To me there are three phases in Steve’s leadership of Microsoft. In the first phase, while he was President and the first few years as CEO, he mostly focused on keeping the ship from sinking in the face of anti-trust and economic concerns. Efforts started during this time were heavily influenced by that environment, often with positively ugly results (e.g., Vista). Next came a couple of years of panic where it seemed Microsoft had fallen behind on all fronts and a frantic set of efforts were launched to catch up. The aQuantive acquisition was part of this. It was an era where Steve and Bill still shared leadership of the company, and where business units had lots of freedom to prioritize their individual strategy and tactics over an overall corporate strategy. Some things succeeded, like Windows 7. But others…. Now we are in the third phase where Steve has fully taken the reins and the Microsoft we are seeing is his Microsoft. It’s not all positive (particularly for employees), but for customers the 2012 product wave is probably the best in the company’s history. Microsoft is finally back. So for me the aQuantive write-down is the last major step in Steve putting the panic phase behind him. History is going to measure Steve ‘s tenure as Microsoft CEO on what happens in 2012 (FY 2013 for those into financial measures) and beyond, not what happened in the 2000s.
Three phases of Steve's Leadership.