Short Cuts 61

by Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens takes a sideways look at the world of IT.

HardCopy Issue: 61 | Published: November 1, 2013

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer: brought a certain élan to the industry.

Bye Bye Ballmer

Regular readers of Short Cuts will understand just how devastated we were to hear of the impending retirement of Steve ‘Mad Dog’ Ballmer, legendarily unhinged boss of struggling mobile phone vendor Microsoft. Steve has been our official Favourite CEO since the abrupt defenestration of Sun supremo Jonathan ‘Dolphins’ Schwartz, and his departure will leave the industry lacking a certain élan that other, normal CEOs like Tim Cook and Marissa Meyer will be unable to provide.

Steve was a soap salesman (OK, product manager for Procter and Gamble) before joining old Harvard buddy Bill Gates at Microsoft, and happily played up to his larger than life image, howling “Developers, developers, developers” at an audience of, er, developers and drawing lurid comparisons between Linux and certain collectivist political ideologies. Rather more quietly, he upped revenue from $25 billion to $70 billion and maintained a gross profit margin of 75 per cent, yet still managed to be described as “the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company” by a Forbes Magazine columnist, an apparent contradiction which will probably sum up his career at Microsoft.

In the end Steve’s ‘crime’, measured by a flat share price, was said to be his reluctance to engage with new platforms and technologies that might impact on the cash cows of Windows and Office. He’s got over that now, if the launch of Windows 8, seemingly calculated to alienate the entire Windows user base, is anything to go by. However it seems it was too little too late, and he decided to go voluntarily before his Microsoft MVP (Most Volatile Person) epaulettes were ripped from his shoulders outside the Redmond Campus Canteen. Our only comfort is that he may be with us for a few months yet, depending on the response to Bill’s job ad on the Seattle Craigslist website. Time for a few last monkeyboy dances, surely?

Saying it like it isn’t

Steve Ballmer is, of course, famous for his utterances, but it’s a little-known fact that he suffers from a rare condition that makes it impossible for him to accurately translate what he means into verbal form. Here’s Short Cuts’ guide to the real thoughts of Chairman Steve:

Steve said: “it [Linux] had, you know, the characteristics of communism.” Steve meant: “Linux – it’s like capitalism. Everyone’s free to design their own UI and the result makes Windows look like we have a coherent strategy. I love it!” Steve said: “Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers!” Steve meant: “Accountants, accountants, accountants, lawyers, lawyers, marketing, accountants, lawyers, lawyers, accountants, lawyers, developers!” Steve said: “The most common format of music on the iPod is ‘stolen’.” Steve meant: “The most common format of music on Zune is ‘DRM-free mp3 from iTunes’.” Steve said: “I’ve got my kids brainwashed — you don’t use Google and you don’t use an iPod.” Steve meant: “My kids seem to spend a heck of a lot of time at their friends’ houses.” (That’s enough real meanings – Ed)

Tesco sells tablets shock

The recent headline “Tesco to sell own-brand tablets” had us puzzled, as we thought the supermarket giant had been running in-house pharmacies for years and even have a box of their painkillers in the Short Cuts office for those, er, difficult mornings during the pub quiz season. However it turned out that the tablets in question run Android 4.2.2, come with 16GB of on-board storage and cost £119 each, which made more sense as a new venture, if not necessarily as a business strategy. The product’s name ‘Hudl’ is faintly reminiscent of ‘Lidl’, which to us says that Tesco’s in-house psychology department needs to look at what’s really driving the subconscious anxieties of Tesco’s senior management. That aside, the device itself has a surprisingly good spec – the design brief seems to have been ‘put in the stuff Google stingily left out of the Nexus’, hence there’s a microSD slot and HDMI output as well as the obligatory quad core processor and HD(-ish) screen.

Tesco's Hudl

Tesco’s Lidl – sorry, Hudl – tablet: better start saving those Clubcard vouchers!

Even better, it hasn’t been slugged in the same way Amazon’s Kindle “it’s much less like a general-purpose Android tablet than you thought it was going to be” Fire has. Sure, there’s a ‘Tesco’ button providing quick access to Blinkbox and other great Tesco stuff, but we’re reliably informed that you can ignore it and be browsing through the Sainsbury’s Home Delivery site within minutes of unpacking the device. Best of all, if you use your Clubcard loyalty vouchers you can get your hands on one of these for just £60, and that really is a bargain by anyone’s standards. The bad news is that you would need to spend £6,000 at Tesco to get that many Clubcard vouchers, which would mean getting through unhealthy quantities of Tesco Finest Steak au Poivre and 18-pack Fosters lager. But skip the Passion Fruit Pavlovas and you should just about have enough in the kitty for a 32GB microSD card from Amazon. Every little helps!