Ex-Microsoft senior exec claims Microsoft "has lost its coolness." But when was Microsoft ever "cool?"

Joachim Kempin, the ex-Microsoft senior executive who has called for Steve Ballmer's resignation, is trash-talking Microsoft again. This time, he claims that the company "has lost its coolness." Microsoft was once cool? You could have fooled me.

The executive is Joachim Kempin, who headed Microsoft's OEM group before leaving in 2002 under a cloud. He's been getting publicity in the last few months to help promote his book, "Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's 'Secret Power Broker' Breaks His Silence."

Back in January, Kempin was scathing in what he had to say about Ballmer, and said he should resign. Among other criticisms, he said that Ballmer gets rid of any Microsoft executive he believes could be a rival for his position as CEO:

When you work that directly with Ballmer and Ballmer believes 'maybe this guy could someday take over from me', my God, you will have less air to breathe, that's what it comes down to."

In an interview with Dan Lyons at ReadWrite, Kempin again turns up the heat on Microsoft. When Lyons asks how Microsoft can be fixed, here's the first part of Kempin's answer:

"The company has lost its coolness. I compare today with the launch of Windows 95, when people were lining up around the block at midnight. This didn't happen with Windows 7 or Vista. It hardly even happened with Windows 8. But it happens every time when Apple launches a new product.

"It seems to me that Microsoft is basically malfunctioning. Back in the late 1990s we had our own tablet under development. It never saw the light of day. When I left in 2002 people were talking about social media. We were selling phone software. But we didn't take advantage of any of that."

What he has to say about tablet development and smartphones is right on target: Microsoft was there first, but blew its chances.

But that has nothing to do with losing its "coolness." It has to do with turf wars and Microsoft's inability to build great products based on its ideas and research. When it comes to research, Microsoft does a great job. But with a few exceptions, such as the Kinect, it can't figure out how to turn research into great products.

Later on in the interview, Kempin touches on that. When asked what the core problem is with the company, he says:

I think it's that Steve [Ballmer] hasn't assembled the right team to propel the company forward. I don't see any technical visionary in there. They have great ideas in their research groups, but those ideas don't see the light of day."

He's right on target there. But again, that has nothing to do with "coolness." Microsoft was never a "cool" company. It built itself on tech smarts, sharp business practices, and business vision. That's what it's lost, and needs to regain, not a sense of "cool," which it never had.

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