The list of people calling for Steve Ballmer to step down has just grown, with a former senior executive saying that Ballmer is the cause of Microsoft's woes -- and that the only way the company can get back on the road to success is to fire him.
So says Joachim Kempin, who headed Microsoft's OEM group before leaving the company in 2002 under a cloud and who has just published "Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's 'SECRET POWER BROKER' Breaks His Silence."
In an interview with Reuters, Kempin has scathing things to say about Ballmer. "For Microsoft to really get back in the game seriously, you need a big change in management," he says, and goes on to detail many problems he sees with the Microsoft CEO. One major problem, he says, is that Ballmer systematically gets rid of any Microsoft executive who he thinks may be a rival for his position as CEO.
For example, he had this to say about how Ballmer treated Richard Belluzzo, who launched the Xbox and became Microsoft's chief operating officer at Microsoft but left after 14 months:
"He (Belluzzo) had no room to breathe on the top. When you work that directly with Ballmer and Ballmer believes 'maybe this guy could someday take over from me', my God, you will have less air to breathe, that's what it comes down to."
About Ray Ozzie, the software guru who worked on VisiCalc, created Lotus Notes and Groove Networks, and then became Microsoft's Chief Technical Officer and Chief Software Architect, he says:
"Ozzie is a great software guy, he knew what he was doing. But when you see Steve (Ballmer) and him on stage where he (Ozzie) opposed Steve, it was Steve's way or the highway."
Beyond Ballmer's cut-throat management style in which he attacks potential rivals, Kempin claims that Ballmer simply doesn't have the vision to lead Microsoft in an era of social networking and mobile:
"Is he a great CEO? I don't think so. Microsoft's board is a lame duck board, has been forever. They hire people to help them administer the company, but not to lead the company. That's the problem.
"They need somebody maybe 35-40 years old, a younger person who understands the Facebook Inc generation and this mobile community. They don't need this guy on stage with this fierce, aggressive look, announcing the next version of Windows and thinking he can score with that."
Keep in mind that Kempin left Microsoft as somewhat of a disgraced employee. Reuters says that "Kempin left Microsoft under a cloud in 2002 as some of the aggressive contracts he crafted with PC makers were seen as fodder for the U.S. government's antitrust prosecution of the company, which started in 1998 and was largely resolved by 2002." So you might or might not want to believe what he says about Ballmer.