And since Steve Ballmer announced he would resign as chief executive of Microsoft, this is the classic story we’ve been telling ourselves about Microsoft. Under Bill Gates, an engineer and entrepreneur, Microsoft disrupted IBM.
Under Steve Ballmer, a salesman and a suit, Microsoft is being disrupted by the post-PC landscape: smartphones, tablets and the cloud. Microsoft’s problem is that Steve Ballmer simply doesn’t “get it”: witness the cornucopia of silly quotes about the iPhone.
And remember the Zune? There’s just one problem with this story: it isn’t true. Everyone who knows Steve Ballmer knows that he is an incredibly smart guy. It’s pretty clear he’s familiar with the concept of technological disruption.
And it’s pretty clear that he understands very much what’s going on. The thing you have to understand about Microsoft is precisely its history of having disrupted IBM.
Bill Gates is an engineering and business genius, and he understood extremely well what he was doing, and once Microsoft made it to the pinnacle of the industry, he understood extremely well what the risk was.