Ballmer on Apple’s Mac, Steve Jobs, and why Microsoft’s lost decade is a myth

“On July 9th, I did an onstage interview with Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference,” Rich Karlgaard reports for Forbes. “Immediately after the onstage interview, Ballmer and I retreated to the green room and had a quieter conversation.”

Some snippets:

Ballmer: The launch of Windows 95 that was big for everybody, big for Microsoft, big for the industry. That’s when the PC hit the mainstream market, when the total size of the computer market grew up. People had a hard time learning DOS and everything else that came before it.

Forbes: Aren’t you forgetting the Macintosh in 1984?

Ballmer: A great computer and all that, but computing was not a mainstream phenomenon until the 1990s. I mean, really it’s hard to think that’s only 17 years ago.

Forbes: In early 2000, Microsoft’s market value went over $500 billion. Do you think this has distorted people’s expectations for Microsoft? I’m thinking of the recent Vanity Fair article that said Microsoft’s last ten years have been a “lost decade.”

Ballmer: It’s not been a lost decade for me! I mean, look, ultimately progress is measured sort of through the eyes of our users. More than our investors or our P&L or anything else, it’s through the eyes of our users. We have 1.3 billion people using PCs today. There was a time in the ’90s when we were sure there would never be 100 million PCs sold a year. Now there will be 375 million sold this year alone. So, is it a lost decade?

MacDailyNews Take: Of course it was, you moron.

Ballmer: The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it.

MacDailyNews Take: Wait, what? When he refers to being “pretty successful” and doing “a pretty good job of it,” is he talking about ripping off Apple’s innovations or is he actually delusional enough to be talking about Microsoft “inventing” things?

Ballmer: Will Microsoft be disrupted? I don’t know. So far we’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding it. It doesn’t mean we’ve done a perfect job, doesn’t mean there aren’t things of which I’d say, gosh, I wish we had invented that or we were first to this or that or the other thing. But nonetheless we’ve done a pretty amazing job.

MacDailyNews Take: Ohhh… (rocking back and forth) Oh, man, we’re going to piss our pants!

Ballmer: The one thing that I think separates Microsoft from a lot of other people is we make bold bets. We’re persistent about them, but we make them. A lot of people won’t make a bold bet. A bold bet doesn’t assure you of winning, but if you make no bold bets you can’t continue to succeed. Our industry doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels forever. I mean, you can milk any great idea. Any idea that turns out to be truly great can be harvested for tens of years. On the other hand, if you want to continue to be great, you’ve got to bet on new things, big, bold bets. It’s in our value statement; you go to our website.

MacDailyNews Take: “It’s in our value statement; you go to our website.” Oh, you just gotta love it!

Forbes: Do you miss Steve Jobs?

Ballmer: I never worked very closely with Steve Jobs.

Forbes: I mean do you miss him as a force in the industry?

Ballmer: I don’t …

Forbes: Not a trick question, but I’ll restate it. From the very beginning, Apple and Microsoft have had rivalry. This rivalry has forced Apple and Microsoft to constantly raise each other’s game. So when I look at all of Microsoft’s cool announcements today in Toronto – Windows 8 for PCs, tablets and phones, a new Office that is cloud-based — I see a Microsoft that was forced to improve because of Apple’s tremendous success during the last ten years – and especially last five years – of Steve Jobs’ life.

Ballmer: The life of Steve Jobs is felt in terms of the good work Apple is still doing. It’s felt in terms of the challenge that it presents to us. How long does that last? I don’t know. Obviously Steve did amazing work, Apple did amazing work, and Microsoft is doing amazing work.

MacDailyNews Take: That’s right, Steve, Apple’s in the past tense. You’re the ones who are doing the amazing work. Just keep telling yourself that and everything’s going to be juuust fine. 😉

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The farce is strong with this one.

As always, may Microsoft’s shareholders remain comatose and may Steve Ballmer remain CEO for as long as it takes!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “David E.” for the heads up and “Just plain cake” for the “farce” line.]

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    1. Ballmer’s whole response here is, in a lot of ways, just a variation on a theme to the response he gave when asked about the iPhone after Steve Jobs announced it in January 2007. Bluster, bravado, and BS.

    2. What a delusional idiot, Ballmer is like a Dog chasing it’s tail… Look at me… Look at me… Look at me, I’m doing something, really…Really….REALLY.

      I wouldn’t trust this guy to boil water let alone allow the idiot to speak in public, it’s embarrassing.

      He does himself better by keeping his mouth shut, every time he opens his mouth his foot just can’t get out of the way of being apart of who he is and what he’s saying.

      1. Wish you wouldn’t say such disparaging words about such a great and visionary leader of not just the Microsoft company, but of technology innovation for the last decade and more! May he continue to be the great Microsoft visionary CEO and leader for decades to come!

    3. At this point replacing Ballmer isn’t going to change anything. Just like the Titanic (with it’s undersized rudder), MSFT (which has never had a rudder) isn’t going to miss the iceberg looming dead ahead.

      1. No. I think Lotus 123 came first. I am a lot older that you so I have seen the devastation laid down by Microsoft. Young people are unaware of the totality of the Microsoft plague.

          1. They made both Multiplan (which ran on CP/M and later DOS) and Excel. Multiplan lost to Lotus 123 in the DOS world and Excel on Windows didn’t really make an impact until the early to mid 90s (in my opinion).

            They shipped Excel for the Mac in 1985. The Mac was less than two years old when Excel shipped so I don’t know where they could have bought the software from. I’ve heard that they released a poor version of Multiplan on the mac in 1984 but I’ve never seen it so I don’t know if that was true or not.

            1. Yes, they did have Multiplan for the Mac in 1984, I actually used it until Excel for Mac arrived in ’85.

              It was a terrible spreadsheet, very limited number of Rows and Columns (like 50 rows and 20 columns) and very limited functionality. It was however, a major improvement for accounting worksheets (I was in public accounting then), and it really saved a ton of time.

            2. I began using Microsoft Works on a Macintosh SE in 1990. From Wikipedia: “Microsoft Works started life as Mouseworks, an integrated spreadsheet, word processor and database program, designed for the Macintosh by ex-Apple alumni Don Williams and Rupert Lissner.[1] Williams was planning to emulate the success of Appleworks, a similar product for Apple II computers. However, Bill Gates and his Head of Acquisitions, Alan M. Boyd, convinced Williams to license the product to Microsoft instead.”

            3. That is another one I have never seen!

              I remember the horrible DOS version lol.

              I also remember the windows version. For some reason it really became popular with Realtors.

              I had an SE/HD I think it was. I remember it had a forty meg SCSI drive in it and I thught I’d never fill it hehe

        1. I didn’t say they invented the spreadsheet. They did make an amazing one however.

          I remember lotus 123 and I’m flattered you consider me young! My kids sure make me feel old! 🙂

      2. I am older too. The fact is that everyone in the tech industry stands on the shoulders of all that preceded them. Ballmer, as Steve Job’s famously pointed out, is salesman. It’s in the sale man DNA to never give credit to others. I don’t recall Job’s talking about Jeff Han during his iPhone intro while extolling multi-touch. It’s obvious that Ballmer fears Apple because he never misses an opportunity to demean the company and its products. Apple fans like to decry how all MS products were either bought, copied or stolen. Some of it is fair and some is not. I’ve had some interesting conversations with diehard MS fans that like to believe the same of Apple and Jobs. It’s a weird dynamic. Ballmer has blinders on. I hope Cook never falls into that trap. Apple is facing some very tough competition now. I don’t know much about Win 8, but Win 7 is a huge improvement and not a bad OS. Android is getting much better with every release, and now even pundits you would consider to be in the Apple camp are writing that Android is now at parity with iOS. Apple is having trouble keeping its lead and the patent infringement suits aren’t playing out fast or successfully enough to blunt the Android onslaught. I am not particularly a fan of changes made in Lion and am hoping for improvements in Mountain Lion. The next year is going to be pivotal IMHO.

            1. Jeez… it was a typo and MDN doesn’t enable corrections. You’ll note it is spelled correctly elsewhere. Is that the best response you could come up with?

        1. Microsoft is the original developer of Excel and they did keep it Mac only for some time.

          It wasn’t until Excel 5.0 that they achieved a windows version that held a candle to the Mac version.

  1. The first step in solving a problem is to recognize you have a problem. Ballmer doesn’t recognize that MS has any problems. In his mind, everything is lolipops and unicorns in Redmond.

    Now, let’s all us Apple fanboys get on our knees, facing toward Redmond, and prey that Ballmer stays at MS for as long as it takes. (Which shouldn’t be too much longer).

    1. He isn’t totally stupid. He knows there is a problem. But he has no solution. They’ve tried everything they can think of in the past, but nothing works. He’s stuck in the box, can’t move out of it and this boldness and bluster and BS is to save face.

  2. what do you expect from Steve Ballmer?!

    he’s the most unlikely, unwieldily CEO ever on earth.

    > looks:
    he’s damn ugly.

    > etiquette:

    > intellect:
    who knows, but he surely talks so much slang and with such little vocabulary range or grammatical correctness, that’s he sounds like white trash.

    > feel:
    his whole demure is that of an ape gone berserk on stage, as he always screams,
    talks obnoxiously,
    is ueberarrogant etc.

    esp. his totally insulting credit to anything Apple/Steve Jobs ever did!
    plus taking all the credit for the world’s tech advantages!
    (you can only be so arrogant if you accomplished anything of any cultural value but the biggest such thing MSFT ever invented or created rather was:
    1. cheapen/dilute the entire industry with bloat/crap/virus/crash-ware
    2. license (force) its products like the world’s biggest bitch)

    if we Americans are the spoilt brats of the earth, he is their ultimate brat

    he’s so loud,
    thinks he’s so cool or funny,
    but he’s the most uncool, unhot,
    and humorless manager ever.

    > intuition:
    he has no sense of vision and got everything wrong in his business decisions

    > health:
    he’s the most delusional of all ceos ever.
    he’s been running down the co. for over a decade,
    yet since the board members + share holders don’t fire him,
    maybe he’s not the stupid one

      1. good catch hypocrite.

        1. you proved my point. see how annoying it is to misspell or speak incorrectly?
        2. well, you don’t know me, but i’m white. white on white racism?!
        3. stop this democratic political correctness yet morally incorrect b.s. Our democracy has become so expressionless, so taboo, so mushy, no one can talk anymore or say what’s what, what’s real. whether you love or hate MSFT or Ballmer, the guy is not an idiot for lasting longer than any of us & making more than all of us, but for ruining what could’ve been…
        4. Ballmer is embarrassing all of us Americans abroad. the world knows he’s unsightly. so, does that make the world racist against us? nope. but Ballmer sure as hell is not helping us whatsoever, in our world agenda.

        1. “Democratic political correctness”

          WTF does that mean? Surely such an arbiter of good taste isn’t blinded by party propaganda?

          Let’s examine the word for a second: P-O-L-I-T-I-C-A-L CORRECTNESS..

          This whole notion of my party does everything right, and your party does everything wrong is STUPID, Divisive, and so pig headed stubborn, it is RUINING AMERICA. This my way or the highway mentality, this constant obfuscation and refusal to get things done, refusal to seek common sense compromise and solutions helps our NATION how? I cannot wait for the impending collapse, maybe we can build something smarter then..Maybe all you morons will finally get it..

          Oh and while certainly not “rascist” it was a “Bigoted” thing to say. How victorian of you to find an entire caste to look down upon. Small minded prick.

          Was that enough expression for you? Douche.

          1. democratic political correctness means just that.
            that political correctness is the worst thing that happened to democracy. it is a democratic principle, not of any other form of governance. so what’s so hard to understand here?!

            and by the way, you only insulted me, but we’re on the same page. i did say Political Correctness is worthless. so i do agree with you! IT IS ruining us. and the world.

            again, you’re right. if we start from scratch. reboot society. restart our culture like we restart a pc, we have a clean slate. Iceland succeeded as the only country to restart after its banking collapse in this recession. so it does work.

            now why did you call me all those names, if we’re on same page?!

            1. Rough day, I just assumed you were the typical arrogant RIGHT wing MDN commenter, read into it wrong.

              My apologies, we agree then and I was being a douche..

            2. moi, right wing, i rather die!

              bad day indeed, at work?

              at least you admit it. you’re the better man for it : )


              and may we kill political correctness soon, so we can restart society 2.0 ; )

      1. gotcha ; )

        see how annoying misspelling or Ballmer’s mis pronunciations can be! now multiply his speech/slur/slander impediment x1001 times to feel the excruciating pain of listening/watching him…

        as a ceo of the (no longer) biggest corp. we offer to the world, he’s a most embarrassing member of our state! being such a spoiled turd closet monster loud mouth liar nincompoop…sure some want him to keep running the co. down to nothing, but meanwhile he’s truly making some people jump out the Window(s) to commit suicide in frustration…

  3. MDN, “…or is he actually delusional enough to be talking about Microsoft “inventing” things?”

    People are capable of BELIEVING anything to preserve their sense of identity – and people are capable of DOING anything to preserve their sense of identity, up to dying or killing. So yes, he could actually be that delusional. Of course, he could also be a consciously lying, blustering hypocrite.

    1. here’s something more mystifying… think about this, out of a million sperm, HE (Ballmer T Clown) was the ONE that made it thru! I’m blaming the left nut on that one…

  4. When you are mixing and serving the Kool-Aid it is important not to drink if yourself. He really is a believer. How else can he not realize that the reality of the real world is obvious to the people that he is speaking too. The interviewer is really trying to throw Ballmer a bone so he can be a little respectful to the source of the repeated great innovations’ real source at Apple and from Steve Jobs.

    Maybe if Steve Ballmer was read the Webster definition of “innovation” it would help him understand the topic.

    Slow down on the Kool-Aid man!

  5. To Ballmer, I’m sure that Apple is just another company in a long line of companies to be totally crushed by the almighty Microsoft empire. Although Steve Jobs was nothing to Ballmer, he knows that Steve Jobs is now worm-infested and poses no future threat to the MS empire.

    Microsoft still has a lot of spending cash and income to throw away and all Ballmer has to do is wave his hand in the direction of Apple and Apple will just keel over and die. Microsoft can afford to buy everything it needs. Since it will be a act of desperation, Microsoft will go on a huge buying spree to find any way possible to topple Apple in the shortest possible time. Already, Wall Street considers those ZunePads as a huge threat to the iPad and will have no problem taking Microsoft’s side.

    Almost no investors want to see Microsoft die and will happily back it forever as the world’s most powerful tech company. Almost no one wants to see Apple supplant Microsoft because a new empire brings uncertainty and a shifting of power makes everyone feel uneasy. The old guard will never let go of the Microsoft way without a fight to the death. I’m certain that Wall Street is backing Microsoft’s destruction of Apple.

    That’s why Apple’s share price continues to lag. Wall Street and investors don’t want to see Apple become a powerful force because they prefer how Microsoft ran the computer industry for the last 30 years. They don’t feel Apple is the type of company to be the tech industry’s leader.

    1. “Microsoft can afford to buy everything it needs”

      No matter what Microsoft buys, they can never, ever produce something that works. Incompetence has always has been their Achilles’ heel.

      They’re doomed, in other words, now that people are getting increasingly fed up with gadgets that don’t work.

      “Wall Street and investors don’t want to see Apple become a powerful force because they prefer how Microsoft ran the computer industry for the last 30 years.”

      Uh… Have you compared MSFT to AAPL lately? I think Wallstreet investors are genrally okay with Apple being a powerful force and running the computer industry.

    2. @Laughing_Boy48,

      Your conspiracy theory has some flaws in it. Especially these parts:
      “Almost no investors want to see Microsoft die and will happily back it forever as the world’s most powerful tech company…That’s why Apple’s share price continues to lag. ”

      Take a look at the stock since 1999. Apple is up 2,000% over Microsoft. With Microsoft less than HALF the market cap it had 12 years ago, and less than HALF the market cap Apple has today.

      And it’s not just market cap, take a look at the P/E ratios. Apple is (lower than industry average) at about 14.7, while Microsoft is at an even lower 10.7. While this is Trailing Twelve Months (TTM) and not forward earnings (which would give Apple an even lower P/E, it’s still telling you something about where investors believe each company is headed (Apple up relative to Microsoft down).

      “Wall Street and investors don’t want to see Apple become a powerful force because they prefer how Microsoft ran the computer industry for the last 30 years.”

      Investors care about return on their investment. The better the return, the more they “prefer” the company regardless of how they run anything.

      You might be confusing “investors” with either fanboys, the media, or other businesses. The media has always given extremely disproportional coverage to Apple for better or for worse, because there has always been an interesting story there. Other businesses are mixed… Dell obviously hates Apple, others sell to Apple’s platforms while competing elsewhere, and many have benefited immensely from Apple’s business…Google still makes more money from the iPhone than from Android, Samsung still makes more money from selling components to Apple than competing with Apple as do many others.

  6. “It’s not been a lost decade for me!”

    Of course not you fucking buffoon. You made out like a bandit. When all is said and done, you’ll still be richer then any of us can ever dream of.

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