Steve Ballmer

Microsoft journey in hardware over the last decade has been among the most interesting in tech. The company failed hard in mobile, looked to be failing with its Surface brand, before finally turning a corner with the later. Most observers see the Microsoft hardware strategy under former CEO Steve Ballmer as ill-conceived at best and pointless at worse.

In a recent interview, Ballmer has discussed some of the mistakes he made during his tenure as CEO. In the discussion, Steve Ballmer admits that the company reacted too slowly to changing trends, especially in mobile.

Of course, while Ballmer is an easy target, he also did plenty of good. For instance, while current CEO Satya Nadella took charge of an unfocused company, some of the current successes were developed under Ballmer.

For instance, it was the former CEO who commissioned the Surface hardware range. During his time the Surface range struggled, including billion dollar write offs of inventory. Since then Surface has found its feet and is one success in Microsoft hardware arsenal.

It should also be noted that Azure was nurtured under Steve Ballmer. Nadella has since refocused Microsoft to the cloud, but Azure was launched during the former CEO. Office 365, Cortana, Xbox, and Bing were all other important Microsoft services launched under Steve Ballmer.

Changing the Past

However, despite sowing the seeds of products that would become important, Ballmer’s tenure is looked upon as a time of struggle.

Microsoft started to lose its identity in a bid to jump on the hardware train. It had worked for Apple, but it did not work for a company that is a software developer above anything else.

Speaking to ReCode, Ballmer does not think Microsoft should have avoided hardware. Instead, he says the company should have reacted faster:

“I think I was too slow in cases to recognize the need for new capability, particularly in hardware…I wish we’d built the capability to be a world-class hardware company, because one of the new expressions of software is essentially the hardware…The company under my leadership should have built that capability earlier than we did.”