Former Microsoft SVP Speaks: Ballmer Forces Out Anyone Who Could Challenge Him

A former Microsoft executive has criticized the software giant's CEO Steve Ballmer and his practices.

In an interview with Reuters, former Windows sales senior vice president Joachim Kempin said Ballmer's presence is suffocating the company and the head is always looking to drive out those who pose a potential challenge to his position.

"When you work that directly with Ballmer and Ballmer believes ‘maybe this guy could someday take over from me’, my God, you will have less air to breathe, that’s what it comes down to," Kempin, who worked at Microsoft from 1983 to 2002, stated. "It was Steve’s way or the highway."

"Is he a great CEO? I don't think so. Microsoft's board is a lame duck board, has been forever. They hire people to help them administer the company, but not to lead the company. That's the problem. Steve is a very good business guy, but make him a chief operating officer, not a CEO, and your business is going to go gangbusters. I respect that guy (Ballmer), but there are some limitations in what he can and can't do and maybe he hasn't realized them himself."

"They missed all the opportunities they were talking about when I was still in the company. Tablets, phones…we had a tablet going, we had tablet software when Windows XP came out, it was never followed up properly."

"Just think about the insult of Microsoft coming out with a tablet themselves, trying to mimic Apple, and now they are going to come out with a notebook on top of it," he continued, referring to Microsoft's Surface RT tablet and the imminent launch of Surface running Windows Pro.

Kempin concluded that Microsoft’s board need to seriously consider whether Ballmer is the right individual to lead the company, suggesting that the firm could benefit from a younger chief executive.

"They need somebody maybe 35-40 years old, a younger person who understands the Facebook generation and this mobile community. They don’t need this guy on stage with this fierce, aggressive look, announcing the next version of Windows and thinking he can score with that."

Ballmer is rumored to have fired former president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division Steven Sinofsky as he was too divisive. The latter executive spearheaded the revival of Windows following the widely-panned Vista OS by managing the development and launch of Windows 7.

Analysts believe if Windows 8 ultimately fails in the market, which it has already evidently shown signs of slowing down, Steve Ballmer could make a departure from Microsoft.

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  • jhansonxi
    "... until Ballmer forced me out" could be good for a resume.
  • dimar
    Instead of doing the stupid metro thingy, Microsoft should have used those resources to further optimize Win8 from very oldest PCs to the latest ones. And with the low upgrade price, MS could have gotten countless upgrade orders.
  • twelve25
    Love the picture. Sums up Ballmer perfectly.
  • twelve25
    I agree, Microsoft should own the mobile market. I had a very, very nice $500 Windows PocketPC in 1999 that was extremely powerful. We had XP tablets in 2002. Windows was way ahead on mobile and just let it flounder and all but die before kicking out what seems to be a desperate mobile grab in Win 8.
  • blackmancer
    steve ballmer, loath that guy
  • blackbeard34
    This company believes it can 'strong arm' the pc industry and consumers into buying a product that most people neither want nor need. I agree with both above statements. If microsoft would have refined windows 8 and not included metro interface; or at least given you some choices on what you wanted on your system and what you diddn't things would be different. Windows 8 will just be like vista and its said. Not only that but; to try to 'force' pc manufacturers to use 'secure boot' its just ridiculous...Any one heard any word on that?
  • Marcus52
    Large companies are rarely the results of the decisions of one person, even if he is CEO. And, some of Kempin's comments seem a bit sour and off the mark.

    He was, after all, manager of Windows sales, not a tech guy, and certainly not a visionary - when did we ever see excellence in marketing their products from Microsoft? I suggest that Kempin himself didn't know all that much about selling Windows himself. Maybe Ballmer cut him off at the knees, but frankly, I'm skeptical.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Ballmer does everything right, but I do think a company that's lead by a single individual with his heart invested in it is better off than a company lead by a committee. I'm not sure Ballmer's heart is entirely in the right place, but neither am I so sure he is getting Microsoft off track overall. Every company has its ups and downs (many of them just go up and come down as the heart that made it leaves for whatever reason).

    Microsoft has clearly dropped the ball at times. They did a bad job marketing Zune, and other things some of you have mentioned. They are doing a better job now marketing Windows phones, but they still need to ratchet that up. They need to get the word out AND they need to educate the populace; depending on their position in desktop OS sales isn't going to keep them at the top. I do think they know this though - I just think they, like all big companies, just get a little full of themselves and lose touch at times.

    How much is Ballmer's fault? I don't know.
  • fimbulvinter
    I honestly had no feelings either way about Ballmer until I saw his tongue. It's bad and he should feel bad.
  • SteelCity1981
    Ballmer is a great salesmen i will agree but a bad CEO. The guy couldn't innovate himself out of a paper bag. Bill Gates when he was the CEO had a lot more innovating ideas for the company then Ballmer ever had as the CEO. At least with Gates we had some good innvoating ideas like Windows 95 that pretty much launched Microsoft into a whole new era of OS with innovations like the start menu that made it a lot easier for the avg consumer to use an OS and plug and play which made connecting devices to your computer a snap and the Xbox which was innovative to online gaming on a console. I mean what innovation has microsoft had under Ballmer as CEO? Can anyone think of one? lol
  • COLGeek
    While I am not a great fan of MS, this really sounds like the snivel of someone with a serious case of sour grapes. If the MS Board of Directors wanted rid of SB, he would be gone.