The Lite Side

Microsoft Executive Steps Down after Embarrassing Gaffe

- 2003.05.27

REDMOND, WA. Steve "Dancin' Fool" Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corporation, stepped down today to put to rest a growing rebellion within Microsoft's Business Leadership Team over Ballmer's discredited policy of crushing or purchasing competing companies. The latest controversy surrounds a lawsuit by British company Sendo, in which Sendo alleges that Microsoft stole its expertise and technology and made it available to competing companies without permission.

Several weeks ago, addressing a routine corporate briefing in Redmond, Washington, Ballmer offhandedly made a comment that led to his downfall. During the briefing, which was attended by representatives of the press and several Microsoft board members, Ballmer referred to a past Microsoft policy of "improving" innovative ideas and calling them Microsoft's original work, a policy which has long been disavowed by Chief Software Architect Bill Gates.

Echoing, at first, Microsoft's party line about its mission, Ballmer began the meeting by stating, "We will continue expanding platform innovation, benefits, and opportunities for customers and partners, openness in discussing our future directions, getting feedback, and working with others to ensure that their products and our platforms work well together."

Later in the meeting, Ballmer addressed a question about a pending lawsuit.

"The unfortunate lawsuit brought against us by Sendo will be dealt with quickly. Let's face it, this isn't the first time we've had to respond to a lawsuit claiming our innovation was generated somewhere else."

He then make a small offhand comment for which no one present - especially Ballmer - could have predicted the consequences.

"You know," he is reported to have said, "If we had just countersued Apple all those years ago, we wouldn't have had all these problems today. Who would have ever heard of Macintosh?"

Ballmer's statement was greeted by laughter and light applause by those present. None of the persons we interviewed today would admit to being amused, however.

"I thought it was a pretty retro statement," according to Jay Allchin, who has since moved on to host a late-night talk show. "I thought we left that kind of politically incorrect thinking behind three, maybe four years ago," he continued.

"I have declared that feature appropriation has no place in our corporation," said Bill Gates. "Those kinds of innovation strategies are not effective, and, furthermore, they are just wrong." Gates did not go so far as to call for Ballmer's ouster, however.

Ballmer attempted to put the matter to rest, spending several minutes apologizing for the embarrassing gaffe. "I never was an advocate of feature appropriation," he said. "I have many friends who use Macs. Heck, there are people on my staff who use Macs."

Ballmer even went so far as to appear on the popular Mac talk show Your Mac Life, where he was grilled mercilessly by host Shawn King. "I've always liked Macs," said Ballmer.

"Didn't you once advocate dropping Microsoft Office from the Mac?" countered King.

"Well, I didn't know about how well Office for the Mac would help us design new interfaces then," replied a red-faced and sweating Ballmer. "Besides, you say a lot of things in brainstorming sessions that you don't really mean. I mean, everyone where I grew up used a PC, I've always used a PC, and it's part of what you're used to growing up," he continued.

"You mean it's okay to take the Office out of the Mac, but not the PC out of the Office," said King.

In response, Ballmer jumped out of his chair and began running around King's studio, screaming, "Developers, developers, developers!"

Ballmer's abdication means that Microsoft needs to establish new leadership for the Business Leadership Team. An announcement is expected at any time. Ballmer will continue with the company as a junior software engineer and will check U.S. to metric conversions on software architectural blueprints.

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