Before he plunked down a cool $2 billion to become the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer rose to prominence as one of Microsoft's longest-tenured employees. The boisterous brand salesman — who's gonna make
you himself sweat 'til you he bleeds — rose from business manager to chief executive officer over the course of a 34-year career with the Redmond, Wash.-based computing giant that included both monstrous successes and serious missteps.
Sure, Ballmer stepped down as CEO in February, but he's still Microsoft's largest individual shareholder; the company's in his blood, and he's apparently going to do his level best to make it part of his new franchise's DNA, too. From Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey of Reuters:
The mobile experience is something Ballmer knows intimately and he acknowledges that under his leadership at Microsoft it was something he did not get right. Competitors such as Apple Inc and Google Inc seized the mobile revolution and put pressure on Ballmer to innovate. He stepped down as CEO in February after 14 years.
"And do I wish a higher percentage of today's mobile devices were ours and we had birthed that category?," he mused. "Yes, of course I do." [...]
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Clippers will be a Microsoft organization. The son of a Ford Motor Co manager, he's always been a company and product loyalist, banning his own family from using Apple's iPhones.
"Most of the Clippers are on Windows, some of the players and coaches are not," Ballmer said. "And [head coach] Doc [Rivers] kind of knows that’s a project. It's one of the first things he said to me: 'We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?' And I said, 'Yeah, we probably are.' But I promised we would do it during the off season."
The eventual transition won't necessarily be hard on everybody; new Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson is already using Encarta to prepare opposition scouting reports. Sure, that's not super helpful since Encarta's a discontinued encyclopedia, but it's the first thing that pops up when Woody boots up Microsoft Bob, so cut him a little slack, OK?
Presuming Ballmer means next offseason rather than pulling a fast one by making his coaches and players alter their device game before the start of training camp, it's nice of the new boss to give his charges some lead time prior to making big, honking changes to company computing policy. Then again, if you were going to try to move people off Apple products, maybe this week — what with #Bendgate and iOS8 bugs and Bash and everything else — would've been the perfect time to spring the switcheroo.
You'd imagine Doc and company — like, y'know, most other consumers — might not be super thrilled at the notion of moving from iPhones and iPads to Windows Phones and Surface tablets, especially considering the difficulties that NFL players and coaches have had with the battery life on their Surface playbooks. Then again, they might not mind too much if it means adding another endorsement deal to their books, like the members of the Seattle Seahawks — owned by Ballmer's former Microsoft colleague and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen — did with their appearances in a recently released Surface spot.
If Ballmer does eventually press the issue, though — remember the Golden Rule of Business: he who has the gold makes the rules — I'd guess the Clippers won't have as much trouble as the NFL's announcers have in remembering to refer to their tablets as "Surfaces" rather than "iPads." Ballmer seems like the kind of dude who's got loud and rambunctious ways of making you remember stuff like that.
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