Ballmer, Schmidt Talks a Study in Contrasts on Gartner Symposium Stage
The day before Ballmer’s appearance, it was Eric Schmidt’s turn on the stage. You would be hard-pressed to find an executive whose previous companies (Novell and Sun) were more thoroughly flattened by Microsoft and who staged a comeback to lead one of the premier technology companies. Google, even in the enterprise, is the company by which other firms are measured. The cloud, mobile, social and big data are the current drivers of enterprise tech, and Google is the top, or near the top, player in those segments. Listening to Schmidt, it was evident that his command of technology, new management strategies and ability to enjoy the anarchy-leading young developers are exactly the characteristics Microsoft needs. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. Schmidt’s tidbits for the audience members included reminding them it costs about $60 a year, per employee to get the full suite of Google products. (That is a simple license strategy.) He also went into a defense of Android and offered up the statement that Android phones are more secure than iPhones. That one drew audience snickers. He was also vocal about warning the audience about Chinese-originated hack attacks on enterprise technology infrastructures. “Technology development is best managed bottom up for innovation and top down for priorities,” said Schmidt when asked how he manages a company the size of Google. He is currently writing a management book on running technology companies. I’m figuring it will be an ebook.Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.
So, who won the match-up? Although Ballmer was the hometown favorite with lots of stops on the symposium stage and nearly everyone in the audience was a Microsoft customer at some level, he is leaving the company as it struggles to catch up with the major shifts that now top those customers' priority lists. Schmidt’s record is a classic Rocky theme of someone getting knocked down in the early rounds to return and finally get the belt. Maybe it wasn’t a knockout, but Schmidt won on points.