sábado, mayo 14, 2011

Un liderazgo cuestionado

Ben Brooks, un broker americano, publica transversalmente un comentario que va de Skype a la conducción de Steve Ballmer en Microsoft, demoledor para la valía de Ballmer como jefe de la empresa. ¿Será Ben Brooks el mejor juez del caso? Probablemente no, pero sus comentarios son en este caso bien encaminados. Sería una verdadera sorpresa que las cosas no se encaminaran como él lo imagina.
Brooks recapitula varios casos de errores de estrategia:
1. Skype, lo último

Ballmer’s acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion dollars is not only a gross overpay, but a complete waste of money for Microsoft. Ballmer has yet to lay out a clear reason why Microsoft wanted Skype. He has only stated the obvious: integration in Microsoft products — which could have been done in a partnership instead of an acquisition. In fact, the acquisition by most accounts sounded more like a move by Ballmer to buy something that others 2 may have wanted to own — just for the sake of others not owning it.
Beyond that is the fact that Microsoft has 89,000 employees — are you telling me that the company that put a computer in every home couldn’t create a Skype clone?
Not only could Skype have been made in-house, Skype should have been made in-house by Microsoft.
Even if it would have cost $1 billion dollars Microsoft would have been better off creating Skype in-house. Does anybody really think Apple spent anything close to $1 billion dollars building FaceTime?
This entire acquisition feels like a desperate move, made by a desperate man. As a shareholder I hope that the regulators stop the acquisition, but I highly doubt that will happen.
2. El Iphone:

Ballmer is now famous for saying:
There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.
We can get into talking tough and all that, but Ballmer — as the face of Microsoft — should have never made such a short sighted comment about any product released by a serious competitor like Apple. What is less quoted is the comments he made immediately following the above:
In the case of music, Apple got out early. They were the first to really recognize that you couldn’t just think about the device and all the pieces separately. Bravo. Credit that to Steve (Jobs) and Apple. They did a nice job.
But it’s not like we’re at the end of the line of innovation that’s going to come in the way people listen to music, watch videos, etc. I’ll bet our ads will be less edgy. But my 85-year-old uncle probably will never own an iPod, and I hope we’ll get him to own a Zune.
What is so shocking about this is that Ballmer recognizes that first to market is important — yet it took until 2010 to launch Windows Phone 7, three years after the iPhone.
Where is the “innovation” that Ballmer mentions in the music space — the Zune is effectively dead now and I bet his Uncle does have an iPod at this point. 3
This is the epitome of short sighted behavior by Ballmer and should have made the board and shareholders incredibly un-easy at the time and especially now. Instead it bolstered his support as a man who was going to squash the evil Apple bug.
Short sighted behavior like this can and should be forgiven if the person later recognizes his errors and immediately moves to correct it, yet again though it took three years to get a serious iPhone competitor out of Microsoft. They never created a music/video player that gained traction after the Zune faded into Wikipedia archives. That cannot and should not be forgiven.
3. Windows phone 7:

As I mentioned above Windows Phone 7 was seriously late to the party. Three years late means that most consumers Microsoft was targeting were on at least their second iPhone before Microsoft started to slowly ship Windows Phone 7. Add to that the basic lack of now common place smart phone features and you begin to see that Microsoft shipped a product that was competitive with the software from three years ago.
Windows Phone 7 may stand to be a long term success for Microsoft, but I doubt it. It is a product that in every way shows why Ballmer should not be in charge any longer. It was late and short sighted about the current market needs. In 2006 Windows Phone 7 would have blown away every technophile, this one included, in 2010 it is interesting and underwhelming.
I can assure you there are no crowds forming to get one.
It is the Zune all over again — a solid offering made far too late to make a substantial difference.
Brooks todavía continúa con otros casos representativos del cambio en el manejo de la empresa. Como corolario (y con el derecho que le otorga ser accionista -seguramente minoritario), propone el desplazamiento de Ballmer, y un cambio drástico de liderazgo:

Microsoft should be searching for a new CEO right now. The Skype acquisition damage can still be mitigated if the proper people are put in place to immediately leverage the Skype brand. A new CEO should be:
  1. Passionate about technology: don’t you get the feeling that Ballmer doesn’t really care about the products that Microsoft makes, in the same way that Steve Jobs cares about how employee shuttle buses look and how and where color is applied? Any new CEO should love technology and that will begin to show at Microsoft like it did when Gates was still at the helm if the right person is hired. Ballmer seems to care more about being the biggest thing on the market instead of the products his company creates.
  2. Forward thinking: Ballmer has shown his short sightedness time and time again, let’s get an executive with some vision. It is time that Microsoft starts creating new markets instead of trying to understand markets that their competitors are creating.
  3. An outsider: this is going to be the hardest thing for Microsoft to realize, but they need to get some fresh eyes on the problem. At the very least it should be someone who has not spent more than the last five years with the company. Microsoft needs a fresh outside perspective. An insider will just keep following the GPS coordinates that have been set forth by Ballmer.

Una vez más, el tamaño de la corporación, y el peso consiguiente de su burocracia, parecen convertir a una empresa, Microsoft en este caso, en otro dinosaurio, apartado de su mejor época.

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