Steve Ballmer: The Legacy [video]

Steve Ballmer: The Legacy [video]

Summary: This far-reaching discussion between ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan and Microsoft columnist Mary Jo Foley explores the Steve Ballmer legacy at Microsoft and Mary Jo's exclusive exit interview with Ballmer.


ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley didn't get an interview with Steve Ballmer for 20 years but got his exclusive exit interview now that Ballmer's reign at Microsoft is coming to an end. Here, Foley and ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan discuss the highlights of that interview as well as Ballmer's hits and misses in 14 years as CEO and his larger legacy.

Topic: Steve Ballmer: The Exit Interview


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Flags

    Before everyone starts throwing flags at posts please think of what they should mean. The first two posts for this article are for things that look like scams. I hope they will be gone before you see them.

    To me flags are not about whether you agree or disagree with the post. Flags are for things that are inappropriate. They are for things you what the administrator to note and remove.

    The main things I consider inappropriate are:
    1. Solicitations for scams and deals that are to good to be real.
    2. Advertisements.
    3. Obscene language.
    4. Mindlesss troll posts that state opinions with no backup.

    This is not a long list and there may be other things but these are the main purposes for flags.

    Again, flags are not for when you disagree. You can vote for the best posts and things you agree with or not vote if you disagree.
    • Flags tend to get abused around here.

      A majority of them come from exploiters who duplicate votes.

      That's how you can end up with a Mr. X housing 60 up-votes and a Loverock with ~200 flags.
    • Well at least the spam is gone

      Many times, unpopular, constructive comments are deleted before the spam. Sad, really. ZDNet appears insecure to constructive criticism, while allowing juvenile name calling with no substance.

      Ironically, when clicking to read this article, I was asked to take a survey. I said the main reason I have a low opinion of ZDNet is the antiquated/draconian comment system.

      I'm here to read MJF. Mary Jo, thank you for your consistently high quality work. This article is a testament that Microsoft feels the same way I do. Keep up the good work.
      Info Dave
  • Great stuff folks!

    I like the fact that you've done some video content. So different from the way the site is normally done, and a great change in some ways.
  • 'Money Money Money' - cue ABBA

    MSFT's relentless focus on shareholder value was so intense that it contravened Ballmer's 1st key learning point 'keep the whole picture in mind'.

    Time after time we had to endure what I have repeatedly called PDTD's 'profit driven technology decisions'. We had to ensure:
    - VISTA
    - WINDOWS 8 and its schizo UI
    - OFFICE 2013 subscriptions
    Where the prime focus was profit, as opposed to CUSTOMER value.

    APPL took the opposite route with decisive effect.

    My instinct tells me that 'One Microsoft' will be a perpetuation of this disastrous principle: consumer and business are two entirely different beasts. This infatuation with oneness could reinforce the slide (though I do like the idea of cooperating divisions within the company).

    The pricing of:
    - Surface tablets
    - Office 365 subscriptions
    - developer revenue cut of 20-30%

    I disagree with Mary Jo about Ballmer's replacement 'fitting in with One MSFT': if I were going for the position I would hammer the board with the company's past mistakes and demonstrate how a customer-focused policy would not only be well received but also make more money!

    For instance if instead of Surface RT ... MSFT had released something like the DELL Venue 8 with Windows 8.2 (including start button now) and allowed the Office license to be used for business, all for $300 ... how different the reaction!
    • Abba? Please....

      And this, from a card carrying member of the "Death to Disco" society...

      www dot youtube dot com/watch?v=GXE_n2q08Yw

      Figure it out...

      p.s. I remember George Kell and Al Kaline broadcasting the game from Comiskey Park, classic...
      Info Dave
  • Steve Ballmer: The Legacy [video]

    Nice video. People can love or hate Steve Ballmer but he did a lot for Microsoft and kept them on track.
  • 20 years from now

    People we basically remember Bill Gates as starting Microsoft, which became a giant crushing everyone in its path through methods both good/legal and bad/illegal. Then Balmer took over as Microsoft declined. That is it.
  • 1 Star

    The interviewer couldn't get any worse than Larry Dignan...he's completely awkward and impersonal, and spouts off questions, pauses, the goes: "Yeah...". Bad audio quality, and a poor and boring video.
    • Lumbergh?

      We're gonna have to move you again.
  • GovComm

    Ballmer does NOT secretly work for the NSA!
  • Money metality, instead of focus on products the customer is screaming for

    Once money becomes the driving force, we lose sight of creativity, and of what the customers really want, and we start trying to make products that we want to shove down their throats by any means because these products make the most money.

    That might have worked in the early 1980s computing world, but now people have plenty of choices and alternatives, from free and capable operating systems, to free and capable office applications, to almost any other area of computing.

    As a consultant, I know many people who have plans to switch to other operating systems (from the Linux family) once the support for Windows XP, or Windows 7 ends some months or years down the road.
    There isn't a single person I have talked to who wants or plans to have any part in Windows 8.
    They even get angry and irritated just at the mention of Windows 8, and of course they hate Ballmer and Microsoft for that.

    Ballmer might have thought it was going to be the biggest money maker, a hen that'd lay gold eggs, because it is one size that fits all (PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones), thus minimizing development cost.
    He lost sight of what the customer was screaming for, and became blinded by money, money, money!
    Personally, I never really cared for Ballmer's personality or style.
    As a leader, he certainly was never a visionary, or a strategic thinker. He has always been driven by money.

    History tells us that no empire has ever stayed on top for ever!

    Is it the beginning of the journey down hill for Microsoft?
    Time will tell, but I have already installed various versions of Linux, on different PCs, so I can help and support my clients!
    • Pure unadulterated nonsense. Lies.

      "There isn't a single person I have talked to who wants or plans to have any part in Windows 8."

      Either you work on another planet or you work in a bizarre and closed circle on this one, or your lying.

      On this website alone Ive seen hundreds who love Windows 8. I was kind of worried for Windows 8 until I decided to take the jump into a new laptop and now its bluntly apparent that Windows 8 is the best Windows OS there has ever been.

      Lets all check back in about 3-5 years and see just how many are using Windows 8 and if MS has gone belly up. Lets just see.

      Lets play the game of "WHOS RIGHT WHOS WRONG". I already know your wrong on the notion that nobody is about to accept Windows 8; its 100% clear that millions already have and millions on millions more will. So I'm ready to bet it all that your nonsense will be proved out as the pure nonsense a non biased thinker already can see it for what it is.
      • Yeah 15% love W8 and 50% love W7

        While a good 30% are still on XP. I don't know many people who do like W8. Sure some of them do but most want W7 or are holding onto XP. I haven't met a great deal of people who want W8, and some that do end up downloading the 3rd party start menu software.

        It's not nonsense that at least half of the amazon reviews hate W8 for whatever reason most of it being the UI change. The only other OS that has had negative reviews like that was Vista. But i guess Vista was great because even that got up to 15% or higher before W7 came out. That must have been just as successful. The rumors stating that MS will return the start menu is a sign that W8 isn't doing as well as MS has hoped and so far XP is still a higher user share than W8 with W7 at the top. Still go on and think that everyone will give up XP or W7 for W8.
  • It's always easier to criticize than it is to create

    So many times critics talk about what a company should have done or as sh10453 says"He lost sight of what the customer was screaming for" so tell us what is it that Microsoft should have done?
    Hindsight is often easier but even then there is not 100% certainty.

    What was it that the customers were screaming for?

    Was it to stay with Windows XP? Certainly not.
    Windows Vista and Windows 7 just don't play well on current smaller devices.

    Maybe the execution of getting a version of Windows to play well across all device platforms could have been done a little better but the end result will probably be a winner in the long run.

    A similar look and feel on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones is already bearing benefits.
    I think one problem was the confusion between Windows RT devices vs. Windows Pro devices.
    Microsoft should have done a better on the front end making sure everyone understood the differences. Maybe something as simple as choosing a different naming convention.

    Certainly, Microsoft didn't do itself a favor by having to price their tablets so high.
    But then Microsoft is first and foremost a software company and made the bulk of its money by having others make the hardware.

    Only very recently has Microsoft decided to go ahead and become a devices company as well.
    But there is the rub; how to become a devices company without ticking off all of your previous hardware vendors? First you deploy into the market reference products for your vendor partners to follow; but you have to price your own products in such a way that your partners can follow and make money.

    There I said it "MONEY". It is always about MONEY.
    I believe if Microsoft had aggressively priced the original Surface RT & Surface Pro they would have done much, much, better in the market, at the expense of cutting out their partners.
    All that glitters is not gold.

    As this continues to shake out Microsoft will only have themselves in the Windows RT market.
    But they can say that they gave their partners an opportunity.
    I believe it will be the same for Windows Phone X.
    Nokia was obviously the only partner that jumped in whole-hog and won the lion's share of the Windows Phone sales and now Microsoft owns that.
    In both cases of Windows RT and Windows Phone Microsoft is free to do as it pleases (success or failure) but Microsoft can say that they did not abandon their partners but rather the reverse.

    Having said all of that, it is my belief that Microsoft will once again be seen as the go to company for business operating systems across all platforms for several reasons but mostly because they have or will have a consistent interface/experience and the ability to manage them all with enterprise tools.

    Say what you want to about Microsoft and even about Ballmer but the rise of tablets and smart phones was very disruptive. Microsoft may have been late to the game but Microsoft may just win out in the end.
    • Ya, lost sight of what the customer was scraming or!! Ha. Sure.

      Ya. this kind of talk is so, so hypocritical. You know, when morons come on here and talk like morons, perhaps its most surprising of all that they never seem to see that they will be caught quickly in the contradictory nature of their moron talk. Thy seem to think that they can say idiotic things that people just like themselves have contradicted in the past will never be recalled.

      Lets start off with the obvious. sh10453 seems t think that Microsoft and Ballmer have failed; (which is clearly ludicrously wrong to start with), because Ballmer ignored products the public was screaming for. This is a complete fallacy and makes no sense at all. Ballmer missed some opportunities, as has every major figure in IT from time to time, but there were no products being screamed for that Microsoft simply missed. Point to one idea for a product where the public is saying "WE WANT MICROSOFT TO MAKE THIS PRODUCT!!!"

      Dosnt exist. Never heard of such a product. Sure, there are products out there some wished were different in some way; hell, I always wanted Steve Jobs to make OSX the same as Windows, but it dosnt count as the public screaming for a product Apple didn't make.

      sh10453 is a crackpot. Out of the one side of the Microsoft haters mouths all we hear about is the importance of innovation and not being sheep, out of the other side we hear the answer is to forget innovation and just give people what they are "screaming for".

      Its always the same with these crackpots. If something moves right, say it should have moved left, if its moving left, say it should have moved right instead, pick a target, say it should have been different and its obstinate not to make it different, and then if its changed, make fun of the change. Molehills are made out to be mountains when it suits the Microsoft haters needs and visa versa, mountains are said to be molehills when the need fits. People cant take 15 minutes to learn Windows 8 but they can take the time to learn Linux????

      What a complete crock of crap. Ive used Linux. I think Linux is pretty darn good for a free OS, but its one of the biggest lies in the world to say its somehow easier or more fun to learn Linux and all its replacement programs than Windows 8, its nothing less then a wicked lie.

      What a pile of garbage. Microsoft is going under? Not even close. Not even on some distant horizon you could only see with a telescope. The Microsoft haters act as if this is the first time we have heard such complete tripe.

      The haters have made this prediction several times a year forever. Its even farther away today than it was years ago. Microsoft is not only still having an increase in their Windows OS install base on desktops and laptops yearly they are now getting into new markets in tablets and smartphones so the number and variety of Windows OS installs will only continue to increase. Microsoft sales and profits are surging and they are continuing to show the interest and ability to adapt to new and changing markets. How is any of this indicative of Microsoft failing?

      Its quite simply not. These posts claiming that Microsoft is finished as a company are quite simply ludicrous. If ever there was a tell tale sign of sour grapes over Microsoft's unprecedented success in an ever more competitive field, sh10453's post is the prime example to go by.
      • Ok, but you can thank W8 and MS for helping me..

        go to Linux in the first place. I have been putting off going to Linux or trying it out enough to make it a regular thing but after W7 is done i am moving to Linux. Not because i can't take 10 or 20 minutes out of my time but because i am not going to pay a single penny to MS because i don't think they deserve it, because they don't.

        Sure if Threshold is done well i may or may not get it, though since still having W7 until 2020 i might just hold off on that. I am not moving to Linux because of W8 directly but it gave me a very good reason to doing so because i am tired of having to deal with MS's shenanigans. Not only that most people i know won't even touch W8 so why should i jump on it if no one else wants to? It was slow moving and after it being out for several years all it has to show is 15% of user share? It hasn't gotten past XP yet and W7 did so much better since it's launch. I won't claim that W8 won't ever get past XP but it hasn't yet and by that time W9 may be released depending on where they decide to name 'Threshold'. You say millions already like W8 and millions more will get W8? I won't argue that millions are already on it but i haven't seen a huge jump in user share. In fact last month W7 was the OS that jumped much higher than W8 and 8.1 put together. I think you need to research before making claims that W8 is doing well and that MS is doing well in mobile/tablet sales. They may be making sales but not as well as W7 has been doing the past 4 years.