Steven Anthony Ballmer (b.1956) is an American executive, investor, and philanthropist. He served as Microsoft’s chief executive 2000–14.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ballmer was 24 years old and attending Stanford’s business school when Microsoft founder Bill Gates convinced his former Harvard classmate to join the start-up Microsoft as its first business manager.
Ballmer worked at Microsoft for 34 years 1980–2014. Initially, he led Microsoft’s relationship with high-tech giant IBM and oversaw the development of Microsoft’s cash cow product, the Windows operating system. In 2000, he succeeded Gates as Microsoft’s CEO.
During Ballmer’s 13-year tenure as CEO, Microsoft continued its dominance over the traditional segments of computing, but could not grasp changing consumer preferences. Despite stellar sales and profitability, Ballmer’s strategic missteps forced Microsoft to play catch-up as Apple, Google, and other competitors dominated the new world of mobile devices, social media, search, and internet advertising. Ballmer’s resignation caused Microsoft’s market cap to grow by $24 billion on the morning of his announcement.
Ballmer is known for his energetic and exuberant personality and his bombastic and hardheaded management style. He became an internet meme when he gave a speech to employees in which he bounced across the stage roaring “developers” more than a dozen times to galvanize them to use Microsoft’s programming tools to develop projects for Microsoft products.
After leaving Microsoft, Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. He continues to be Microsoft’s largest individual shareholder (4.33% stake.) Ballmer’s relationship with Gates declined during the final years of Ballmer’s tenure as Microsoft’s CEO. The two were at odds over Microsoft’s push into the hardware business, specifically Microsoft’s 2013 purchase of Nokia.
The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.