The Surface fiasco fallout: Ballmer, you're fired

The thinking behind the Surface is frighteningly similar to that of two iconic business flops: the Newton and the Edsel

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Then there was the Edsel. (Feast your eyes on it.) Actually, there wasn't anything particularly wrong with it in terms of technology. It was the same old Ford -- but it was ugly. And because it was so ugly, no one would buy it. It was designed around a complete misunderstanding of what the car-buying public really wanted. That sort of thinking propelled Ford and its major American rivals to their near-death experience in the first decade of the 21st century.

Here's another chest-grabber. According to the fascinating Microsoft 10-K report, "Sales and marketing expenses increased $1.4 billion or 10 percent, reflecting advertising costs for Windows 8 and Surface." Got that? The increase in advertising is larger than total Surface sales. Advertising is supposed to increase sales, not outspend them.

It's time for Steve Ballmer to go
Cars aren't tablets, but when you think about it, the Surface combines the worst conceptual mistakes of the Newton and the Edsel: technology that doesn't work plus a product that completely misses consumer expectations. Although there was something brilliant about the Newton, then-CEO John Scully took the hit and was fired. (He committed other sins as well, but the Newton debacle was a major contributing factor.)

It's utterly trite to criticize Ballmer's reorganization of the company as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In fact, the reorg makes some sense. But it's not going to matter.

Last week, I wrote about the business practices of Apple, about how the company has succeeded (so far) by combining organizational efficiency with a culture of constant innovation. Ballmer simply can't bring those weapons to the table. He's made huge contributions to the company and deserves respect. But it really is time for him to go.

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This article, "The Surface fiasco fallout: Ballmer, you're fired," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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