Young Tech Sees Itself in Microsoft's Ballmer
By QUENTIN HARDY for "The New York Times" August 25, 2013
As a young executive at Microsoft, Steven A. Ballmer helped older, slower-moving technology giants like the Digital Equipment Corporation, Wang and Novell. These days, it is Microsoft's turn to fend off the upstarts as it struggles to compete in a computing world that is increasingly mobile and based in a "cloud" of Internet-connected computers to which many customers gain access at the same time. It's all part of the inevitable life cycle for technology companies.
"Getting disrupted is the defining characteristic of this industry," said Aaron Levie, the chief executive of Box, an online data storage company. "You can even have a near monopoly like Microsoft did, and then everything gets redefined."
Mr. Ballmer will not have to take Microsoft into the future; last Friday, he announced that he would retire within a year. But young executives like Mr. Levie are not gloating over Mr. Ballmer's exit. They know well that one day - if they are lucky to be as successful as Mr. Ballmer - they could face the same problem. "It just feeds my already-healthy sense of paranoia," Mr. Levie said.
The rare tech company manages to thrive from one generation of technology to the next. Only a few of the big ones - I.B.M., Intel and Apple - have done it. And it is not yet clear if Microsoft has a clear path to joining that list of multigeneration kingpins.
Mr. Ballmer was closely identified with the personal computer revolution, and later with corporate software running on computer servers. Those innovations brought Microsoft the cash and talent to adapt to the early Internet with the Explorer browser, and diversify into online gaming.
What it could not buy Mr. Ballmer, the younger generation in tech says, was a clear vision of the future. Apple and Google have led development of smartphones and a long list of companies like Amazon.com have led the development of cloud computing. Microsoft, meanwhile, has often had to play catch-up.
"All technology aspires to be legacy," said Scott Dietzen, chief executive of Pure Storage, a data storage start-up. "It's that or obsolescence."
"The most powerful factor," he added, "is that the very best talent is drawn to doing something disruptive to the legacy, something new and fresh. And in this business the best are so much more productive than anyone else."
During Mr. Ballmer's tenure as chief executive at Microsoft, the company had considerable growth. Mr. Ballmer led the creation of the Windows Phone operating system, which received good reviews but has struggled to gain traction in the market, and Microsoft's efforts in cloud computing. Also under his leadership, the company acquired Skype, an Internet communications service, for $8.5 billion, and paid $1.2 billion for Yammer, a social network for business.
But the breakthroughs, whether they were in Internet search, smartphones or Internet-based software, have usually happened somewhere other than Microsoft. ..
Mr. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, and its breakthrough software, Windows 3.0, was released in 1990. Its stock peaked in December 1999, shortly before Mr. Ballmer replaced Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder and his close friend, as chief executive. Since then, Microsoft's shares have fallen about 33 percent. Microsoft is 38 years old, three years away from the age at which Digital Equipment and Wang disappeared. Novell, which was founded in 1979, was acquired in 2011 by the Attachmate Corporation, an investment group. "He took a company with $20 billion in revenue and turned it into a $78 billion company," Mr. Levie said. "But you can never count on more than a decade on top."
That feeling that real success lasts a decade or so haunts even the most successful of the new breed of tech executives.
1. Answer the following questions.
Who is Mr. Ballmer from Microsoft?
When did Ballmer join Microsoft?
What position will he retire from?
Is I.B.M. facing any serious problems at the present time, according to the text?
What are the main achievements gained by Microsoft during Mr. Ballmer's management?
2. Find English equivalent to the following words and word combinations.
Исполнительный директор, значительный рост, жизненный цикл, выйти на пенсию, важная фигура ( главное лицо), акция ( ценная бумага).
3. Make the following sentences negative:
1. The most powerful factor is that the very best talent is drawn. 2. Novell was founded in 1979. 3. Its stock peaked in December 1999. 4. He announced that he would retire within a year.
4. Ask questions to the following sentences:
1. It struggles to compete in a computing world. 2. Mr. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980. 3. All technology aspires to be legacy. 4. Microsoft's shares have fallen about 33 percent. 5. The rare tech company manages to thrive from one generation of technology to the next.
5. Is it True or False or not stated in the article?
1. Steven A. Ballmer worked for Samsung for many years. 2. The Microsoft company was a success while Steven Ballmer led it.3. Microsoft is having a hard time.4. Smartphones are associated with Apple not Microsoft. 5. Microsoft has had problems for 38 years
6. Correct mistakes in the following sentences:
1. It's all part of the inevitable life cycle for technology companyes. 2. You can even have a near monopoly like Microsoft do, and then everything gets redefined. 3. Mr. Ballmer was closely identified with the personal computer revolution, and leter with corporate software running on computer servers. 4. That innovations brought Microsoft the cash and talent to adapt to the early Internet with the.
7. Write 5 sentences that show the main idea of the text.
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