Kaj če bi Steve Ballmer vodil Apple?

Ta je res dobra. Medtem ko so si tako v medijih kot v poslovnem svetu oddahnili, ko je Steve Ballmer končno povedal, da se umika iz vodenja Microsofta, pa Ben Thompson (nekdanji produktni menedžer za Windows) razmišlja o tem, kaj bi bilo, če bi Ballmer (po nesreči) vodil Apple? Apple bi bil po Thomposonovem mnenju visoko dobičkonosno podjetje in njegovi produkti bi bili standardizirani in vključeni v vsako osnovno šolo. Toda z Ballmerjem Apple sploh ne bi postal Apple. Ne bi bi bil inovativen. Kajti inovativnost in maksimizacija dobička sta si največkrat v nasprotju. Inoviranje pomeni tveganje, hudega tveganja pa menedžerji, ki so nagrajeni z opcijami glede na prikazan dobiček in rast tečajev delnic, ne marajo. Sploh pa, kot pravi Thompson, je bistvo v nemerljivih stvareh in ne v dobičku. Kako izmeriti dizajn ali zadovoljstvo kupca? Trg potrošniških izdelkov sloni na nemerljivih stvareh, česar pa seveda “Ballmerji” ne morejo razumeti. Zato je Microsoft postal irelevanten.

Imagine Steve Ballmer was right now the CEO of Apple, with the same set of products and opportunities. Suspend disbelief about cultural clashes, or organizational structure. Presume Ballmer could set the strategy, and that Apple would execute it accordingly.

In this scenario Apple would make more money in the next five years than they will under Tim Cook.

At this point, I’ve fully backed off of last week’s post and believe the iPhone 5C will cost (at least) $450 (I’ll explain why soon); Ballmer, however, would push out the low cost version I advocated and attack non-subsidized markets. Ballmer would do more than catch enterprise accounts that fall in his lap; he would aggressively court CIOs and make changes to the iPhone to accommodate them. Ballmer would expand the iPad range to multiple screen sizes and price points, and would push for every school district in the world to standardize on them, far more aggressively than Apple is today. Ballmer would leverage iTunes, and all those credit cards, by making a play for payments and identity. As for computers, well, the XMac might even become a reality.

The revenue and profits would flow.

And yet, under Ballmer, everyone at Apple would be working so hard, and be making so much money, both for themselves and for Apple’s shareholders, that they would ensure that Apple never again reinvents consumer computing.

See, if Steve Ballmer were the CEO, Apple would make more money, but they would slowly but surely become irrelevant. Just like Microsoft.

There it is, unprompted. In addition to putting a computer on every desk, Steve Ballmer is most proud of “do[ing] a good job for [Microsoft’s] shareholders.” And, by definition, shareholders care about dollars and cents.

And so, dollars and cents were a central focus for Ballmer, and for Microsoft. Employees were incentivized by dollars and cents in the form of bonuses and stock grants. Bonuses and stock grants were tied to a stack ranking system, that devolved your performance to a number. What was measurable mattered, particularly if it was measured in money.

The result is inevitable: Microsoft is a company filled with people motivated by measurables like salary, bonus, and job level. Anyone who isn’t would necessarily leave. Unsurprisingly, said people make choices based on measurables, whether those be consumer preferences, focus group answers, or telemetrics. The human mind is flexible, but only to a point.

In other words, over time, as you incentivize your workforce through measurables, you eventually have a workforce that only thinks in measurables. You ultimately have a workforce of mini-Ballmers.

Yet, if Apple’s success has proven anything, it’s that measurables aren’t the half of it. Things like design can’t be measured, nor can user experience. How do you price delight, or discount annoyance? How much is an Apple genius worth?

In the consumer market, it’s the immeasurables that matter. It’s the ability to surprise and delight, and create evangelists. It’s about creating something that developers demand access to, and that consumers implicity trust. The consumer market is about everything you can’t measure, everything Microsoft’s legion of mini-Ballmer’s can’t see and will never appreciate.

It turns out that all of Ballmer’s good qualities, especially when it came to maximizing revenue and profits, were also his worst qualities, especially as the consumer market came to dominate computing. And, to Microsoft’s short-term benefit but long-term detriment, the incentives Microsoft gave its employees to achieve Ballmer’s aims choked out the sensitivity to truly understand what’s next.

I think the driver is motivation. Last summer Jony Ive said [Apple]:

Our goal isn’t to make money. Our goal absolutely at Apple is not to make money. This may sound a little flippant, but it’s the truth…Our goal and what gets us excited is to try to make great products. We trust that if we are successful people will like them, and if we are operationally competent we will make revenue, but we are very clear about our goal.

There was scoffing a plenty, but I actually think it’s true; Apple employees are (for the most part) intrinsically motivated. And Apple, relative to Microsoft, is infinitely more relevant to the future of computing.

Vir: Ben Thompson, stratechery

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