Employee #30 leaves the stage

Astute Wired comment on Steve Ballmer’s departure (announcement of which increased the value of his Microsoft stock by three quarters of a billion dollars btw):

The 21st century doesn’t look good for the tech giants of the ’80s and ’90s. HP and Dell have lost much of their mojo to more nimble operations in Asia that are now building vast swathes of the hardware that drives the web’s most popular services. Oracle is struggling in the face not only of those hardware upstarts, but also a whole new breed of software makers and web companies offering tools that suit the modern internet in ways Larry Ellison’s aging software never could. And then’s there’s Ballmer and Microsoft, who had even more to lose — and lost it.

In some ways, it’s hard to blame Ballmer. Like HP and Dell and Oracle, Microsoft suffers from the innovator’s dilemma. It built such a successful business on the back of Windows — covering not only the desktop and laptops PCs we all used, but also the computer servers and other hardware that drove the modern corporation — it was difficult for the company to change course without undercutting its own bottom line. And the rise of open source software has hit the company right at the heart of its operation.

It’s notable that perhaps the biggest success of Ballmer’s time at the head of Microsoft, the Xbox video game console, wasn’t build on top of Windows, allowing the console to grow and morph on its own, without having to align itself with the Windows monolith.