In New Job Steve Ballmer Forces Windows on the L.A. Clippers

I was fascinated to read a recent article about Steve Ballmer and how, in his role as owner of the L.A. Clippers, he has told his entire staff to get rid of their iPads. From now on they will be a Microsoft only facility. I was especially interested in this part of the article:

 “Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not,” Ballmer said.”And Doc (Clippers coach)  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.”

To his credit, he is trying to make the online experience at their arena work via Wifi and Bluetooth with any device. But for his staff, it is all Microsoft, all the time. Of course as owner of the Clippers he has the right to do this. But it is his total lack of understanding that we are no longer in a homogenous device world and are now in a heterogeneous world where people or users make the choice of the product they want to use and actually hire them based on personal needs and preferences that surprises me. IT has had to embrace this BYOD approach for some time and have made it work in most cases.

It was his blind loyalty to Microsoft and Windows that kept Microsoft from being a leader in smartphones and tablets. Everything had to be Windows based even though Windows was not an optimal OS for a smartphone. Instead, they spent years trying to push the round peg of a desktop OS into the square hole of a smartphone device while Apple and Samsung created mobile operating systems from scratch and left Microsoft in the dust.

This blind loyalty also caused him to miss an opportunity to make MS Office the de facto standard productivity tool outside of the Windows world and forced Microsoft to create subpar versions of Microsoft apps that worked poorly on other operating systems. This crippled any real chance for the applications group to win big in a heterogenous computing world where Microsoft no longer sits at the center and the biggest growth in personal computing has shifted to pocket computing dominated by Apple and Google.

This push to force Windows on his new company just says to me Ballmer still does not get it. I am also certain his coaches and players are not about to give up their iPads and will use them behind his back while being forced to use Windows-based products during business hours whether they like it or not. Yes, I know he is the boss and he can do anything he wants but to force them to use Windows only, I believe, will frustrate his staff.

The good news is there is a new sheriff running Microsoft and from what I have read and heard from folks inside, their new CEO Satya Nadella is not as narrow-minded as Ballmer and in fact has become more focused on creating great products around their own brand as well as make all of their apps world class on other operating systems, too. This says to me Nadella actually understands we live in a heterogenous world and will embrace it as part of his goal to make Microsoft relevant again.

To me this is a big deal. When I first went to visit Microsoft in the early 1980’s, the company had less than 100 employees. In fact, I was one of the first actual analysts invited to meet with them in their early days and was one of the first they reached out to when they formally created an analyst relations group in the early 1980’s. This means I got a ring side seat to watch Microsoft develop and grow. In fact, many times in the 1980’s, Ballmer would call me up and ask me to lunch when he was in town to run by some new project or effort they were doing in order to get my feedback and ultimately to try and get me to support it.

During those days, Microsoft was the only game in town. That is how they grew. The good news is because they were so focused on Windows and Windows apps they grew the company exponentially. The bad news is they were so focused on Windows they missed the major rise of operating systems beyond the desktop and laptops. This has left the company scrambling to even be competitive in the world of mobile where all the real growth has shifted to in the last 7 years.

Satya Nedella’s approach to the market embraces heterogeneous computing and is important but he also walks a fine line when it comes to Windows. Windows 10 hopefully buys him some much needed grace in the eyes of the consumers and IT and by making all of their apps “world class” on multiple operating systems keeps them in the game. However, with the PC market shrinking and mobile rising, Nadella really has hard task ahead thanks to Ballmer’s narrow minded strategies.

Windows will probably work well for the Clippers management and team. Although, I have a sneaky suspicion from the comment of Clippers coach Doc Rivers they would have preferred to use their iPads. As boss, Balmer has the right to push the tools he wants the team to use. But it would have been interesting if he had to deal with his IT the way most of the IT world has to today by supporting BYOD and innovating around that reality. Instead, the Clippers are a recipient of the old school thinking of Ballmer and will just have to work with what he has given them.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

366 thoughts on “In New Job Steve Ballmer Forces Windows on the L.A. Clippers”

  1. Look at it this way. Ballmer has increased the sales for Windows tablets by about 100. That’s a great campaign. And he will save money for the team by being the mascot himself. I miss his entertaining screams and dance on stage on Microsoft events. I feel relieved that he will be there at Clippers games doing more. Way to go Ballmer! We missed you. 🙂

    1. lol Yep! I look forward to having Ballmer yell out “Clippers!, Clippers!, Clippers! I LOVE THIS TEAM!!” He is such a clown. He has to also make sure he wears a light blue shirt so you can see the pit stains as well! hahaha

  2. ” Of course as owner of the Clippers he has the right to do this.”
    Ownership is a powerful argument. His poor taste and antics aside, he owns the team, and he will own the devices, the users won’t. They will use as directed.

    When a user buys an iOS device, I say they have the same rights as Ballmer. Either that, or they abdicated them to the IT department called Apple.

    1. I am not sure that this is about devices that Balmer really does own. He is making a policy that all staff and players will only use MS devices and software at work and for work-related purposes. That’s like going beyond having a dress code to dictating what brand pants you will wear and what store you will buy them in.

      As for your Apple IT dept gibe, you really like to push this a lot, don’t you?

      The fact is, the iOS device, hardware and software, is a product that is designed to work optimally a certain way. Blackberries were designed to give you secure email, if you used RIMM’s servers, etc. Sure, as the owner of your Blackberry, you could use it any way you wished.

      But circumventing RIMM’s server kind of defeated the whole point of buying that product. Either, a) your email wasn’t secure; b) you had to worry about security yourself; or c) you had to go to some extra expense to replace the service that RIMM had carefully put together. Or a combination of a, b and c. Take your pick.

      You profess to love choice. Balmer is apparently forcing a use of another device other than the one that a given staff member or player may already love using. If you love Android devices, this would affect you, too. Nobody wants to make you use an Apple device. And no-one should make you use an MS device, either. But, for those who do love their Apple devices, it is a shame they can’t use them, when they are arguably more secure and efficient and productive about things like, I don’t know, connecting to MS Exchange Servers or interacting with MS Office Docs.

      No matter how you feel about the alleged “Apple IT Department”, or how you feel about Apple “dictating” how an Apple device is used, the fact is that the Apple device could do most, if not all, of the tasks required in a work environment arguably better than an MS device. And the user who chooses that device (not you), and is allowed to use it, would love that “freedom” to use the device of his choice, thereby empowering him to work even harder. All this despite whatever restrictions or downsides you may feel come with Apple devices, making them undesirable to you.

      But, speaking of IT departments: it might be that the Clippers IT department (or that of a given company) just has to ban Android devices for work because of their inherent insecurities or the extra work required to bring certain apps, features or capabilities to all Android users equally across the board, with a similar level of result or experience. I could certainly see that; and that would be within the Company’s prerogative. If something doesn’t work out as well or as easily and doesn’t achieve the goals required, I can see restricting or banning it. However, if something does the job better, and makes the users more productive, then banning it is a shame; it would seem that is only done out of some agenda, like spite or misplaced loyalty.

        1. True. I’m aware the message won’t get through, my comment is more for others that may read this thread.

    2. Again, you demonstrate your inability to understand Apple. This dovetails nicely with a comment you made on another thread:

      “Others even get defended, by their users, for doing what’s best for THEM (the company).” (a not so subtle dig against Apple)

      What you are missing is that the end user *is* the customer in Apple’s case, and Apple has a strong financial incentive and profit motive to serve the user/customer well, to make them happy. Apple does this by creating value within the user experience in a specific way. This value resonates with hundreds of millions of customers (users). We like it. We choose it. On purpose. We find value in what Apple is offering and we pay for that value. We don’t want an open solution where we act as our own IT department. And we’re just as smart and capable and free as you are.

      We simply want Apple to take care of the details for us. We don’t want to futz with our devices, we just want to use them, and when it comes to jobs-to-be-done you’ll have a hard time arguing my Apple device is actually limited in any meaningful way. I’m happy to let Apple make many choices on my behalf, because their success is strongly aligned with my satisfaction. In fact, Apple is your best bet when it comes to user satisfaction since they are easily the most strongly aligned with the end user (this is going to matter over the next five years and beyond).

      Now we come to why you can’t seem to understand Apple. You don’t value what Apple offers, indeed, you view their offering as a negative, a Very Bad Thing, closed vs open nonsense. That’s fine, you’re free to think that, but your opinion is not objective truth. Apple’s approach to technology isn’t bad or evil or dangerous, it just doesn’t create any value *for you*. But it creates a ton of value for many others. Just because you can’t see the value doesn’t mean that value doesn’t exist.

  3. This really is just poor management. It is a wonder how he became the CEO of one of the top tech companies. It’s not about the device, the brand on it, or anything like that, it is what you can do with the device that is important. You don’t just swap out iPads for Windows tablets, you have to swap out the workflow that has been developed with something similar, only now he has to retrain everyone to do what they were doing before. My goodness, he is an idiot. It also does not bode well for the Clippers in the future. They have a micro-managing owner. That usually doesn’t work out in sports. Didn’t work out for him at Microsoft either. Poor Clipper, poor, poor Clippers.

    1. “It is a wonder how he became the CEO of one of the top tech companies.”

      You really don’t know? He had the best credentials that anyone can possibly present to be Microsoft CEO at the time: He was Bill Gates’ college buddy. That doesn’t cut it anymore at Microsoft these days though.

  4. Ballmer is going to disrupt the the Clippers operations to pursue a goal that does not have anything to do with the business the Clippers are in. It will not improve the team’s play, it will not sell more tickets, it will not make more money. Come to think of it, it won’t help Microsoft either. It will only make Ballmer feel good by feeding his caprice. It is a pointless, narcissistic, and childish move that probably has most Microsoft employees saying “Whew, thank god that guy is gone from here.”

    1. Yep. You have to wonder if there are exclusive apps for iOS that will not be allowed to be used by the Clippers now that could help them win games and better run their business that will end up costing Ballmer money in the end because they are now banned from use. How Ballmer can be so thick is shocking but as you say, I am positive that there are many Microsoft employees that are happy that he is gone now. All you have to do is look at the mini Microsoft blog to see that.

  5. Did anyone expect different from Mr Ballmer?

    Imagine his not doing this. It would be tacit approval the iPad, AKA, “final nail in his CEO of MS coffin” was not an issue in his otherwise noteworthy stewardship at MS. And let’s face it, he might be sitting on close to 1,000,000 Surface RTs for which he needs to find a home!

    Can’t wait till he outlaws iOS and Android smartphones used by his employees and players.

    1. “Can’t wait till he outlaws iOS and Android smartphones used by his employees and players.”

      Maybe he’ll ban iPhones from the stadium too?

  6. Really dumb move. The Clippers job is to win games, not promote Microsoft. Or Steve’s private agenda.

    This confirms again why he was not good for Microsoft.

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