Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has plenty of critics, and not just because of his blustery personality. He's often painted as out of touch, unable to weave his company through a rapidly changing landscape. He needs to step down, they say. Adding to that chorus on Tuesday is former Microsoft executive Joachim Kempin.
Kempin criticized Ballmer numerous times, saying the man deliberately pushes out any rising manager capable of testing his grip on power.
"For Microsoft to really get back in the game seriously, you need a big change in management," Kempin said in an interview with Reuters. "As much as I respect Steve Ballmer, he may be part of that in the end."
The comments come as the former exec prepares to release a book on Tuesday, titled "Resolve and Fortitude: Microsoft's 'secret power broker' breaks his silence." The book covers Kempin's time at the company as well as criticism regarding how it's currently operated.
"They need somebody maybe 35-40 years old, a younger person who understands the Facebook Inc generation and this mobile community. They don't need this guy on stage with this fierce, aggressive look, announcing the next version of Windows and thinking he can score with that."
"Is he a great CEO? I don't think so. Microsoft's board is a lame duck board, has been forever. They hire people to help them administer the company, but not to lead the company. That's the problem."
Kempin was employed by Microsoft from 1983 up until 2002, where he managed the sale of Windows software to PC manufacturers. He helped build Microsoft into a dominant force, but his means of negotiating also became questionable when antitrust lawsuits embroiled the company in fierce courtroom battles.
Nonetheless, Kempin accused Ballmer of stifling emerging talent such as Xbox point-man Richard Belluzo, who eventually left the company. He even said that Microsoft was already ahead of the game on tablets but never acted on commercializing them, ceding both the field and future of the company to rivals like Apple and Google.
"They missed all the opportunities they were talking about when I was still in the company. Tablets, phones...we had a tablet going, we had tablet software when Windows XP came out, it was never followed up properly," said Kempin.
It's true that Microsoft is racing to play catch-up in the tablet and mobile arena, but does that mean Ballmer needs to go? It's a fair question, but the source here isn't exactly the most reputable, either.