Anyone that’s followed the technology industry knows Steve Ballmer pretty well.
He was at Microsoft basically his entire professional life. He joined the company after Bill Gates recruited him. They were dorm buddies at Harvard.
But now that Ballmer owns the Clippers, a whole new group of people are going to get to know him. For those people, here is a bit of primer on Ballmer.
In short, Ballmer is a bit of a riddle. He is whip smart, and yet… also sort of misguided, and lacking in the grand vision needed to excel in a dynamic competitive field like technology.
Ballmer is a numbers guy. He aced the maths portion of the SAT. He majored in mathematics — not business, not computer science. At Microsoft, he often knew the numbers of a business line better than the person responsible for that business line.
But that’s not what people think of when they think of his run as CEO. They think of the stock, which was down ~40% while he was CEO. They think of the fact that Apple, which was barely getting by when Ballmer took over, blew past Microsoft in sales, profits, and market value while Ballmer was CEO. In fact, the iPhone business alone blew past all of Microsoft while Ballmer was in charge.
And what did Ballmer think of the iPhone when it was first on the market? He laughed at it. He said, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
This video is classic Ballmer. He’s a bit of a bombastic guy who would be too quick to dismiss a true rival.
There’s a story of him flipping out about Google that’s also revealing.
Microsoft employee Mark Lucovsky left to work at Google in 2004. When he told Ballmer he was leaving, Ballmer said, “Just tell me it’s not Google.”
When Lucovsky said it was Google, Ballmer threw his chair across the room and screamed out, “F—ing Eric Schmidt is a f—ing pussy. I’m going to f—ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to f—ing kill Google.”
Nothing of the sort happened, of course. Google actually became more valuable than Microsoft while Ballmer was in charge.
This is indicative of Ballmer, the emotional guy. When he retired, he cried his eyes out to “time of my life.” The video is somewhat awkward, and goofy to watch, but it gives you a look at the raw emotions of Ballmer. He loves Microsoft and what it does.
No discussion of Ballmer would be complete without this video, which shows him shouting “Developers, developers, developers…” to get the crowd pumped up.
And, what the heck, here’s one more:
These videos contribute to Ballmer’s undeserved reputation as a bozo. He’s not. He’s really sharp.
But, Ballmer’s lack of vision, and focus on numbers may have been his undoing as CEO of Microsoft.
Microsoft for years was buoyed by two businesses: Windows, which powered ~95% of computers on the planet, and Office, the productivity software that has over a billion users world wide.
Both of those businesses are under attack from Google through Android, which has shattered the Windows business model, and Google Apps, which has less successfully chipped away at the Office business.
Android in particular is bad for Microsoft. It, coupled with the iPhone, have made Windows and Microsoft less powerful and less relevant in technology industry.
So what does this mean for the Los Angeles Clippers? Who knows. But, it’s worth keeping all of this in mind if you hear anyone say that Ballmer is going to be some tech visionary genius like Mark Cuban who will change everything for the Clippers.
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