Microsoft’s outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer has been talking to Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley in what will probably be his last interview while still in charge of the Redmond firm that was once the ruler of the world. Now though, and partly under Ballmer’s stewardship, Microsoft has found itself falling behind its competitors in all kinds of metrics.
Ballmer’s interview has been put up on CNN’s Fortune website, but Foley has shared some more information in her ZDNet column, and it’s here that we find out that Ballmer feels his biggest failure was the launch of Windows Vista, the operating system that spent its early life being developed under the codename of Longhorn.
Initially looking extremely good to those of us that were keeping an eye on its development, Longhorn eventually turned into the force that was Vista, and Ballmer says it took years for his company to pick up the pieces.
Not only because the product wasn’t a great product, but remember it took us five or six years to ship it. Then we had to sort of fix it. That was what I might call Windows 7. And what we wound up with (was) a period of let’s say seven or eight years where we had the A-team — not all of the A-team but a bunch of our best people — tied up not driving. We did not make years progress in eight years, and there were other things those people could have been working on, (like) phones.
It’s Ballmer’s mention of phones right at the end of that quote is particularly telling, with Microsoft currently playing catch-up behind the likes of Apple and Google, and largely failing. If Microsoft had been able to keep its top developers, engineers and software coders working on future products rather than trying to fix its once strong operating system, perhaps Microsoft would have been the company to launch the iPhone or iPad.
Of course, all this is guesswork and it’s the kind of guesswork that an outgoing CEO can afford himself as the clock ticks down to his exit. The real issue is left over for his successor, and whoever that turns out to be, they’re going to have plenty to get their teeth into. The recently released Xbox One has launched to good reviews but yet some hardware problems, and Windows itself is still trying to get a foothold following a luke warm response to its Metro / Modern redesign.
Tough times ahead for Microsoft, that’s for sure.
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