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August 23rd 2013 4:18 pm

What's your favorite Microsoft blunder under Steve Ballmer?

Earlier today, in a letter to all of Microsoft's employees, Steve Ballmer gave notice that he will be retiring from his role as CEO within 12 months. This announcement has resulting in mixed reactions from the tech community, leaving most simply surprised, but some quite ecstatic.

Since Steve Ballmer assumed the role in January of 2000, he has led Microsoft through some pretty drastic changes:

2000 - Ballmer takes over from Bill Gates
2001 - The original Xbox launches, is considered a success, and creates another competitor for Sony and Nintendo.
2005 - Xbox 360 launches, and is widely applauded as one of Microsoft's greatest successes despite rumors that the Xbox division is somewhat separate from the rest of the company.
2006 - Microsoft tries to respond to the popularity of Apple's iPod line with a line of Zune music players. This product line was discontinued in 2012 as Apple still continues to sell iPods in the millions to this day.
2007 - Ballmer laughs off Apple's iPhone, saying it will never get market share because it is "too expensive" and won't "appeal to business customers."
2007 - Microsoft launches the Vista operating system, widely considered one of their biggest missteps. It took five years to develop, and launched without support for crucial peripherals like printers.
2008 - Microsoft tries to buy Yahoo! for $44 billion, but the deal falls through.
2009 - Ballmer unveils Microsoft's Bing search engine, which, while bringing a few innovations to the search engine game, still falls considerably behind Google in market share.
2009 - Microsoft releases Windows 7, one of the most well-received products under Ballmer's reign.
2010 - Microsoft introduces the Kin line of mobile phones, and then promptly discontinues it two months later after abysmal sales.
2010 - Microsoft releases Windows Phone 7 on devices made by HTC, Dell, Samsung, and others in an attempt to compete with iOS and Android. The devices received little fanfare.
2011 - Microsoft strikes a deal with Nokia to bring some new notoriety and design to Windows Phone.
2011 - Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion in a move that still hasn't really paid off for the company.
2012 - Microsoft launches Windows 8, considered by many to be "another Vista."
2013 - Ballmer announces a company-wide restructuring in an attempt to return Microsoft to its roots.
August 23, 2013 - Ballmer announces his retirement within the next 12 months.

There are a few things left out that timeline, like the development of the Courier tablet device that saw J Allard leave Microsoft (en.wikipedia.org­/wiki­/J­_Allard­#Courier).

So, in the last 13 or so years, what's your favorite Ballmer/Microsoft blunder, and why? Are you happy that Microsoft is heading for a management change? Why or why not?

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9 replies

There's a lot to choose from here:
Kin phones
waiting forever to make decent Windows Phone software

I would say the Kin since everyone thought it was a dumb idea and then it was cancelled before it even launched. The lapse in making a decent Windows phone is certainly the one that has the worst opportunity cost. Microsoft is missing out on education because of the lack of Windows tablets and phones that people use everyday. All that money is going to Apple instead...
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I at least thought the Kin phones was an interesting idea. But then they flopped sooo hard.

But yeah I agree, them being behind with windows phone really hurt them
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Oh wait, stop the presses!!! I think we all forgot Songsmith and the long list of song remakes that were spawned from this pit of evil:


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How have I never heard of this one?! :o
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This isn't a blunder, but I'll leave this classic commercial here

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I'll raise you https:­/­/www.youtube.com­/watch­?feature­=player­_embed....
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Ummm. touchscreens
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By far, my favorite blunder is how they almost killed the XBox One before it ever even launched by stating it would require an always-on internet, not allow used games, and require the camera be on at all times. Their response to the outrage was equally humorous as they put their tail between their legs and reversed all those statements. I mean, did no one bother to keep up with the news and realize how well the always-on camera and mic idea would go over while everyone was freaking out about the NSA?

Anyway, I look forward to reading all the articles two years from now admitting that Steve Ballmer wasn't the problem as nothing has changed. They have lost touch with every user but the enterprise user.
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Windows 7 is I believe Ballmer great contribution and xbox as well.
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