Who Can Put an End to Microsoft's Lost Decade (and a half)?


Microsoft has been dead money for investors throughout the Steve Ballmer era.

The stock has fallen 52% in those 13 years, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: gained 23%. If you reinvested dividends in both Microsoft and a Dow vehicle along the way, Mr. Softy still comes out eating dust with a 37% drop versus the Dow's 64% climb. And the Dow's numbers would have been even stronger if Microsoft weren't there to drag the averages down.

Former Microsoft senior vice president Joachim Kempin was Redmond's employee No. 400, but he retired from the company in 2002. The ex-executive has grown frustrated with Microsoft's missed opportunities, and he's telling the world about it. One night last year, he told his wife: "I need to write my book and just tell the world what I think, and if no one buys it, so be it."

ReadWrite's Dan Lyons recently sat Kempin down to dig a little deeper into the book's often sinister stories. This man has an axe to grind, but his narrative rings too true to be dismissed.

Here's how Joachim Kempin explains Microsoft losing its way under Ballmer: Microsoft could have been both AppleandFacebook by now, if only the company had taken advantage of its early opportunities.

"Back in the late 1990s we had our own tablet under development. It never saw the light of day," Kempin said. It's hard to say whether that early slab would have been an iPad-like smash hit with a 15-year head start or a Surface disaster, but that potential first-mover advantage certainly never materialized. And now Apple owns the tablet space, at least in money-making business terms.

What about Facebook? Kempin said:

When I left in 2002 people were talking about social media. Microsoft should take advantage of [Facebook's clunky design] and do a next generation of Facebook and do it right. People would use it if they could transfer their posts with one mouse click. A Metro-like Facebook clone, and Microsoft would look way cooler than it does today. Instead the company produces its own hardware and tries to compete with Apple while [enraging] its loyal hardware manufacturers. Oh my God.

Kempin sees Ballmer's micromanaging style as a liability and recommends looking for a younger replacement with a finger on the modern market's pulse:

Look at Yahoo! . They got this new CEO, Marissa Mayer, who has turned the corner with the company. There is talent out there, people who are closer to the current market trends.

The Y hasn't been a template for success in a long time, but I agree that Mayer just might have a shot at turning that boat around. And it's never too late to cure what's ailing Microsoft. Just don't expect the company or the stock to improve much under current management.

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The article Who Can Put an End to Microsoft's Lost Decade (and a half)? originally appeared on Fool.com.

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