Ballmer profile reveals little beyond his wealth, Microsoft love

The Microsoft CEO sits down for a profile interview with Businessweek. And although he doesn't reveal much, we do learn he closed down a steakhouse for the night to do the interview.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is worth about $14 billion, has gone paperless, and truly believes that the only difference between Microsoft and Apple in the mobile market is that the iPhone maker made one right decision--choosing ARM chips for its smartphone, rather than Intel's battery-hogging alternatives.

That's about all you're going to learn about the man in a sprawling seven-page profile from Businessweek. True to his desire to control how Microsoft is perceived by consumers, Ballmer let little go in the profile, and instead tried to keep positive about his company's prospects in 2012, saying the tech giant will have "a reset moment" this year.

For Ballmer, 2012 could prove to be an important turning point in his career. This year will be the one where the world finds out if the Nokia partnership struck last year was a good one. It'll also be the year to find out if Microsoft can make a mark in tablets and sell both consumers and enterprise users on a dramatically redesigned operating system, Windows 8. Perhaps most importantly, as Businessweek's Ashlee Vance indicates in the Microsoft CEO's profile, it'll be Ballmer's year to prove he has the right plan to break Microsoft out of what has become a long-term malaise.

Here are some other tidbits from Ballmer's profile:

  • Vance met with Ballmer at a steakhouse in Bellevue, Wash., in private area of the restaurant. His security guards asked the reporter not to name the location.
  • Although Ballmer has been CEO at Microsoft for over a decade, he told Vance that people often forget he "got a new job three and a half years ago" after Bill Gates retired from day-to-day activities.
  • Ballmer acknowledges that Windows Vista was not Microsoft's "finest hour" and it set the company back quite a bit.
  • Ballmer is serious about leveraging his company's $8.5 billion Skype acquisition. In October, he met with 400 Skype engineers to get a better understanding of how the VoIP provider's service works.
  • Microsoft's retail store strategy is simple enough: put them near Apple stores. "We've got to beat [Apple] anyway," Ballmer told Businessweek.
  • Although some of Microsoft's products, like Windows Phone 7, have fallen short, Ballmer argues that his focus is the long-term. And in that regard, he thinks his company will win out.
  • According to Businessweek, Ballmer says Google is now taking on the role of "monopoly power" in the tech space, but acknowledged that in reality, the search giant might not actually deserve that title.

Correction at 12:33 p.m. PT Friday: This story initially misstated that Ballmer had closed down a restaurant for his profile interview with Businessweek's reporter. The restaurant was open and the interview took place in a private area of the restaurant.