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He discusses his biggest accomplishment, regrets and what's next

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced this week that he plans to retire sometime over the next year. This is pretty big, considering he's been with the company for 33 years and saw it through many stages of technological growth. So how would he sum up three decades of working with one of the largest tech players in the industry?

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley was able to talk with Ballmer after the announcement of his retirement, and asked him to reflect on his time with Microsoft as well as what he thinks the future of the company holds. 

Over the course of his career, Ballmer said his biggest accomplishment at Microsoft has been contributing to the rise of personal computing, from PCs to smartphones/tablets and everything in between. 

"I'm proud of being I would say a significant part even of the birth of intelligent personal computing, the notion that people use computing technologies, whether that's phones, PCs," sid Ballmer. "I mean, we kind of birthed that over the course of the '80s and the '90s, and that's had such an unbelievable impact on people's lives. I would say a billion plus people and now more with phones, even if they're not all our phones, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished there.

"If I had to sort of couple it, I'm very proud that we were able to make this incredible impact on the planet and at the same time do a good job for our shareholders."

However, Ballmer's biggest regret over the course of his career was the operating system that many users despised: Windows Vista. 

"Oh, you know, I've actually had a chance to make a lot of mistakes, and probably because, you know, people all want to focus in on period A, period B, but I would say probably the thing I regret most is the, what shall I call it, the loopedy-loo that we did that was sort of Longhorn to Vista," said Ballmer. "I would say that's probably the thing I regret most. And, you know, there are side effects of that when you tie up a big team to do something that doesn't prove out to be as valuable."

Ballmer said he has been thinking about retiring for awhile now, but started taking the idea more seriously over the last few months. The official decision was made only two days ago, he said. 


Over the next year -- leading up to Ballmer's retirement -- Microsoft's board will talk about the company's needs and determine who the next CEO should be. Ballmer didn't give any clues as to who the successor may be, but said that the search could take less than a year.

As for Ballmer's future, he doesn't have any set plans right now. 

"I haven't spent a lot of time -- I don't have time to spend actually even thinking about what comes next. I'm not going to have time to do that until the board gets a successor in place," said Ballmer. "My whole life has been about my family and about Microsoft. And I do relish the idea that I'll have another chapter, a chapter two, if you will, of my life where I'll get to sort of experience other sides of life, learn more about myself, all of that, but it's not like I leave with a specific plan in mind."

Ballmer joined Microsoft on June 11, 1980 as the company's 30th employee and the first business manager hired by Microsoft Chairman and Co-Founder Bill Gates. Even though Ballmer has been a public figure for Microsoft for many years, some believe the company is in need of an executive shake-up -- including a new leader. Mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets, are taking over as the PC market continues to decline. But Microsoft has had a difficult time stirring up enthusiasm for Windows Phone against competitors like Apple and Samsung, and the Windows maker was late to the tablet game -- releasing its Surface tablet in October 2012 after the iPad had already been out for over two years. To make matters worse, Microsoft's Surface was initially released with the Windows RT operating system (the full Windows 8 Pro-powered Surface wasn't released until February 2013) and it was a major flop. Many say RT isn't a full Windows 8 experience, lacking the ability to run legacy apps.

Microsoft also slipped up recently with its Xbox One announcement. The new console, which is expected to be released this fall, initially had a used games ban and a new "always-on" digital rights management (DRM) system, which posed a problem for many people who are either in rural areas with slow Internet connections, travelling or tend to experience Internet issues with providers. Microsoft later retracted these features after major complaints, but the fiasco still didn't sit well with gamers.

The situation was made worse when its top competitor -- Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 -- was announced without any used game bans or a DRM system, and is also faster and less expensive (by $100) than the Xbox One. 

Perhaps a new CEO and executive shake-up will help Microsoft along. Nevertheless, Ballmer has been an important figure at Microsoft for years and helped make it what it is today.

Source: ZDNet



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RE: Not Windows 8
By Endafy on 8/24/2013 11:38:25 PM , Rating: 2
What I find absolutely funny is I still run Windows Vista Ultimate SP2 x64 with 16gb of ram, GTX 480, core i3 3220 and it is a wonderful OS. Windows 8 is so much worse, and Windows 8.1 isn't any better, more of a bad thing isn't a good thing...

That being said, I see no difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista to be completely honest, in fact Vista is better than 7 by leaps and bounds as it does way more...

Their biggest regret should have been communication, they never properly communicated that Vista was not meant to babysit older hardware...


RE: Not Windows 8
By swaaye on 8/25/2013 12:01:30 AM , Rating: 4
Vista really was too demanding for PCs at its launch. You give that OS a modern, fast HDD, recent CPU and a lot of RAM and yes it is great. You couldn't do that in 2006. It of course primarily shipped on slow budget machines that were terribly under-equipped for it.


RE: Not Windows 8
By InsGadget on 8/25/2013 4:58:42 AM , Rating: 5
Uh, what exactly does Vista do that 7 can't?


RE: Not Windows 8
By Motoman on 8/26/2013 10:45:27 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that's a very odd thing to say. Realistically I don't think there's a fundamental difference between 7 and Vista.

If you're happy with Vista, stay with it.

I'd say the only thing that might prod someone off Vista at this point is maybe if a new version of DirectX doesn't support Vista - and that would only matter to a gamer.


RE: Not Windows 8
By inighthawki on 8/25/2013 5:06:11 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
That being said, I see no difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista to be completely honest, in fact Vista is better than 7 by leaps and bounds as it does way more...

That makes no sense, 7 is pretty much a an optimized version of vista with some new features. Youll get better performance all around.


RE: Not Windows 8
By MrBungle123 on 8/25/2013 12:57:29 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
That being said, I see no difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista to be completely honest, in fact Vista is better than 7 by leaps and bounds as it does way more...


Completely updated and running on proper hardware Vista is a good OS, i agree but to say its better than windows 7 is just not true.

At a minimum I would much rather do a Windows 7 install than a Vista install because there isn't 3GB worth of crap (updates) I need to download and install that requires 15 restarts to get it up and running.


RE: Not Windows 8
By damianrobertjones on 8/25/2013 3:08:03 PM , Rating: 3
"Vista is better than 7 by leaps and bounds as it does way more..."

Really... Please list them


RE: Not Windows 8
By Fritzr on 8/28/2013 10:59:47 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see that list also.

Win7 is the Vista Service Pack. The rebadging was a necessary marketing change.


RE: Not Windows 8
By Flunk on 8/26/2013 9:05:05 AM , Rating: 2
Windows 7 is a bugfixed version of Vista with an refreshed user interface and a few performance fixes.

There really isn't anything you can do with Vista you can't with 7, and it's a little bit faster. I'm not saying Vista is bad, they're just much more similar than they are different.

The Vista fallout is the entire reason Microsoft now cares about system performance, every one of their last two OSes has run on the same hardware as Vista. At least they learned something.


RE: Not Windows 8
By Monkey's Uncle on 8/26/2013 11:08:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That being said, I see no difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista to be completely honest, in fact Vista is better than 7 by leaps and bounds as it does way more...


Can't really agree with that either. Exactly what does Vista do that Windows 7 can't?

Windows 7 is what Microsoft had in mind when they released Vista. The only problem was that because of production deadlines Vista was released in a pretty much unfinished state. It worked well if you had the hardware to handle it, but it was still a little half baked. The release of Windows 7 filled in the blanks left behind from Vista's release.


RE: Not Windows 8
By polishvendetta on 8/26/2013 11:25:31 AM , Rating: 2
Windows 8 is so much worse in what way? Seems to me almost everyone can agree that behind metro is a faster more stable OS.


RE: Not Windows 8
By Motoman on 8/26/2013 12:15:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. Behind Metro.

Banish Metro back to the preschool it came from and no one would have an issue with Win8.


RE: Not Windows 8
By Monkey's Uncle on 8/26/2013 6:59:05 PM , Rating: 2
agreed.


RE: Not Windows 8
By Ramon Zarat on 9/1/2013 4:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
Agree


RE: Not Windows 8
By Jeeem on 8/30/2013 1:08:20 PM , Rating: 2
I'm seeing another negative impact of Win8 in the laptop market. Not sure if it is because of the touch screens or Metro or just being cheap, but screen resolution has taken another nosedive.

I recently bought a new 15" laptop. It was generally a decent laptop with above average specs. I installed Classic Shell to get the Start menu back and boot to the desktop so I didn't have to look at Metro. I thought I was gold. I was wrong.

After a few days of light use I started noticing that I had to scroll a lot more to see everything. I went into my display settings to check the resolution and discovered that 1366x768 was the max. What?!? This was a 15" laptop, not a netbook, ultrabook, or compact model with a small screen. I thought maybe I just made a bad purchase and picked a crippled model. Not so.

I went around to various stores and checked resolutions on Win8 laptops from all sorts of manufacturers including models with and without touchscreens. With only one exception, they were all 1366x768. I only found one 15" model with 1920x1080 resolution. I took the other one back and bought the model with better (but still barely acceptable IMHO), resolution.

A co-worker ran into the same situation with his new laptop and believes it to be a Win8 issue because he is able to get "normal" resolutions when he boots to Linux.

Friends, it doesn't matter whether you otherwise like Win8 or not, this not progress. My 10" Android tablet has 1080p resolution. A 15" laptop should be able to do much, much better.


RE: Not Windows 8
By ammaross on 8/26/2013 3:39:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
, I see no difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista

Well, to cite one example, Vista (IIRC) can't differentiate between a Hyperthreaded core and a real CPU core. Have fun when your intensive threads get (randomly) dumped on your i3 hyperthreaded cores. :)


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