There are two very different types of players

Steve Ballmer hasn’t been getting much love recently. On Friday, when he announced that he plans to retire as Microsoft’s C.Find the perfect leather or synthetic cell phoneΒ cellphone cases.E.O. at some point within the next year, the firm’s stock had its best day in years, rising seven per cent. Since that Bronx cheer from the markets, the critics have been piling on, describing Ballmer as the tech boss who somehow managed to miss search, social networking, and mobileβ€”the three big trends that have revolutionized the industry in the past decade and a half.

Tim Bajarin, the president of the research firm Creative Strategies, told Bloomberg News: ”He stayed too long at Microsoft with a position focused on PCs, and didn’t really anticipate the dramatic impact of mobile computing.” MacDaily News called his thirteen years as C.E.O. β€œthe luckiest dorm assignment in the history of the universe.”My colleague Nick Thompson noted that Ballmer’s β€œreign has done more to defang Microsoft than the Justice Department could ever have hoped to do.” Even Paul Krugman took a day off from bashing the Republicans to weigh in, comparing Microsoft under Ballmer to a medieval dynasty that was too corrupt and complacent to fight off the barbarians.

I suspect that Krugman hasn’t seen Ballmer in action. The man’s a walking heart attackβ€”the one thing he isn’t is complacent. For the past thirteen years, he has been engaged in a daily battle to fight off the Silicon Valley hordes. Ultimately, he didn’t succeed, but he didn’t really lose either. In 2000, the year he replaced Gates as C.E.O.β€”the Microsoft founder stayed on as chairman until 2006β€”the firm made a net profit of $5.8 billion, on revenues of $23 billion. In the twelve months that ended in June of this year,PromotionΒ Customized Dedicated ServerΒ are quality hardware and truly. it netted $21.9 billion, on revenues of $77.9 billion. Yes, that’s right: under Ballmer, Microsoft more than tripled its revenues and profits.

In most industries, such a financial record would be considered a great success. Setting aside Apple, which I’ll come to in a bit, the only U.S. companies that regularly generate more profits than Microsoft does are the giant oil corporations and the too-big-to-fail banks In Silicon Valley, however, the ultimate barometer of success isn’t making profits: it is being in the vanguard of the latest cool technology. By this metric, the Ballmer bashers argue, he doesn’t measure up to folks like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and David Karp.

That’s true, but it’s an unfair comparison. Ballmer isn’t a technologist; he’s a businessman who started out at Procter & Gamble. To describe him as a failure is to misunderstand how the technology industry works these days. At once oligopolistic and highly competitive,This page describes the termΒ real time Location systemΒ and lists. it is perhaps best described as an ongoing lottery in which the prizes,we’ve decided to make the belowΒ Termsof ServiceΒ available. bestowed at irregular intervals, are temporary monopolies in a given market, such as P.C. operating systems, search, or tablets.

In this setup, there are two very different types of players, each with very different incentives: those entering the lotteries, and those who have already won one. The job of the lottery entrants, such as Zuckerberg when he launched Facebook, in 2004, and Karp when he launched Tumblr, in 2007, is to come up with innovative and exciting products that the judgesβ€”investors and the publicβ€”are likely to award first prize. (The contest is a lottery because there are often many competing products, with little to distinguish them save that one has first-mover advantage.) The job of the lottery winners is to make the most of their monopoly franchise, building it out and making it last as long as possible.

Most of Ballmer’s critics ignore this crucial distinction. They attack him for being a poor lottery entrant, but he wasn’t hired to play that gameβ€”he was chosen to run a company that had already won the prize. And, as a monopolist,Check out our daily specials onΒ Cheap Dedicated Server! he was pretty effective. Under the leadership of Gates and Ballmer, Microsoft dominated the computer business for more than two decades. In such a fast-moving industry, that’s a very long time. Only I.B.M. has had a comparable reign.

The lottery in P.C. operating systems was held way back in the early nineteen-eighties, and Microsoft won itβ€”courtesy of a monumental blunder by Big Blue, which chose to license Microsoft’s DOS instead of buying it outright. Under Gates’s leadership, Microsoft then cemented its lock on operating systems, replacing DOS with many iterations of Windows, and eventually, through Office, extended its grip to productivity software. But, by the time that Ballmer replaced Gates, Microsoft’s grip on the industry was already under threat, due to the rise of the Internet and the government antitrust case that accompanied it.
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