare in the UK.

        1. Ramazan

          did MS copied everything?

          No. They didn't steal others' ideas, they paid for the privilege to use them [exclusively]. No one stopped Apple from purchasing Kinect, for example, probably they just weren't interested in the tech, or didn't have use for it or didn't offered enough money to PrimeSense. So what's the problem? All corporations do this, some (i mean Apple) better, than others (I mean MS).

        2. Ramazan

          Altair BASIC copy of DEC?

          You are certainly wrong. With all of my disrespect towards MS I have to admit that Altair BASIC was a good job by BillG. He wrote cross-assembler (from PDP-10 to 8080) and 8080 emulator that ran on PDP-10. The Altair BASIC itself allowed two letter variable names, multiple statements per line (colon separated), it had interactive interpreter (like python and Tcl have today) etc.

    3. James Hughes 1

      Already happening

      Ask the patent lawyers.

    4. BoldMan

      it already has in the 80s when Jobs left the first time - remember Scully, whatever became of him?

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Big difference

        This time it is Job's who selected his successor. Last time he was forced out after having all his power and influence removed.

        1. RightPaddock

          history repeats

          "Last time he [Jobs] was forced out after having all his power and influence removed"

          Which as I recall was what Jobs did to Woz.

    5. Hans 1

      One "word" (or sort of) on MS Office still dominates


  3. Ian 35

    MS Office still dominates?

    Yes it does. Office 2003. Or maybe 2007. 2010? Not so much. MS don't get revenue out of old software continuing to run. And Office 2012 is going to have yet another different UI. Smart.

  4. Jaffy23
    Thumb Up

    “SteveB did one of the smartest things I've ever seen him do as CEO today: He delegated responsibility by paying someone else to jump around like an asshole during his entrance instead of doing it all by himself,” said a poster. “Now if only he'd do the same with his regular day job.”

    Now that did make me laugh!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think one of the main reasons is that Bill Gates lived the "technical era" whereas Ballmer has always been focused with the business side of the company. At least that's how I picked it up.

    And yes; even though he lived it I too think that Gates wasn't the brilliant minded guy as many proclaim him to be, which has been proven several times when employees or friends looked at some of his work (the famous VB program for example) and basically burned it down the ground without knowing that it was Gates' doing.

    But despite all that you cannot deny the fact that he has lived and experienced it. Starting out with hardly anything but a couple of good ideas and knowing how to present these.

    And I think that has helped a lot, but is also something Ballmer seems to lack. I dunno, but I somehow doubt that Metro would have been released under the dictatorship, errrr, leadership of Gates.

    Just my 2 cents though

  6. Stephen Channell

    time to be bold

    If you look at the history of the computer industry, Microsoft should be toast by now. Ten years ago they we seriously wrong footed by wave after wave of innovation (internet, web, Java), and their core OS was shown to be badly exposed to DDoS, worms and viruses (thanks in no small part to DCE RPC ported from Unix).

    BillG took brave decision after brave decision to buckle down to the “Trustworth Computing Initiative”.. the fact that we’re still using Windows is down to the trench-warfare to defend the bastion.

    With Office-10 Win7, Server-2008R2, Hyper-V, SQL/Server and the rest, Microsoft is now at a point where it can get back to innovation, but that requires bold leadership and serious engagement with Open-Source philosophy.. one way to do that is to open source (like F#) .NET because (given the choice) most people would still implement C# systems on Windows even if it was licenced for OSX, AIX, SunOS, Linux.. they’ve done it before with ROTOR (SSCLI).

    Microsoft staff are right to be concerned: they’ve build trenches, but we’ve now entered the tank age.

    1. RegGuy

      'BillG took brave decision after brave decision to buckle down to the “Trustworth Computing Initiative”.. the fact that we’re still using Windows is down to the trench-warfare to defend the bastion.'

      Not quite a brave decision, more of a business need. He ran a company that dominated the PC, as he had managed to get the OS installed on the disk *before* it was installed in the machine.

      There were two main products that they marketed, the 'OS' and Office. (Win 3.11 wasn't technically an OS.) Plus, the market was growing very quickly and they cleverly used that momentum, exploiting their market share and making it hard for others to get in. When others tried -- remember DR DOS? -- and took MS to court, while they maybe won and got damages, MS and the market had moved on, so these were always pyrrhic victories.

      I would say astute to see the business opportunity and work with what they had. (Embrace, extend, extinguish.) Now that the PC market has matured they are just another ordinary tech company.

      Hey, wouldn't it be ironic if they were to get bought out by IBM? After all, who thought Sun would die?

  7. Rob

    Seems to be the norm nowadays...

    ... big companies seem to be struggling to find a decent CEO. Was there a golden age of CEO's at the right time and now those glory days are over and we are left with the incompetent 2nd's who thought they could fill the void.

    1. Zog The Undeniable

      The founders are retiring, that's the problem. They were the guys who had the most emotional investment in the company and were also engineers or product guys.

      Anyone following them concentrates on marketing and cost management, because that's what they were taught at business school. The company doesn't go bust but it atrophies without new ideas. And the new CEOs are only interested in milking the job as long as they can before their inevitable replacement.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Pretty obvious really. *All* companies struggle to find a decent CEO, and always have done. Big companies are simply those who managed it once.

    3. Reading Your E-mail

      Not quite, we are left with beancounters as CEO's as they where the ones who knew the most about the companies business when the innovating CEO's left.

      There are a lot of CFO's who have now migrated to CEO's and can't figure out why the balance sheet doesn't look better (hint: there is no column for customer loyalty or satisfaction).

    4. Armando 123

      No. There is a world of difference between a CEO and an owner/founder. The founder has invested a lot of sweat, money, time, ... heck, life into building a company. It's not a 9-5 job. Someone who buys a company outright has to look at it carefully, understand the market their in, see potential where others don't, understand what makes people tick, etc.

      A CEO is a shill for a board that only wants big bonuses and payoffs by the end of the fiscal year, or big tax write-offs.

      So the first two types require brains, guts, character, and smarts. The latter's requirements are hair, height, and Harvard.

      You can probably guess which type I respect.

    5. CaptainHook

      are there any decent CEOs?

      I think that the success of a company is more to do with luck than skill when talking about the really successful companies. Thats not to say CEOs don't have influence, a bad CEO can certainly drive a business into the ground, but those companies that reach monopoly status get there because they were in the right place at the right time to ride an expanding market into a dominant position.

      In the context of Microsoft, people keep say Ballamer is not Gates (for what ever reason) but I don't believe Gates would be doing any better right now because the problem isn't that Ballamer is bad its because the position Microsoft is in right now doesn't allow for any better performance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aye Cap'in

        I was just thinking the same thing! Change a couple letters around and a few core businesses and I would have been absolutely convinced that the article was written about CSC and some of the hijinx that go on during our "all-hands meetings".

        I'm particularly fond of the betting pools we set up on how many times the exec-de jeur says "Um..." , "Advocacy", or any combination of: social, facebook or collaborative, while they try to sound positive about future forecasts, even though the company is slowly being driven into the ground.

        In case anybody's interested, 77 is the record for the number of times a senior level executive spoke the word "um", when speaking at an internal function. I won $200.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "glory days when they knew how to make tech exciting."

    When would that be?

    Put to one side the likes of Kinect and Xbox.

    In the Wintel world, what have they ever done that hasn't been more dependent on Microsoft's capabilities at dealmaking (or more recently, market bullying) rather than Microsoft's capabilities as a technology outfit?

    Exhibit 1: DOS. Imported, not locally developed (see also MS vs STAC, etc).

    Exhibit 2: NT. Imported, not locally developed.

    Exhibit 3: OLE etc. Imported, not locally developed.

    Counter-examples, please.

    Microsoft's influence outside the certified Microsoft-dependent community is not what it was, and Ballmer is clearly not a dealmaker like Gates.


    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I'll let you have exhibit 1, but the other 2 are rubbish.

      Yes, "Dave Cutler" was imported and the OS he created looked a lot like VMS, but if DEC had believed it was "imported" as-is, then they'd have sued Microsoft out of existence. Hiring people from other companies doesn't count as "importing" their previous work.

      Similarly, OLE was an in-house effort as early as OLE 1 (being based on something produced by the Office team).

      On the other hand, I don't suppose the general public ever thought that either were "exciting".

      Back on the first hand, if you want proof that *some* people inside Microsoft still know how to program, consider this: closed (or lost) source crapware from many moons ago that had no right to ever have run in the first place *still* works in the current version of Windows. That's an exceedingly *un-exciting* feature of Windows that has ensured the upgrade fees continue to roll in year after year after year. Windows may *be* crap, but what matters for the vast majority of customers is whether it runs *their* crap.

      1. This is my handle

        MS Backward Compatiblity

        I dunno, I still have some code I wrote for System III Unix that runs just fine today on the newest Linux boxes available. Of course, they must be recompiled...

        The shell scripts and (later) perl scripts run w/out a recompile, as does nearly all the java code I still have.

        OTOH, some of MS's own apps won't even install on modern versions of Windows (I'm thinking of my Office 97 suite, the last version which seemed worth the cost for my needs) and of course, when we got the first WIndows 7 boxes at home none of the 32 bit printer drivers for our existing printers worked any more....

        I'd like to give MS credit where it's due for * attempting * backward compatibility, but I don't think it's quite the seamless continuum you describe, nor is it so exceptional.

        OT3H, sure they have been innovative at times, and near as I can tell OLE is theirs. Another thing they've always done well is linking code from multiple programming languages, starting back in DOS days and continuing thru .NET.

        1. Richard Plinston

          > linking code from multiple programming languages, starting back

          > in DOS days

          The original Microsoft languages:

          Microsoft BASIC

          Microsoft COBOL

          Microsoft Pascal

          No, these couldn't be linked together.

          Microsoft C (bought from Lattice)

          Visual BASIC (DOS)

          Microsoft Quick Pascal

          No, these couldn't either.

          1. This is my handle


            One of the first programs I ever got paid to write was in Pascal (the only 3GL compiler I had for CP/M which supported a language I actually knew; yeah we're going back a ways). By the time the guy came back w/ requests for a version 2.0 I had learned C, and I distinctly remember building some libraries of Ccode and linking them into the Pascal program I had written him. 'may have been Borland though, now that I think about it, though I seem to remember evaluating the cost of the switching to MS specifically because of that capability.

            I also remember (later) extending some RM Cobol code with database calls written in C, but that was Unix for sure, ergo not MS.

            Memory: 2nd thing to go.

      2. Richard Plinston

        DEC Settlement

        > if DEC had believed it was "imported" as-is, then they'd have

        > sued Microsoft out of existence.

        """Obviously, DEC weren't happy with the apparent similarity of Windows NT and their product, VMS. In fact, when DEC's engineers noticed the problem, and brought their concern to the senior management, suing Microsoft for intellectual property violation was a possibility. Instead, there was an out of court settlement with Microsoft."""

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Put to one side? Stupid logic.

      *Why* put aside Kinect and the XBox? They were MS and they were exciting. You can't arbitrarily dismiss exciting tech products and then claim they make no such thing.

      As for your three exhibits, all you have 'shown' is that they were imported. So what? The question was whether they make tech exciting not whether they develop it in-house.

      Where did you learn logic? *Did* you learn logic?

      1. Richard Plinston

        > *Why* put aside Kinect and the XBox? They were MS and they

        > were exciting.

        """Kinect is based on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense."""

        XBox is a PC optimed for games and is otherwise just another console as has been made by others for decades before it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PrimeSense and Xbox

          So what?

          Again, I repeat, the question was not whether they were developed in-house but whether they were exciting and from MS.

          If you don't believe they were exciting that would be a different issue, but a brief look at news and tech reports from those periods would show the mainstream opinion did.

          1. Goat Jam

            Buying shit to look cool.

            "the question was not whether they were developed in-house but whether they were exciting"

            So, all it takes is for MS to buy another persons invention and they suddenly become hip, exciting and cool?

            Sort of like what you wintards accuse iBuyers of doing?

          2. Richard Plinston

            > the question was

            The _actual_ question was, as is in the title of the article, whether Microsoft was being 'innovative' or imitative.

            Buying in stuff, sticking your own name on it and generating 'excitement' through advertising is not being innovative.

        2. Ramazan

          Kinect is based on

          "Kinect is based on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense". So what? Most things are invented by human beings, not corporations (e.g. multi-touch technology), but some companies are able to recognize innovation when it falls down on them while others aren't.

    3. Paul Shirley

      It's worse than that, the innovation that has escaped from MSFT is all reactionary, desperate scrambling to stop others taking their customers. Biggest example: C# may be a better language than the steaming pile Java is but it exists only because MSFT tried and failed to subvert Java, it's the reaction to Java.

      Microsoft copies their competition and reserves innovation as the icing on those copies.

    4. Ramazan

      DOS, NT and OLE

      I'd not call them "imported". DOS was licensed, ported to PC, then bought completely and extended greatly. NT was developed by Dave Cutler inside MS premises, not while he worked at DEC, so the only import was Dave himself (MS should better "import" Thompson, Ritchie or Kernighan IMO, but having had Xenix and euthanized it, those guys had to worry if MS did)

  9. Blarkon

    So someone anonymous posts on a blog - no one follows up to confirm - no one even knows if the anonymous poster was at the event - and suddenly something is true?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      That's the way the internet works - innit?

      Sigh. Every time I write 'internet' I think of that skit from an old Simpsons episode when Homer and friends go camping. Back when they were still fuuny :)

      "Oh no, I think I just logged onto my internet'

  10. AndrueC Silver badge

    It's probably not helped by the general air of 'doom and gloom' pervading the western world at the moment.

    1. Armando 123

      Which is something I've never entirely understood. Okay, things aren't great and have been better, but if you think that right now in the first world is so bad, imagine an another time or third world place in the context of one word: dentistry.

      1. Goat Jam


        I'm in the first world and I have not visited a dentist in decades.

        Who can afford that?

        1. Armando 123

          If you chip a tooth and need surgery, would you rather have it happen in, say, London or New York, or would you rather have that happen in Zaire?

          1. Goat Jam

            Chip a tooth?

            It's funny you should say that but the last time I went to a dentist in the early nineties it was because I chipped a tooth. Three visits and several hundred later it is still chipped and I just live with it.

            If I chipped a tooth again and I could choose my country then it would be Thailand without a doubt.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft has grown up to be a mature company

    Just the same as in any "normal" company. Exec speaks, employees listen and leave.

    What's new here? Let's move along.

    1. John McCallum


      Yeah sort of like our quarterly meetings all we want to hear is,is there going to be a profit share/wage rise and if so how much and is there still going to be a job three months down the line.

  12. Jolyon


    I can imagine it's a frustrating place to be.

    Office really is a best of breed application set but it has been for over a decade and really hasn't needed anything more than tinkering.

    Windows has genuinely improved but has seen precious little in the way of innovation.

    There's been a process of refinement and consolidation but everything they try and do that is cool or fun is either a dismal failure or underpromoted (internally and externally).

    Where's my 'Surface' coffee table, Microsoft?

    Compared with working at Apple, Google or Amazon it must seem a bit dull.

  13. billium
    IT Angle

    They are probably upset about the move from software development to law.

  14. Denarius Silver badge

    got the right company ?

    Sounds so familiar. Like a Windows centric company I heard of recently, with CEOs and chairmen walking away with M$. perhaps a merger ? misery loves company...

  15. yossarianuk

    glory days when they knew how to make tech exciting ...

    How my heart bleeds for them...

    Microsoft have 'never' innovated with the exception of WGA and clippy.

    Kinect = wii clone

    Xbox = playstation clone - rip off shit that you have to pay more to play online...

    Windows = Amiga/Atari/Apple clone

    True innovation happened on the Amiga - see this quote from an Amiga games developer who went to the PC (Microsoft) market

    "...[E]ven in those days, it was not really about the hardware. It was about the type of people that were attracted to it—their "can-do" attitude. When I started consulting on PC projects after the Amiga, I was surprised that developers were not eager to try something unless some other developer had already done it. With the Amiga developers, it was almost pointless to try for an effect unless NOBODY had done it before."

    At least in Linux you get innovation ever if most is behind the scene...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Playstation Move is a Wii clone, Kinect is most definitely not a Wii clone.

      Yes they are both immersion technologies, but game immersion came before the Wii with light guns. By your logic the Wii is a rip off of the Lightgun.

      The problems that Microsoft solved to make the Kinect work were, each and everyone, complete innovation.Combining and resolving the research of Kentaro Toyama. Andrew Fitzgibbon, and Jamie Shotton to accurately track movement in realtime was a major effort beyond that of anything done as part of the Wii.

      You know...If you can't give credit where credit is due, people are going to doubt you are sufficiently informed to be making the statements you're making, and think you're just some hating ignorant troll.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Kinect hardware wasn't developed by Microsoft or a company that they own.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I keep hearing people spout off about how Microsoft doesn't innovate, and I wonder do these people just have a massive chip on their shoulder, or are they just ignorant.

        Ajax and XMLHttpRequest are nearly as important to the Web as we know it today as http itself is. It might seem like a little thing, but it made a fairly fundamental change to the way we use the Web every day.

  16. TheOtherHobbbes


    they should ask Meg Whitman, when she becomes free in a year or so.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha ha ha!

    "During Microsoft's annual full staff meeting, employees unmistakably expressed their displeasure about how the company is being run."

    Whereas the rest of the world just points at their software and laughs!

  18. Anonymous Cowbard

    Try as we might, The Register could find no Microsoft staffer...

    ...who was willing to lose his/her job for no good reason,

  19. Andus McCoatover

    And Nokia?....

    Here we go...The beginning of the end?

  20. The Alpha Klutz

    ballmer would be more engaging if you gave him a mr blobby suit

    he could jump around and shout blobby blobby blobby and break things. Noel Edmonds would have to turn up unannounced and give him a ticking off. It would be a lot of fun for the staff of Microsoft. Then they can eat cake and icecream and play on the bouncy castle. I think less people would walk out because they would all be waiting for their goody bags. Everyone gets a box of crayons and a drawing of the Windows logo to colour in. They could play the latest S Club 7 songs.

    if theyre gunna be stuck in the 90s anyway, they might as well have some fun!

  21. Hans 1

    Jobsian Wisdom

    Steve Jobs: Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost 10 years. That’s a long time. And how are monopolies lost? Think about it. Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly. But after that, the product people aren’t the ones that drive the company forward anymore. It’s the marketing guys or the ones who expand the business into Latin America or whatever. Because what’s the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself? So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy… Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they’re no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn’t.

    BusinessWeek: Is this common in the industry?

    Steve Jobs: Look at Microsoft — who’s running Microsoft?

    BusinessWeek: Steve Ballmer.

    Steve Jobs: Right, the sales guy. Case closed.

    1. Richard Plinston

      > Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost

      > 10 years. That’s a long time.

      Three Rivers/ICL PERQ 1981

      Apple LISA 1983

      Apple Macintosh 1984

      DRI GEM 1984 (demoed) 1985 (shipped)

      Atari 520ST 1985

      Windows 1985

      Which 10 years are you referring to ? or did you mean 10 months ?

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Don't forget RISC OS, 1987 (and still going, plus now open source). Possibly earlier if you want to go by its progenitor, Arthur...

  22. Derk

    The reason is....

    Gates was from a software background, he had a vision for his products. Jobs too. Balmer is a bean counter, his background is finance, not engineering of any kind. His vision is limited to the bottom line. He is the king of the underpants gnomes. 1. make something 2. ???? 3. Profit. He can't inspire, because he has no belief, no vision. So many great companies have been ruined by sale people and bean counters. Apple will be next.

    1. Richard Plinston

      > Gates was from a software background,

      No he wasn't. He may have dabbled in software but his background was solidly Law. MS was successful because it used contracts and 'persuation' to control the market.

  23. TheRealRoland

    But if you're already this negative...

    Isn't it time to move on? In my previous jobs, whenever I started spouting this kind of comments, i was subconsciously already thinking about another job.

    So it's not about MS vs Apple, Gates vs Ballmer, etc. It's how you like your current job, and if it matches what goals you have vs the direction of the company you work for.

    If you want to innovate, or be the driving force behind innovation, you should start to think about 'am i in the right place to be able to do this', etc. ?

    Don't think MS / Apple / any other large company (or small!) is there to provide you with a meaningful existence. They have their own reasons, directions, etc., and at time of the interview between the company and you they seemingly were matching up.

  24. rpjs

    Ialmost feel a bit sorry for MSFT

    because I have a feeling Windows 8 will have the potential to be one of those truly exciting new products, but I doubt it'll be enough to tip the point back from inexorable decline, not unless they fire Ballmer.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ken 12:32

    Re 2: NT was originally derived more from DEC's VAXeln (another Cutler project, a lightweight distributed embedded kernel with some limited similarities with VMS) than from a heavyweight like VMS. I know all three from the inside, and if you don't believe me, read Custer's book Inside Windows NT. VMS++ is a joke.

    Re 3: OLE was inspired by DEC's Compound Document Architecture and followons, specifically the stuff that DEC later called LiveLink (but never told anyone about).

    Why didn't DEC sue? Can't say for sure, but a good guess has been mentioned already - the lawyers win either way. Palmer (head of DEC at the relevant time) wanted to be mates with Gates anyway. Palmer was an idiot.

  26. heyrick Silver badge

    On Ballmer

    I don't know, I find Ballmer to be highly irritating. He might have calmed down a little from his "developers! developers! developers!" speech, but then he doesn't really strike me as a guy who understands code. This is, perhaps, the big difference from Gates, who was a shrewd businessman, but also had a grasp of the nuts and bolts holding the whole thing together, and led his company... not necessarily to "innovate" (as Apple fanbois like to claim of Apple), but to deliver on their computer more or less what the end user required. For all of the GPFs and BSODs, Windows was infinitely better than the mess of drivers and disparate programs that was the realm of DOS (WordPerfect 5.1, I'm looking at you!). I never got the feeling that Ballmer understood more than that which could be explained by a Powerpoint slide, and does he have the capability to attempt to predict what will be 'hot' tomorrow? Or is he going to lead the company, along with other American giants, down the road of oblivion that is patent trolling? While there's a certain necessity to throw patents around in the current climate, I think if there are any true hardcore coders nestled in the heart of Microsoft, they'd be somewhat disillusioned by what has been going on these last few years. If they want to cut down the likes of Linux, it's going to need to be done on technical merit, not who has the biggest stick. I believe Microsoft *could* possibly pull this off, but do they have the sort of leadership to make it happen? <looks at Ballmer> Um...

    Okay, I've just made a sort of pro-Microsoft posting. I'll go wash my mouth out with soap. :-P

  27. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Put 20,000 people in any single company and lethargy is almost assured.

    Time to break MS up into its component parts and get them working off the same song sheet.

  28. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    OK, here's a solution then-

    Well, they can get radical, but are they ready for it? I doubt it, as it's a political mess. But IF shareholders want something serious to happen, let me run the company. For 2 years (it takes a year to get to grips with an organization, politics and product cycles). I cannot possibly do a worse job than Ballmer, but I do know how to nuke political games and get techs excited and collaborating again. MS isn't short of talent, but it lacks the management talent to use that technical talent it has.

    And yes, I'd knock heads about the security issues as well. I'm very happy that MS puts its weight behind shutting down botnets, but let's not forget that it is their products that made that crap possible in the first place. This must stop. Repeat after me: code must be implicitly good, and NOT depend an an aftermarket bandage call anti-virus.

    So, if they're interested, give me a call. El Reg knows who I am.

    Just a suggestion. I'll keep Balmer for when I need furniture destroyed..

  29. Eduard Coli


    Windows Vista was hated, Too many stayed on EcksPee and not as many as expected bought Windows 7.

    Billy G. was a tablet freak and now he sits there watch people spread piles on money on fruit slabs or andy.

    M$ still does not get tablet and because there is still no real file system update in Win8 or seemingly any other real improvements who will care about it?

  30. jim 45

    They just tried to milk Windows for far too long.

    If they'd started - 10years ago - building a totally new, flyweight OS - realizing that eventually Windows would be sinking of its own weight - they could be in a great position today, with phones and tablets. But I'm sure that internally, no 'competitor' to 'real Windows' could ever get started. Now they're trying desperate tricks to reduce the boot time to something under 90 seconds for a version of Windows that's still a year away... and they have nothing for tablets...and Windows Phone 7 is too little, too late.

    1. Richard Plinston

      > If they'd started - 10years ago - building a totally new,

      > flyweight OS

      Actually they did it is alleged. The next OS after XP was intended to be a completely new .NET CLR based system that would run on x86 and on the POWER chip used by XBox 360. It never got stable enough to be usable so after several years development they threw together Server 2003 kernel and whatever GUI bits they could and producd Vista inside 18 months (and it showed).

      It is likely that a lot of that work is being recycled into Win8 for ARM (still a year or more away it seems).

      1. jim 45

        good points

        As a developer, I feel that the great job MS did on .NET and its associated tools showed the real power still in the organization. I guess I actually hope that Win8 turns out to be great. I use a Windows phone and the Metro UI is also a nice piece of work, fully the equal of anything coming out of Apple.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    OEM and what came after...

    The smartest move they ever made, was OEM, which paved the way for merely reasonable microsoft operating systems to dominate on the desktop & server.

    They were in the right place at the right time and had the business kudos to hit a home run.

    I say 'merely reasonable', because that's exactly what windows is - it works, it works well enough, but it's not astoundingly good.

    Due to the OEM tie-ins, it came to dominate the market and thus, has more software available for the platform than you can shake a stick of RAM at.

    It's hard to imagine a world without ms windows and how it may have panned out.

    To me, with my 'slightly better than laymans' knowledge of operating systems, *nix is vastly superior in terms of the underlying operating system.

    And here we are in 2011, where the market has shifted seismically toward *nix, demonstrating once again just how flexible it is.

    The sheer plethora of mobile devices has completely skewed the market in less than a decade.

    *nix, through the mobile route, has smashed into the market in a way that's left microsoft floundering. They have yet to come up with *anything* that can compete.

    Apple led the charge and now we have Android raking in the lower end of the market.

    Is it any wonder microsoft bods are so underwhelmed?

    Right now, microsoft is still in a slow tailspin downwards and it seems no amount of money is dragging them out of it.


    Because Gates, way before he quit, turned his attention to other matters - philantrophy. He then handed the keys to the kingdom over to one rather large, shouty man - a died in the wool business man. A man with only a vision of the bottom line, the money, the power. A bully, a closed minded denialist.

  32. asdf
    Thumb Up

    Quote of the Year

    .. someone else to jump around like an asshole during his entrance instead of doing it all by himself,” said a poster. “Now if only he'd do the same with his regular day job.”

    OMG classic!!! Balmer is what ails M$. Balmer is proof positive that shareholders don't mean shit in tech companies.

  33. Charles Manning

    What Ballmer should have said:

    staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff, staff,staff, staff,

    Rub the little Microserf egos a bit.

    I'll wager that most people working at MS have never participated in any compelling development. Most will just work there a few years and be happy to leave with Microsoft on their resume.

    Unfortunately having MS on your resume is no longer the gold dust it used to be.

  34. RightPaddock

    Outlandish Prediction

    Within 5 years Microsoft & IBM will merge

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't find a Microsoft employee to comment?

    ...then how about one of the millions of Windows beta testers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      were any of them at the meeting?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh yes indeed - probably not allowed to use anything else.

  36. John 62

    I might be mad...

    but I don't think Ballmer is that bad. 'Developers! Developers! Developers!' may have been funny, but it has made a serious difference to the industry. MS has produced a lot of good products and even, gasp, good technology (and there's nothing wrong with buying/licensing good technology from outside).

    However, the company seems to lack a laser-like focus, and the dev, windows and office divisions seem to not trust each other. Having said that, with some of the efforts going into Windows 8, the Metro interface and how much Microsoft does because of actual usage data, it looks like some improvements are happening.

  37. David Haig

    Not yet ready for the grave .....

    The imminent demise of M$ has been touted before and it is still here - look at all those tech titans that aren't :- DEC, Data General, Novell, Compaq, Systime, Amdahl, SCO, etc They may be in less than optimum shape at the moment, but so were Apple and IBM not so long ago and they have pulled through rather well.

    Never write M$ off - its unlikely as many of us wouldn't be in a job now if it wasn't for them & IBM.

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. The Alpha Klutz

    Ballmer's missing a trick

    He needs to be selling himself. He needs to say "look at me, I'm the CEO of Microsoft, and my job is so easy, because of all this great enterprise software we have: - don't you wish you could run your company from a chair? I can! Golf Anyone? At Microsoft we are selling a philosophy; How to run a 21st century business. Our software builds the framework, so the more of it you subscribe to, the more tightly integrated your business will be to our successful Microsoft model. You can make your company as scalable as ours. Almost instantly. Roll up and take a chance, once again, my name is Steve Ballmer, and I'm the billionaire CEO on easy street.

    Then cut to the wide shot of him serving up BBQ to his dearest.

  40. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Usual TAK?

    2nd CEO of a successful startup enterprise usually brings it to the brink no?

  41. Rex Alfie Lee

    Stevie "I'm gonna f**king kill Google" Balmy Ballmer...

    'He delegated responsibility by paying someone else to jump around like an asshole during his entrance instead of doing it all by himself,” said a poster. “Now if only he'd do the same with his regular day job.”' - Love it, Monkey-boy's quelled, someone has put him in his place & told him to grow up.

    As far as Google is concerned, Stevie's failed completely again. His chair-throwing antics & abusive nature have come back to haunt him & as he continues in the helm, M$ continues to recede into dust.

    He's balmy, he's bald, he's infantile, he's a moron & we come to applaud the clown himself, Stevie Ballmer...

    Oh yay, oh yay...

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