Lots of good nuggets from Dina Bass, Beth Jinks and Peter Burrows on the end of the Steve Ballmer tenure at Microsoft:
Several directors and co-founder and then-Chairman Bill Gates — Ballmer’s longtime friend and advocate — initially balked at the move into making smartphones, according to people familiar with the situation. So, at first, did Nadella, signaling his position in a straw poll to gauge executives’ reaction to the deal. Nadella later changed his mind.
Strike 1. And in other words, Nadella was against it before he was for it. We’ll see how that ends up playing out now that he’s the man…
Ballmer was so loud that day in June his shouts could be heard outside the conference room, people with knowledge of the matter said. He’d just been told the board didn’t back his plan to acquire two Nokia units, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. He later got most of what he wanted, with the board signing off on a $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s mobile-phone business, but by then the damage was done.
Strike 2. But:
The tablet Microsoft finally came out with in October 2012, the Surface, was a dud. Windows 8, with a touch-based design, was released to mixed reviews. The smartphone operating system, Windows Phone, wasn’t a hit either — but Ballmer remained committed to it. A deadline was looming that would result in one of his last rolls of the dice.
Nokia made about 80 percent of handsets using Windows Phone, and the arrangement was set to expire in February 2014. Nokia had been dropping hints it might start making devices to run on Google’s Android platform. Ballmer needed a way to keep Nokia in Microsoft’s world.
Hard to see what other choice Ballmer had. Without Nokia, Windows Phone was effectively finished. Instead, Ballmer was. He struck out.
One more thing:
As Microsoft continued to lag behind rivals, some directors grew more unhappy. Ballmer had introduced Mulally as part of the company’s succession planning, and those on the board looking for ways to move Ballmer out talked in July about hiring the Ford CEO as a way to persuade the CEO to step down. In August, Ballmer, 57, announced he would retire, earlier than planned.
Interesting that it was Ballmer who ushered Mulally into the Microsoft mix, effectively sealing his fate…