Puffed-Up CEOs

by Derrick Story

After all these years as a reporter, you'd think I'd be immune to the self-absorbed behavior of egomaniac CEOs, but I guess I'm not. Who am I talking about? Larry Ellison asking the San Jose airport change its rules to accommodate his personal flying habits, Steve Ballmer running around on stage like a crazed fool, and my current abhorrence, Michael Dell talking about his greatness. Notice that Steve Jobs isn't mentioned here. I'll get to him later.

I just read Direct from Dell -- Q and A with Michael Dell in Technology Review where it is difficult to tell who loves Michael more, the interviewer, Robert Buderi, or Mr. Dell himself.

I checked the "About Us" link of TR and didn't see anywhere that they were a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dell. Strange, because the only place I would ever even consider running a softball interview like this is on Dell.com.

My favorite quote in the article is where Dell says, "Right now our notebook team is continuing to drive very, very hard on size, weight, wireless integrationówe were the first to integrate wireless into notebooks, with integrated antennas."

Now Mr. Dell doesn't state which notebook he's talking about, so I can't track down his claim. But for those of us covering technology, the first integrated wireless notebook I remember is the famous iBook introduction by Steve Jobs at MacWorld where he passed an Internet-connected iBook through a hula hoop on stage of the Moscone Grand Ballroom in San Francisco. You mean Dell already had a wireless notebook on the market at that time? Wow!

This puffed-up piece of online publishing comes on the heels of Fucked Company's Monkey Boy video that shows Steve Ballmer running around on stage like a crazed fool. I'm not sure what anyone was thinking here ... And that's on the heels of Ballmer calling the open source movement a cancer. What an artist with words he is.

Yet, when people talk about egomaniac CEOs, it seems as though Steve Jobs is the first name mentioned. In light of recent behavior by Dell and others, I think there's sufficient evidence to move Jobs down the list. Plus, if you really want to talk about innovation, how many CEOs do you know who would have the guts to pull floppy drives out of computers?

The closest I've ever come to direct contact with Jobs was my one degree of separation when David Pogue told me about his meeting with Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2001. Actually, I wish I had been there with David ...

Speaking of Jobs, he won't be on stage for the Seybold SF keynote next month for the first time in a couple years, at least not in person. Too bad cause he's the best show in town. As far as CEOs goes, probably the most entertaining ever. I'd like to see Michael Dell, for all of his self-proclaimed greatness, create a line two blocks long around a convention center to see him speak.

So on style points alone, I propose we make Michael Dell the poster boy for puffed-up CEOs and give Jobs a break.

OK, so that's my two cents. Do you agree, or am I just full of hot air?