I love the classic "What If?" series of Marvel Comics that altered one bit of a story and then showed how everything else would play out around it. So, of course, I love the idea of "What if Steve Ballmer ran Apple?". What if the Apple-is-doomed contingent forced Tim Cook out, and brought in the freshly-departed-from Microsoft Steve Ballmer? What various positives and negatives - everything is always a blend of both - would happen in just such an else-world? Clearly Ben Thomson does as well, as he's written it up brilliantly for Stratechery:

Ballmer would do more than catch enterprise accounts that fall in his lap; he would aggressively court CIOs and make changes to the iPhone to accommodate them. Ballmer would expand the iPad range to multiple screen sizes and price points, and would push for every school district in the world to standardize on them, far more aggressively than Apple is today. Ballmer would leverage iTunes, and all those credit cards, by making a play for payments and identity. As for computers, well, the XMac might even become a reality. [...]

And yet, under Ballmer, everyone at Apple would be working so hard, and be making so much money, both for themselves and for Apple's shareholders, that they would ensure that Apple never again reinvents consumer computing.

That idea, that you can't maximize profits on current products while simultaneously innovating new disruptions, is central to the stories of both Microsoft and Apple, and to Thompson's exploration. Press some coffee or pour some tea and read the whole thing.

Source: Stratechery