"IDK, my BFF Bill?"
Ballmer talks of his departing pal Bill Gates and Microsoft's vision for the future

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a deep fondness and appreciation for Bill Gates. Ballmer has worked beside Microsoft's founder since 1980 – before that, the two were friends at Harvard -- and has been one the company’s most vocal and enthusiastic champions.

The close relationship that the two have was even more apparent in a recent interview with the UK's Telegraph newspaper. Ballmer conversed with Josephine Moulds over Microsoft's future endeavors including its expanded reach into online software applications and large-scale advertising

However, it was Ballmer's thoughts on Bill Gates -- and his children -- which seemed to take center stage.

"We have been like parents or brothers in this thing for a long time," said Ballmer. "Partners, spouses, whatever, we participated together in giving birth to this amazing thing called Microsoft. We always work well together, we do not always agree, we always work through our disagreements."

Ballmer went on to explain the spousal nature of his relationship with Gates. "That is why I say there is a certain husband-wife, brothers thing, where you have an ability to agree, resolve issues, a fundamental respect, admiration, good feeling. All that lets you make one plus one equal three, in terms of getting the best from two people."

Ballmer didn't stop there, however. He then brought his children into the discussion to highlight the progress that Microsoft is making with its products.

"We happen to have two children that are a little older, and they are great kids, they are still developing," said Ballmer. "They are in high school, they are wonderful, they have got their whole future in front of them. That is our desktop -- Windows and Office -- and our server business."

"Then we have got these two young kids. They are four or five, they are really at a formative stage, and they are building their muscles. That is where we are in online and devices."

Microsoft is indeed trying to react and adapt to changing market conditions. The company followed Google's lead with the introduction of Office Live Workspace -- an effort to branch out into the field of web-based applications.

The company also announced changed to its product lifecycles due to corporate and consumer demand. Microsoft's Windows Vista was supposed to stifle demand for the company's aging Windows XP operating system, but the 6-year-old OS instead received a few more months to live.

When it comes to devices, Microsoft has found plenty of success with its Xbox 360 platform despite RRoD failures. The company is looking to strengthen its position in the console wars this holiday season with beefed up Premium and Elite bundles and a value-packed Arcade model.

In addition, Microsoft is looking to improve on the lukewarm reception given to its original Zune with the Zune 4, Zune 8 and Zune 80. All will go head-to-head with Apple's popular iPod family and are priced accordingly.

Ballmer is at the helm of what is likely America's most high-profile software companies. He's shared the limelight with his buddy Bill Gates for the past 17 years. When Gates leaves his Microsoft ties behind next year, Ballmer will be without his "spouse" when it comes time to make big decisions.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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