No company gets it right all of the time. In fact a great deal of progress is borne of the fact that mistakes are made — lots of them. Microsoft is no different in this regard and it is something the company will freely admit. One area in which mistake were made and ground was lost s mobile computing. Few people would disagree that Microsoft was late to the party on a lot of fronts here, and is now desperately playing catch-up with the other big names. Things have gone so badly, in fact, that Steve Ballmer would quite happily step back in time and do things differently.
The former Microsoft CEO spoke to students at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, UK, saying that “it’s probably fair to say there are things that did not go as well as we intended them to.” He told his audience that while occasional failure was almost inevitable, the key to success is to look at the broader picture — it’s all about the slow burn for Ballmer.
He said that missing a trend — as was very much the case with mobile computing — does not matter too much. Rather than just giving up and walking away, Ballmer suggest that companies should “keep investing for next wave.”
This is slightly at odds with his admission that “we would have a stronger position in the phone market today for example, if I could redo last ten years.” Whether this is because he would like to travel back in time and correct mistakes he made, or to steer colleagues in slightly different direction is not clear but it is interesting to hear that the Microsoft mogul would rather things has turned out differently — or perhaps that things had just happened sooner.
A lot of hope is being pinned on the advancement of the mobile market, and Ballmer said that the acquisition of Nokia is an important part of the company’s future. Should it have been done sooner (or something similar)? Perhaps. But the important thing to note is that Microsoft did not just give up on mobile, despite its tardiness, it hung around and caught that all important “next wave”.
Ballmer told the students that companies’ success or failure often hinged on their pricing: “I got to tell you this thing called price is really important”. He said that successful businesses were the one who “were deep in thinking through the revenue, price, and business mode” — and perhaps this explains the recent license costs slashing.
As well as handing out advice of his own, Steve Ballmer also shared a little tip given to him by his father: “If you’re going to do a job, do a job. If you’re not going to do a job, don’t do a job.”
And you can’t really argue with that.
So, it is time to fire up the DeLorean and hit 88 miles per hour? And what parts of Microsoft’s history would you change?