There were no consumer studies, no rule by majority, no cowing to the conventional wisdom. It was only about one thing: Steve Jobs designed the products Steve Jobs wanted to use. You could join him or stay away. As taste-maker, Steve Jobs garnered more followers than anyone else. Apple became the technology world's fashion house.
For Microsoft to have a chance at surviving -- let alone prospering -- in the epic battle against Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, it needs a new leader who has both an architectural vision, as well someone who is a supreme taste-maker who can make Microsoft into the technology world's new fashion house.
I'm sorry, but this person is not Alan Mulally. Perhaps Alan Mulally would be a great VP of supply chain management at Microsoft -- but not CEO.
Maybe there is no sufficiently strong taste-maker with architectural vision available to save Microsoft from its otherwise inevitable demise. But let me suggest that the person closest to fitting the bill looks to be Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.
As I explained above, there are really only two qualifications that matter in terms of finding a CEO who can save Microsoft from what otherwise looks like certain defeat against Google and Apple in particular:
1. Architectural vision.
Microsoft has been busy re-labeling itself as a cloud services company, and to be sure it is moving in the right direction. The problem is that its revenue and profits remain mostly in the old world of localized software and traditional server models. Even if Microsoft succeeds in its technological transformation to the cloud, how could it protect its profits, let alone grow them?
It is mostly Google -- but also Amazon and Salesforce -- who exposed Microsoft's architectural weakness. In order to stem these losses, you might think that it would take someone from those companies to fully recognize the radical threat posed by the shift to a cloud architecture.
And know what to do about it.
In designing fashion, you need someone who (a) imposes a new form of beauty, while (b) avoids making stupid design mistakes. You have to have a good view of market trends, and see where there is an unfulfilled opportunity somewhere on the chessboard.