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Ballmer implies he and Bill Gates aren't BFFs

Appearing on CBS News, the former Microsoft CEO also says that Microsoft didn't fail at mobile, but merely got the formula wrong.

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Steve Ballmer may not be inviting Bill Gates to the Clippers first game this season. CBS News screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Life is hard for Steve Ballmer.

He left Microsoft. He's now BasketBallmer, owner of the exciting LA Clippers. So when he appeared Tuesday on CBS' "This Morning" show, he surely hoped that all the questions would be about his new team. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET)

But Charlie Rose and his co-presenters were lying in charming wait with a few pointed Microsoft questions. Ballmer is still the largest shareholder, so he surely maintains a passionate interest.

Here was an alley-oop: "Are you and Bill Gates on good terms today?"

Ballmer's initial response was less a word and more a primal "Eeeeehhhh." He followed it up with: "We've dusted up in our lives many times. You know, that kind of stuff happens."

Do we take that as a no?

A recent Vanity Fair article suggested that during discussions over the purchase of Nokia, Ballmer felt betrayed by Gates, who was reportedly among board members reluctant to do the deal.

Looking back on his career at Microsoft, Ballmer said Tuesday: "We built the PC business. We sort of created the PC. We transformed the way businesses compute."

Then he admitted: "And, in this day and age, we don't have as big a mobile presence as we need to."

Was it that Microsoft failed at mobile? He said: "All along the way, we appreciated mobile, but we're not winning in mobile. There's a difference between saying 'hey, you were asleep' and saying 'hey, you didn't put the formula together right.'"

Those of a critical bent might mutter: "Hey, whose fault was that?" They might also snip: "Hey, who said that the iPhone would never get significant market share?"

But that's the thing with being in the big leagues. Criticism runs a very good fast break. This Ballmer will likely discover again in his first season as the Clippers' owner.