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Ballmer now flings out work rivals, rather than chairs, claims ex-Microsoftie

'It's Steve's way or the highway'

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An ex-Microsoft chap has accused potty-mouthed CEO Steve Ballmer of throwing any possible pretenders to his chieftainship out of the company. At least it's no longer chairs being tossed around.

Joachim Kempin, who left the Windows giant under a cloud in 2002, has written a tell-all book about his time at Redmond that is less than complimentary, which is relatively unusual for a former high-ranking MS alumnus.

Kempin worked for Microsoft between 1983 and 2002. He left his senior veep position after software-bundling deals he signed with PC makers were used as ammunition by the US government's antitrust investigators.

In an interview with Reuters, Kempin said the company will probably do better with Ballmer at the helm than with anyone else - but claimed that senior managers with an eye on the Microsoft throne were forced out.

Kempin alleged that Richard Belluzzo - the former HP exec credited with launching the Xbox - got the cold shoulder from Ballmer when Belluzzo became chief operating officer, a post he held for 14 months before leaving the company.

"He had no room to breathe on the top," Kempin claimed. "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."

Kempin had a similar tale to tell about Ray Ozzie, a former software guru at Microsoft.

"Ozzie is a great software guy, he knew what he was doing. But when you see Steve and him on stage where he opposed Steve, it was Steve's way or the highway," Kempin claimed.

Kempin was willing to throw Ballmer a bone, and said he was a "very good business guy", but added: "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.

"They need somebody maybe 35 to 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."

Kempin claimed that Microsoft did foresee the tech world's lurch into tablets and smartphones, and the rise of social media, but it didn't follow up on them after he left. ®

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