In his new book on Microsoft, former senior vice president Joachim Kempin describes its directors as “a lame duck board”.
Earlier this week, Forbes analyst Adam Hartung had some fairly bleak predictions regarding Microsoft, stating that the electronic giant’s recent failures would lead to massive layoffs in the next three years. The statement is somewhat alarmist, but Hartung isn’t the only one expressing concerns about the company. Among them is Microsoft’s former senior vice president Joachim Kempin, who has a great deal to say about his one-time employer in a new book. In particular, Kempin believes Microsoft botched its entry into mobile and social technologies, and he lays much of the blame on managers like CEO Steve Ballmer.
“Is [Ballmer] a great CEO?” Kempin said in a phone interview with Reuters. “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.”
Kempin went on to accuse Ballmer of ousting any Microsoft executive that could potentially surpass him as CEO, saying “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.” Kempin also suggested that Microsoft would benefit greatly under a CEO with a fresh understanding of mobile technologies and social networking. “I respect that guy, but there are some limitations in what he can and can’t do and maybe he hasn’t realized them himself.”
Kempin claims that Microsoft predicted the rise of social media and mobile computing, but never took full advantage of the data and ultimately lost out to companies like Apple. “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.” To Kempin, Microsoft is now playing catch-up where it should have been an industry leader, using the Surface tablet as one example. “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.”
Unlike the analysts and indie game designers who have criticized Microsoft recently, Kempin’s comments set a new precedent. Microsoft employees are widely recognized for company loyalty and a refusal to badmouth superiors, even after leaving the organization. If Kempin is willing to call out Ballmer ten years after resigning, then he either has legimate concerns about Microsoft’s future or he really wants to sell copies of his book.