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Executive Editor

Microsoft: Ballmer may be going but our direction remains the same

Aug 28, 20134 mins
MicrosoftSmall and Medium BusinessWindows

Official blog says the company’s beliefs are unchanged

Microsoft promises to keep hammering away at same business principles that were forged during the tenure of CEO Steve Ballmer, who has announced he’s leaving the company within a year.

According to The Official Microsoft Blog the company will adhere to the core beliefs that it and Ballmer first articulated last fall:

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“We believe that technology is the key to unlocking human potential in all its forms, and that our job is to make it as broadly accessible as possible.

“That people don’t stop being people when they go to work or stop making things happen when they go home.

“That being human is at least as defined by creating as it is by watching, playing and sharing.

“That evolution entails an ongoing, messy diversification of use cases, form factors and scenarios, not a simple clean progression from one thing to another.

“That the intersection between hardware, software and the cloud services that connect them is the space where great things happen.

“And finally, we believe that any attempt to isolate these activities from one another and treat the boundaries between them as fixed vs. fluid is artificial and limiting.

This is pretty much the set of talking points the company has been stressing for the past 10 or 11 months. They play out in the diverse set of products Microsoft offers as described this way in the blog, written by Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications: devices and services; enterprise and consumer; individuals and teams; cloud and on premise; infrastructure and line of business; OEM and first party; work and play.

Reiterating these goals and ideals in the blog implies that Microsoft plans to keep following them. On the one hand this could be viewed as a reassuring statement that Microsoft will remain stable during the transition away from Ballmer. On the other, it could be interpreted as a firm commitment to the same policies and choices that led to dissatisfaction with Ballmer in the first place, which would tie the hands of a new CEO and minimize any impact that person might have.

That it signals a certain stability going forward will be comforting to corporate customers with mammoth investments in Microsoft products and product roadmaps. No doubt allaying the fears of customers is one goal of the blot. But it also fails to address what changes they can expect with a new CEO, something else businesses need to hear in order to be reassured.

Shaw’s blog criticizes those who have written negatively about Microsoft in the wake of the announcement that Ballmer is leaving. “So when people see the “worst of times” while we see the best still ahead of us,” says the blog, “we know it’s simply because we’re not looking through the same frame or the same time horizon.”

It’s not clear what time horizon Shaw is talking about. At the very least, it’s the period between now and when Ballmer leaves. But it might easily stretch beyond that, which would impose these goals and ideals on Ballmer’s replacement.

If that’s the case the replacement CEO won’t be able to address some of the criticism facing Microsoft: that it’s lost focus with too many diverse products; that it’s missed the boat on mobility; that it’s been left behind in tablets. And then what’s the point of getting rid of Ballmer in the first place?

The true goal here seems to be to keep customers as happy as possible until the new CEO hits the ground and decides what changes to make.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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