Microsoft’s Frank Shaw Slams The Tech Press Over Biased Coverage Of Ballmer

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Frank Shaw's Troll Easter Egg

The powers that be at Microsoft unleashed their attack dog, Frank Shaw to punch back at the tech press; justifiably so, I only wish they would have done it sooner.  For the past few days we have seen nothing “news articles” slamming Ballmer.  Sure he has made some major mistakes, but there was not even a slight attempt to balance the coverage even slightly.  The problem is that what is written on tech blogs is regurgitated into the mainstream press.  For example Forbes call Ballmer the worst CEO ever of any publically traded company.

Ballmer doubled profits, tripled revenues and served as Bill Gates’ right hand man since near the inception of the company.  Half of Microsoft’s billion dollar businesses came to fruition under Ballmer.  Ballmer certainly wasn’t the greatest CEO ever but given the circumstances and the situation he inherited I thought he did an okay  job.  And it’s tough to think someone who would have done significantly better in his place.

Of course there are other contributing factors to why the tech press never liked Ballmer.  Outside of his enthusiasm for the company, the press found him boring.  He did not have the flair of Larry Elison, buying yachts, islands etc.  He was not a socialite like Marissa Mayer who worse designer clothes and bought a penthouse at the four seasons.  Ballmer, relative to his wealth, lived modestly and simply loved working at Microsoft.

Here is a part of what Frank wrote:

For example, the variability in the coverage we received this weekend put me in mind of the opening paragraph from Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.

It’s puzzling how this could be, how the same set of facts could possibly lead to such radically divergent conclusions on the part of so many writers, pundits and self-promoters.

And that’s when I remembered Rashomon, Kurosawa’s classic film from 1950. In it, four characters each recount widely varying versions of the same set of events, and the viewer is left to reach their own conclusion about what really happened. I had fun imagining what the running time of that film would have been in an era with Twitter and 24 hour news cycles. For a quicker, funnier film version, check out “Hoodwinked” which has much the same construct, plus an over-caffeinated squirrel.

Of course, the key thing that determines how we interpret a set of facts is the frame we view them through and what pre-existing beliefs that frame is built on.

Study after study shows we tend to focus on facts that support our beliefs, and ignore those that don’t fit neatly.

In research, this is known as confirmation bias, and it’s a very hard thing to overcome, even when you are aware of it.

So, if you really want to understand what’s going on with a category as complex as the one we operate in, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Read Frank Shaw’s full blog post: On Dickens, Rashomon and Twitter

David Curtis wrote a good example of a balanced article on his site, from which I have excerpted the conclusion:

Good enough and better

Ballmer has led Microsoft through an insanely tumultuous twelve years. The entire technology industry has dramatically changed at least three times. Some companies are lucky to last through one major industry change. Ballmer and Microsoft have identified each of these shifts and then doubled down on owning the platforms of the future. The strategy often fails. But sometimes it succeeds, and the successes more than make up for the failures.

I don’t think it’s fair nor constructive to hold Microsoft to a standard very much higher than the one it currently adheres to. Microsoft, as an enterprise services company that also builds occasionally successful consumer products, is undeniably successful. While the future for Microsoft is not so clearly defined, the past has grown out of a series of rational decisions.

Unfortunately, while fiscally rational decisions have been good enough to get Microsoft to where it is today, such decisions have never and will never catapult a company into the top of the future. It’s the difference between a CEO who is good enough and one who is better. Ballmer, I think, is firmly in the good enough camp.

He might even be slightly better, because we should not forget this very consistently true fact: Microsoft makes around $5.5 billion every three months. In pure profit.

Source: Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft



About Author

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • ZackFirst

    who ever this guy is give him a bells :p

  • Randall Lewis

    Frank is far more patient than I could possibly be in the same position. It takes a lot to get him to write something like this and I’m glad he did it. I’ve read some cringe-worthy pieces on Microsoft and Ballmer in the last week from usually reliable outlets. Speculation ain’t journalism Kara, David, Tom and a few others.

    • Bugbog

      Don’t even mention the hatchet job BBC news did on him!

  • Ben Jammin’

    I don’t think all coverage was bad though. WMPowerUser, TruTower, and WPCentral all had decent articles about the announcement and Ballmer on top of this site. Of course, they do tend to have better WP and MS articles in general.

  • efjay

    Another reason why I don’t read “tech” blogs, full of apple and android fanboys.

    • Yuan Taizong

      or just general Microsoft-haters who parrot anything bad about Microsoft, and ignore any good facts.

      • Yuan Taizong

        Microsoft-haters are the only people more fanatical in the tech-world than Apple’s cult.

  • reKitab

    And then, BIG Steve laughs all the way to the Bank, leaving Pundits on the edge of their seats:)

    • Bugbog

      Once you get beyond a certain amount of wealth, it’s no longer the money that bothers you, it’s the acclaim and recognition that goes with it!

  • WebUser

    Sad thing is stupid people dominate the media in the US. Sadder thing is they don’t need to be responsible to what they say.

  • Charles

    Microsoft doubles the profit of Google, but for some reason we hold Google higher than Microsoft or think Google is hip and Microsoft is ancient. Apple has made higher profits than Microsoft for only 3 years. The only reason they made it anywhere was the missed release of Windows Mobile 7. Currently Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple all are trying to attack Google for patent infringement, even to the point of saying that what Google did with Android was evil. And some feel justified owning an android device. I guess some feel justified downloading pirated movies as well, but typically they keep that as private knowledge while Android is very much public. I hope Google burns in hell to be honest. “Thou shall not steal.” And now every Motorola Android user is committing sin. Good luck at the day of reckoning my friends.

  • Yuan Taizong

    I find it sad that Steve Ballmer despite his enthousiastic personality and many successes is seen as a failure, he is a man with vision, and unlike Steve Jobs, this steve actually changed the way we look at technology, by the end of the day, 99% of the people will still interact with Microsoft Office in one way or another.

    • SagetB

      This is one if the misinformed post I have read sometime on the Internet. It is one thing to support Ballmer for his strengths; heck of a salesmen and very good ringing the last dollars out of legacy products. Though do not try to compare him to Jobs.

      Jobs was able to develop 3 category defining products; iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The iPod redefined the music industry. The iPhone redefined the moble phone industry and the iPad is redefining the PC industry.

      While Ballmer offered Zune, Kin, and Surface all too little too late.

      • nohone

        If Jobs was as great as you and the media like to protray him, Apple would not exist today. That is because his company, NeXT, would have provided real competition to Microsoft and make Apple even more irrelevant than it was. Instead, NeXT was such a failure even Apple was able to buy them, and make the NeXT OS into the new OSX, which, to this day, is still a failure in comparison.