Steve Ballmer has never quite lived down his infamous "Monkey Boy" dance in which he screamed, shouted, and danced around onstage, resembling an escaped mental patient on illegal amphetamines. It's been used as a symbol of everything wrong with Ballmer's leadership at Microsoft. But now Businessweek says those days are past: Microsoft has its mojo back and Steve Ballmer is no longer Mr. Monkey Boy.
The magazine has a lengthy cover article titled "No More Mr. Monkey Boy" whose premise is that under Ballmer's leadership, Microsoft has "cooler tech, more energy, higher profit." The magazine hits the newsstands on Friday, but you can read it online now.
It's a lengthy but worthwhile read. Its premise is that Ballmer has "rebooted" Microsoft, giving it a chance on the consumer side in the smartphone market with the revamped version of Windows Phone, and a "lead position in the battle for the connected living room" with the Xbox and Kinect, as well as a smart acquisition in Skype. On the enterprise side, it points to Microsoft headway in the cloud, and points out that "Microsoft's data-center software division had sales of $17.1 billion last year; if that unit were a standalone software company, it would be one of the top five in the world." The article also touts the upcoming version of Windows 8.
The piece isn't all laudatory, and notes that Microsoft may not be able to stay relevant in mobile and other future technologies. And it quotes Steve Jobs in Walter Isaacson's biography saying, Microsoft has "become mostly irrelevant...I don't think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it."
Overall, I'd say it's one of the more balanced pieces I've seen about Ballmer and Microsoft, although I'm not as convinced as the author that Ballmer is the right person to run the company at this point. His background is sales and management rather than product development, and it's not clear yet whether he's enough of a visionary to make sure that Microsoft can succeed in a world where mobile technologies, rather than the desktop, are the new battleground.