Microsoft's greatest successes and biggest failures

Page 5 of 10

5. A succession of failures, a failure of succession

ballmer.jpgREUTERS/Ray Stubblebine
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the launch of the company's Microsoft 365 cloud service in New York, June 28, 2011.

Unlike Apple, which boasts a phalanx of top-level executives trained to Think Different (as long as it's not different than Steve), Microsoft has no bench strength to call on when Steve Ballmer finally hangs up his sweaty blue button down. Gates is long gone, and his handpicked successor, Ray Ozzie, high-tailed it a year ago (presumably due to conflicts with Ballmer, though he's not talking). Over the past year, top lieutenants Robbie Bach, Steven Elop, J Allard and many others departed for greener pastures, a safe distance from their furniture-hurling CEO. If Ballmer follows them out the door (as some have been urging), there's almost no one left to take the reins -- and no vision for the future.

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