steve ballmer

As everyone outside of Microsoft tries to figure out what just happened at the top of the company, Microsoft insiders are having the same conversation.One former senior executive who has been in touch with other senior executives at the company this morning had this to say:

It’s a total shocker. To me and to friends inside the company. The reorg lined everything up behind Steve and people felt he would stay on to see it through.

Something big must have changed, obviously.

I asked what the change might be. The former exec didn’t know, but he speculated:

I really don’t know. It’s a huge surprise.  The people I’ve spoken to don’t know what caused the bit to flip either.

There is a massive technology shift happening, the world of cloud and devices, and whoever leads the company next needs to paint an inspiring vision of the future for Microsoft.  There are amazingly talented people at the company, who will respond to great leadership.

Perhaps Bill [Gates] and the board have come to believe the company should be split into two, consumer and enterprise? I’m not sure anyone could do a better job than Steve under current circumstances. The problem is beyond hard, it may be intractable. Not sure how anyone can manage both an enterprise business and a consumer business when both are changing so fast.

The last sentiment–that the problem is “beyond hard” and “may be intractable”–is one that other long-time Microsoft observers share.

The technology wave that Microsoft surfed almost perfectly for three decades has run its course, and it has been replaced by new waves that Microsoft no longer dominates.

The transformation that Steve Ballmer was trying to oversee, of a packaged software company to a “devices and services company” is as radical as any corporate transformation ever attempted.

The former executive added that he considers Steve Ballmer an “amazing man” and that Microsoft’s next CEO will not likely be hired with the aim of doing what Ballmer is doing but better. Rather, the former exec says, there will likely be “big, big changes ahead.”