Steve Ballmer, Fence-Sitter

The WSJ is reporting that Microsoft’s board, having met to decide what to do about the Yahoo bid, has decided, um, not to decide what to do about the Yahoo bid. Instead it’s punting the decision back to Steve Ballmer, who is himself not entirely sure what to do:

The apparent indecision partly reflects Mr. Ballmer’s personality, say people familiar with his thinking. He can be unpredictable and at times swayed by new information, say his friends and Microsoft colleagues.

Being swayed by new information, it goes without saying, is a good thing. But it’s unclear how much new information there really has been since Microsoft announced its bid. If there was a strategy which made sense then, what new information might be able to alter that strategy now?

This is very much a test of leadership for Ballmer, and so far he’s failing. If you make a hostile takeover bid and then fail to follow through aggressively, your stakeholders are going to start feeling that you’re not quite up to the job. Although I have to admit that it’s hard to think of anyone really qualified to run Microsoft right now. The present leadership was very aggressive during the company’s high-growth period, but hasn’t shown itself good at running a mature company; but it would take more than a change of CEO to really change the culture in Redmond.

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