Microsoft hires a CIO who stood up to Ballmer

At most companies, the post of chief information officer is a humdrum administrative job, making sure that the servers running the CEO's BlackBerry don't go down. At Microsoft, add to that this burden: Serving as a part-time shill for the company's products. If anyone could change that, it may be Tony Scott, freshly hired as the software company's fourth CIO in as many years. Scott, Tony, replaces Scott, Stuart, who left in scandal.

So why does Tony Scott stand a chance at shaking things up? As CTO of General Motors, he was a big customer of both Microsoft and Sun. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, and Scott McNealy of Sun had been carrying on a war of words. Scott, with his big budget, brought the two to the negotiating table and forced them to make their competing software offerings more compatible.

Ah, but there's the rub. As Microsoft's CIO, Ballmer will control Scott's budget, not the other way around. And Scott will feel pressured to run an all-Microsoft shop. Will Scott, with those shackles, be as effective a force for change within Microsoft as he was on the outside? What I'd like to see is Scott declare a piece of Microsoft software unfit even for internal use, and replace it with a better alternative, as so many of Microsoft's customers have done. But that's unlikely.