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Ballmer: Regrets, he's had a few

But not too many -- as he regales an audience of Oxford students one month after stepping down as Microsoft's chief executive.

Screenshot by CNET

You'll never confuse him with Frank Sinatra, but in his first public speaking appearance since stepping down as Microsoft's chief executive last month, Steve Ballmer expressed having a few regrets -- but not too many to mention. (Cue the ballad.)

Speaking to students at the University of Oxford on Tuesday, Ballmer reflected on his former company's missteps and made the argument that Microsoft remained in a strong position to catch the next wave of innovation.

"The notion of taking a long-term point of view I think is the number one thing missing in most companies, big, small, big or startup...In the last 10 years, there are things that didn't go so well," Ballmer said. Microsoft might have "had a strong position in the phone market," he added, expressing regret "that we didn't put hardware and software together quicker."

Aside from the usual business chat -- hey, he was speaking to a group of MBA students after all -- Ballmer may have surprised his audience by revealing that he was "painfully shy" until into his college days, when he was the team manager for the Harvard football squad.

"It wasn't the glamor job, let's just put it this way. But you had to get up in front of the team every day and tell guys what to do," he said. "And football players are not nice to managers, basically, and...I had to get myself pumped up and charged up and I got good at getting in front of audiences and giving direction, and since Microsoft I've obviously had a lot more practice."

He also offered this bit of homespun wisdom to any future entrepreneurs listening:

"My dad said if you're going to do a job, do a job. And if you're not going to do a job, don't do a job. And that is the key of everything. No seriously, the notion that if you're going to really do something, then do it heart, body, and soul and do it. And really either be all in or be all out!"