You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast which is what I tried to do.
~Jane Fonda

Steve Ballmer doesn't seem to have learned Jane Fonda's big life lesson. In fact, dude doesn't know when to shut up, which is fairly odd given that he is the CEO of a huge corporation. Ballmer gave a talk last week at the Gartner's Symposium ITxpo in Orlando where by all reports he let go not one, but two major gaffes (and that's just the ones I heard about), two such incredibly stupid statements for a person in his position to say, that I felt compelled to write about them. One involved Yahoo! The other involved his embattled OS: Vista.

Let's Give Yahoo! Stock a Lift

Let's start with the Yahoo! mess. Ballmer said that while the Yahoo! talks were stalled, a deal would make sense for both companies' stockholders. In fact, Ballmer may be right. It probably does make sense for both companies, at least to me, but I'm not the CEO of Microsoft talking. When I say something, stock prices don't rise and fall. When Ballmer said something, it actually drove up the price of Yahoo! stock 13 percent the afternoon after he made his little slip. Microsoft released a terse statement later on that there was nothing doing between Microsoft and Yahoo!, but the deed had been done.

Kicking Vista to the Curb

As though this weren't enough, he kept right on talking. In a column on ComputerWorld called Ballmer Says Skip Vista, my colleague, Steven J Vaughan-Nichols reports that Ballmer told the same audience if they wanted to wait for Windows 7, they certainly can. Come again?! That's right, it's a statement so outrageous coming out of the mouth of the Microsoft CEO, that it's hard to believe he said it. I'm sure his PR people were just thrilled to hear that, as was the Vista sales team. As Vaughan-Nichols says, this is a prime opportunity for Apple and Linux to continue to capture market share while waiting for the elusive Windows 7.

Giving Apple and Linux a Huge Opening

Given that many people are just looking for an excuse to jump ship from Microsoft, you might think that the CEO would be doing damage control for the OS his beleaguered company is trying to sell today, but instead he's saying it's OK to move on and wait for the next one. This is just bone-headed coming from your chief executive, the individual whose job is to promote your company's public image, yet there he was sticking his foot in hit once again.

If this were politics, Apple and Linux would be running attack ads using these words over and over again. An aggressive voice over a really bad picture of Ballmer would say, "Even Steve Ballmer tells you to forget about Vista and wait for Windows 7." In fact, come on over to Mac or Linux. We're ready to use today, right now. And you don't have to wait for 18-24 months.

At the very least, Apple and Linux owe Ballmer a holiday card and a nice dinner. He couldn't have done them a bigger favor. Now if Ballmer could just learn Jane Fonda's lesson, which is to learn very fast, but he seems to have trouble doing that, and the art of shutting up eludes him.

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