For those who don’t know me, let me establish a few positions that I have taken over the many years that I have been working in IT before me writing a piece I never thought I would write. First, I do not particularly care for Microsoft and have been known to go great lengths to avoid using or buying their products. I am even writing this on my Ubuntu laptop for now. And I won’t claim to be a free software preacher either. I feel that every job has a proper tool, many have more than just one. For example when I am home browsing on the internet, that tool could be an Apple Product or a Windows Product, or an alternative such as Linux. They all do the job well. When I work, I use Windows 7 x64 bit because I need the memory for the work that I do.
Second, as much as I dislike Microsoft, I loathe Steve Ballmer even more. In my personal opinion, Steve Ballmer is the mouthpiece that rattles on endlessly as though possessed by an otherworldly spirit while the rest of the company appears to want to present itself in a better way. While many key people in Microsoft try to reach out to Open source communities and bring in developers or try and encourage hackers to work with Microsoft to improve security, Mr. Ballmer will spout ramblings of IP theft and threaten lawsuits just moments later and place bounties on the head of anyone who exploits security flaws. The man seems about as in control of Microsoft as a dog owner would be of a Rottweiler walking through a butcher shop. The man has been notorious for being a clown on stage and jumping around like the dancing monkey boy moniker he has earned.
Which is why as much as it pains me to say this, but I feel Sam Diaz of ZDnet is wrong on saying that Steve Ballmer should remove himself. Over the past five years, Microsoft has suffered a lot of brain drain and replaced a great many good managers with technical goals with business men that are out for pure profit. One such great loss include one of my personal idols Ray Ozzy. The problem with losing those engineers, the visionaries of the company is that eventually without the visionaries, the company runs out of ideas to market and lacks direction. Ballmer finally realized this and appears to be changing his tune. You see, he has shown something of what I would call growth. He made a mistake and is showing signs that he has learned from that mistake. Much like when I tear apart a computer and for some reason, I misplace a jumper or get the wrong power supply or purchase a CPU that won’t work with the existing motherboard. I can easily just abandon the computer or give it to some one else for a discount price because I can’t make it work. Or I can try and troubleshoot the problem, fix the computer and learn something from the experience. Another example would be taking the star basket ball player out of the game for being a ball hog after he finally learns how to pass to the other members on his team. Steve Ballmer seems to have learned one of the valuable lessons in running a business. That is running a technology company with only businessmen as executives is a bad way to run a business.
Now for why I feel so strongly about this. For the last decade I have seen more people chase after jobs in the “business” world rather than the engineering world because they didn’t want to deal with the complexities of math and feel they could get an equal or better paying job than some one who actually did the heavy thinking. I have a co-worker that chose to be an manager of information systems instead of a computer science major for just such a reason. Bill Gates spoke for years about the need for more H1B Visas because of the talent shortage in engineers. Steve Ballmer didn’t do much to help the problem by showing everyone that marketing and sales were important to the business while letting the engineers disappear. Hopefully this is a high profile enough movement and successful enough that more companies will push to get engineers and more technical people into positions of leadership. With that notion perhaps, and this is a long shot, people will see an engineering degree as a way to make real money instead of thinking the only college degree is an MBA.
So yes, I want Steve Ballmer to stay as the CEO of Microsoft, not because I like the guy. Not because I like the company. Not even because I don’t like the company. I want Steve Ballmer to be CEO so he can put more engineers in power and hopefully set an example that sometimes the person with the engineering degree gets to call the shots, which by what I still call a long shot, but start getting more students to enroll in college as engineers. These hopes are the reason that I feel Steve Ballmer is moving Microsoft in the right direction.