If you worked for a popular news and business publication and had access to America’s top technology company leaders, what questions would you ask?
Forbes‘ Rich Karlgaard had the pleasure of a few minutes with Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, and, to his credit asked a few that I would put on my list of questions.
For example, Ballmer pontificated on the launch of Windows 95 being a big day for the company and the industry. Karlgaard asked:
Forbes: “Aren’t you forgetting the Macintosh in 1984?”
Ballmer: “A great computer and all that, but computing was not a mainstream phenomenon until the 1990s.“
When asked about Microsoft figuring out the next wave– when and where to jump in, Ballmer replied:
The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it. We not only did Windows, we did Office. We not only did Windows and Office, we actually were the company that really drove PC chips into the data center. That was us!
You get the idea. Ballmer is more politician than visionary, but the interview got me to think about what questions I would ask of Ballmer and the leader of his company’s nemesis, Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Here’s what I would ask Steve Ballmer.
Kate: Microsoft remains profitable because of Windows and Office, but has lost money on every other major product from search to game consoles to smart phones to tablets. Why is that?
Kate: Microsoft’s stock price has remained mostly stagnant since you became CEO and Bill Gates left the company. Should shareholders hold you responsible for Microsoft’s anemic stock price?
Kate: Microsoft announced the Surface tablet to compete with Apple’s hot selling and popular iPad. Why didn’t you announce a price tag on the Surface, and give reviewers an opportunity to actually try the product? That’s what Apple does.
You get the idea, right? But, to be fair, I have a few questions I’d really like to ask Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Kate: Tell me the truth, why did Apple wait so long to give customers a two-button mouse?
Kate: Why can’t I replace the battery in my MacBook Pro with Retina display. Why can’t I replace the battery in my iPad or iPhone?
Kate: Why isn’t Apple serious about putting products into the enterprise? And don’t tell me you are. Two words: Xserve.
Kate: iTunes is a blundering, lumbering whale of an app that has outlived its welcome. When will you fix iTunes and how will it be different?
Kate: What was Steve Jobs talking about when he said he finally “cracked” TV?
It wouldn’t take much effort to come up with more questions for either Ballmer or Cook. What questions would you ask?