What Steve Ballmer got right (and wrong): in quotes

What Steve Ballmer got right (and wrong): in quotes

Summary: Steve Ballmer may be known as one of the more outspoken Silicon Valley chief executives. We look back at some of his best quotes during his 13-year tenure at Microsoft's helm.


 |  Image 7 of 10

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Ballmer on antitrust matters

    Microsoft has seen its fair share of antitrust and anticompetitive problems in the U.S. and EU. In response to the software giant's standing in the worldwide market share, he once said: 

    "We don’t have a monopoly. We have market share. There’s a difference."
    — Steve Ballmer.

    Image: Microsoft

  • Ballmer on anger management

    After Mark Lucovsky left Microsoft in 2004, it reportedly incensed Ballmer so much that he allegedly threw a chair. And then, according to testimony surrounding another Google ex-Microsoft hire, he said (or shouted) this:

    "F**king Eric Schmidt is a f**king p***y. I'm going to f**king bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to f**king kill Google."
    — Steve Ballmer

    (According to sister-site CNET, he rebutted these claims a year later, "I have never, honestly, thrown a chair in my life.")

    Image: Microsoft

  • Ballmer on the tablet revolution

    Then-Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, back in June 2010 -- months after the iPad was first released -- said at the AllThingsD:8 conference he expected the PC to decline as consumers shifted to tablets. Ballmer in a later interview, thought somewhat differently:

    "I think PCs are going to continue to shift in form factor. The real question is: What's a PC?"
    — Steve Ballmer

    Image: Microsoft

Topics: Steve Ballmer: The Exit Interview, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Bold bets?

    What are the bold bets Microsoft made? I don't recall anything unfortunately.
    • Surface

      Surface and Nokia. Software acquisitions - meh. Too bad their bets are mine losers. Eventually, Nokia will crawl out of the mud. Not leveraging skype with social media and integration into more mobile devices demonstrated lack of vision. XBox was bold for its time, but does nit look to be paying off from a profit standpoint. They still haven't merged their ecosystems yet, but may be closer than others. We'll see. Their bold moves have not followed through to great results.
  • Really

    Silicon Valley?
  • DOS to Windows was the innovation in consumer operating systems

    Aggressive marketing and smart (and lucky) contracts with big companies and the government created a perfect storm for Bill Gates and Microsoft. In my opinion, Ballmer's reign as CEO has basically been riding the wave, with no substantial innovations on his watch. So much of Microsoft has been either milking the Windows machine for every last penny, or playing catchup to all the other software and hardware companies in the world, including buying them if that's what it took.
  • Windows 8 and that goofy UI is a bold bet...

    I am not much of a Microsoft fan, never have been, but from the very start of the modern Windows Phone UI and Windows 8 I thought those UI changes was a very bold move and I salute Microsoft for thinking outside the box. I personally think they have thought too far outside the box with this, but that all the more points out that this is a bold move. They have not completely bet the farm so to speak on Windows 8, but it is pretty close.

    I still wonder how they will deal with newer/updated server versions of Windows? Will they really impose that goofy UI on server users? Ok, this is off topic for this article, but I couldn't resist.
  • Windows 8

    Expecting an OS to work equally well on a Tablet or Phone and on a PC is like an SUV can ride on the road but a Ferrari can't ride through a dirt farm track. Horses for courses.
    Desperate Dan
  • What Steve Ballmer got right (and wrong): in quotes

    Steve Ballmer was a long shot. After Bill Gates stepped out of the CEO picture, Ballmer started Microsoft down a road that would eventually lead to the end of what seemed to be endless possibility for Microsoft. Gates was always making sure the product was good and tested before turning it over to the hands of the public. That is until Windows 95 came along and thus the change from 16 bit Windows to 32 and eventually 64 bit Windows.

    Ballmer pushed the envelope on 32 and 64 bit product. Longhorn (which eventually became Windows Vista or Windows Me2 known by many in IT, was the product that would unravel Microsoft. Windows XP was far superior and more popular than any product Microsoft would produce. Ballmer went forward and had to pull Vista back after it was released because it was not accepted by the majority of business customers. Reworked and re-released as Windows 7 it became more accepted.

    Windows 8 has been a flop. Dubbed Windows Me3, the product has not taken off and Microsoft's business model was changing due to Ballmer's meddling in things to make Microsoft nothing more of a Software Company to transform it into a Hardware and Services Company. Hedging his bets on the Surface Platform to help transform and compete with Apple and Linux/Android products. His short sidedness and thinking that building things without Consumer input would be a lasting change for Microsoft. It only helped to wreck their business model. Without customer and consumer input, the Windows platform will fail miserably.
    • Self-created Acronyms and Grammar Issues Damage Your Credibility

      Me2 and Me3? Never heard of them. short sidedness? I'm sure you mean short-sightedness but your not knowing the correct word tells me that you are not as knowledgeable about Microsoft as you believe you are.

      Like it or not, people do notice mistakes like this.
      • words

        I am one who usually comments on words like that, but I missed it this time, good thing someone did see it. Keep up the good work!
        As for Windows 8, we have a Surface RT, it is not as usable as we would like, but I think a lot of it is just getting used to W8. We are still upgrading to W7 here at work.
        • but *your* not knowing the correct word...

          means that you're not very smart YOURSELF. People notice things like. that!
    • wasn't it Bill Gates

      who famously described Microsoft QA strategy as 'when it compiles, we ship it'?
      so much for 'Gates was always making sure the product was good ...'
  • But he had the "vision thing," didn't he?

    Here are four big things he missed, just off the top of my head, no thinking needed:

    1) Anticipating mobility (which encompasses smartphones, tablets, and the cloud)? Microsoft has an "okay" cloud offering (Azure) but there are some strong alternatives (Amazon Web Services comes to mind). He bungled the rest multiple times. How many times did he or Bill trot out on stage, going back to the days of Comdex, with some weird thing from Toshiba, never to be seen again?

    2) Getting usability right. Windows 8. Need I say more? Or, "Control Panels" - they get more detailed and more arcane and more complicated with every release. Impossible to troubleshoot with. Unlike Apple, which finds your network and sets you up. No troubleshooting needed.

    3) Embracing innovation in general: instead of buying iPhones for every engineer when they came out, and telling them to study it carefully and do it one better, he famously stomped one employee's iPhone to death. And the Surface? Version 2 seems to be a minimalist Windows laptop with a keyboard made from some odd sponge material, for twice the price of many 'regular' Windows laptops. I know, they're proud that the kickstand has two pre-set angles now. That's the innovation, I guess.

    4) Attention to detail: 1) Context-sensitive help in Windows. Windows Help never EVER helps. 2) I got my hands on a Windows 8 phone (Nokia 1520) this week. The first thing out of the box is to set it up, which requires a Windows Live account. If you fumble and accept the default 'date of birth' by mistake, as I did, your birthday becomes today's date, and there's no way to un-do that without killing your Windows Live account and starting a new one. When you want to update the apps, you get a prompt to accept the Windows Phone Store terms of use. But there is no link to do that, and if you go online via your PC to find it, you get directed to the Xbox Live site (for my phone, mind you), and still, no "accept the terms" link.

    Under Ballmer, Microsoft grew into something comparable to the (old) GM, with lots of conventional wisdom, where any real innovation is hidden below many layers of bureaucracy, never to see the light of day. Yet Microsoft has some great stuff hidden in there. Glimmers of hope include Photosynth, Playready, Smart Glass and the Xbox ecosystem. We don't need any more Hummers, Pontiacs or Saturns from Microsoft. Stingrays would be better.
  • Let's not forget how he dismissed Android


    "I don't really understand [Google's] strategy. Maybe somebody else does. If I went to my shareholder meeting, my analyst meeting, and said, 'hey, we've just launched a new product that has no revenue model!'...I'm not sure that my investors would take that very well. But that's kind of what Google's telling their investors about Android,"

    And yet Android hasn't changed and Google's making a butt-load of money because of Android.
    • Except...

      they haven't. It is public information, check were the majority of their money is made. You will see, Android doesn't take a meaningful piece of the pie. From a business and investor stand point, Balmer has been correct so far in this matter.
      Fuhrer D