The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer did a lot of things that were pretty embarrassing when he was the CEO of Microsoft (MSFT). But none of them hold a candle to the ridiculous comments by his successor, Satya Nadella.
Nadella told attendees at a tech conference for women this week that female employees shouldn't ask for raises because it would be "good karma" to not do so. He also suggested that women should have faith that "the system" will compensate them over the long haul and that staying silent was even one of the "superpowers" for women.
You can watch the remarks in the video below, along with analysis from CNN's Maggie Lake and Laurie Segall.
Nadella later apologized on Twitter.
But the damage was done. The reaction on social media was swift and justifiably harsh.
Can Nadella recover from this? Probably. But it's a huge stain on his reputation, which up until now was unblemished.
Wall Street loves the fact that Nadella was the anti-Ballmer. He's more reserved and calm. He clearly gets where tech is going, and investors are excited by his emphasis on mobile and cloud computing. Microsoft's stock is up more than 25% since Nadella was named CEO in February.
Shares did fall Friday though, prompting me to tweet this unsolicited advice for Nadella before the market opened.
Still, Nadella's poor choice of words did make me nostalgic for some of Ballmer's zany antics. They seem quaint in comparison to Nadella's blunder. Let's stroll down memory lane.
There's the famous monkey boy dance.
Then there's his bizarre "Developers! Developers! Developers!" rally cry. (Although I sympathize with Steve regarding the sweaty shirt.)
I'm not sure why Ballmer and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ever decided to recreate "Night at the Roxbury" -- one of the least funny skits in "Saturday Night Live" history.
And there's this awesome promotional video for the first Windows way back in 1985.
The list goes on and on.
Ballmer laughed when asked about how well the iPhone would do after Apple (AAPL) first introduced it. Oops.
He dismissed the iPad as "just another PC" and joked that the Mac was more like a Mack truck while PCs were more elegant cars. Where's Britney Spears? Oops he did it again.
He cackled when someone asked him at a 2009 Microsoft developers (developers developers developers) conference about Google's (GOOGL) Chrome. "Who knows what this thing is?" Triple scoop of oops with a huge topping of wrong sauce.
But about the most controversial/offensive thing Ballmer ever did (besides not make Microsoft shareholders that much richer) was calling open source software Linux a cancer.
That was a stupid remark. But at least Ballmer didn't insult half of the U.S. population like Nadella did.
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This article was published in the March issue of Money magazine.
By Paul R. La Monica
The tech-heavy Nasdaq index may be nearing its early-2000 levels, but the technology sector looks nothing like it did in the bubble years.
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