(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own.)
By Jeffrey Goldfarb
NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters Breakingviews) - It is getting near
impossible to reboot Microsoft (MSFT.O). Both Chairman Bill
Gates and retiring Chief Executive Steve Ballmer indicated on
Thursday they will seek re-election to the board of directors.
Whoever becomes the new boss already will be saddled with the
Nokia NOK1V.HE acquisition. Now, there's a pretty good chance
of having to answer to not one, but two, former chiefs of the
$280 billion software company. The job is looking less appealing
by the day.
Though still immensely profitable, Microsoft could
nevertheless do with some refreshing. The sprawl has proven
costly, with online services losing some $12 billion over the
past three years. Microsoft is an also-ran in mobile and the
market for consumer gadgets, including music players and
tablets. Some of its largest acquisitions have failed to create
value. Devoting more resources and attention to business
software would be a better direction in which to head.
Forging a new strategy, though, will be difficult under the
circumstances. Even after Ballmer announced his plans to depart,
he plowed ahead with a $7.2 billion deal to buy Nokia,
essentially ensuring that Microsoft stays mired in the hardware
business that has proven to be its weakness.
With Gates and Ballmer peering over the shoulder of the new
CEO, it also will be hard for that individual to implement other
fresh approaches. For example, Microsoft has clung to the idea
of a one-size-fits-all interface, and the result is an apparent
growing dissatisfaction among its desktop and mobile customers.
The philosophy of the incumbents, though, is bound to rule the
With the only two men ever to run the 38-year-old company
still around, Microsoft will continue to operate as something of
a family business. Gates and Ballmer also combine to own 8.5
percent of the company's shares, giving them a good head start
on securing their board seats. That probably reduces the chance
that any of its successful alums will come back for the top
spot, other than possibly Nokia boss Stephen Elop, who is
already returning to the fold.
Gates last month expressed regret that the
Control-Alt-Delete function that can reset Microsoft's operating
system wasn't made easier. Too bad he has not taken the
opportunity to correct the error at the corporate level.
SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS:
- Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and retiring Chief Executive
Steve Ballmer are standing for re-election to the software
maker's board of directors, according to a company submission to
securities regulators on Oct. 3. Gates owns a 4.5 percent stake
in the company and Ballmer 4 percent.
- Microsoft filing: link.reuters.com/cug63v
- Reuters: Gates, Ballmer seek re-election to Microsoft
Out the Windows [ID:nL2N0HL0XN]
Eloping in chains [ID:nL2N0GZ0N9]
Fewer Windows [ID:nL2N0GO0K1]
- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers
can click on [GOLDFARB/]
(Editing by Antony Currie and Martin Langfield)
Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS MICROSOFT/
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