This is my roundup of Steve Ballmer quotes.
I wanted to gain new insight into what Ballmer is really about. I find that quotes arranged in meaningful buckets can help tell a story and provide a new lens. In fact, I was actually surprised by what I ended up with. I anticipated a focus on Vision, Business, and Boldness. What surprised me was the themes around Agility, Empowerment, and Innovation.
Buckets aside, Ballmer behind the scenes is very different than Ballmer on stage, or in the media. I hope that this collection of quotes helps show more of that range.
Top 10 Steve Ballmer Quotes
- “Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers.”
- “Great companies in the way they work, start with great leaders.”
- “I like to tell people that all of our products and business will go through three phases. There’s vision, patience, and execution.”
- “People-Ready is a natural extension of our founding vision of empowering people through software. Today we take this to the next level by showing how these tools now work together in new ways to enhance innovation and drive greater value for business.”
- “The key is that for every business we have is to offer the things that pop every six to nine months, things that pop every couple of years, and things that pop longer than that.”
- “The world is changing, but so is Microsoft.”
- “This is a very large business that still has incredible possibilities.”
- “We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we’re in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There’s no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either.”
- "We talk about empowering people and businesses to realize their potential. We think of computing devices as tools — tools to entertain you, tools to amaze you, tools to let you be amazing."
- “We want to give people the ability to do what they want, where they want, and when they want on any device connected to the Internet.”
“All of our major businesses can have a short-twitch capability every six to nine months to a long-twitch capability. We can’t make customers wait three to four years for things they need every few months.”
“Our goal in making these changes is to enable Microsoft to achieve greater agility in managing the incredible growth ahead and executing our software-based services strategy.”
“These changes are designed to align our Business Groups in a way that will enhance decision-making and speed of execution, as well as help us continue to deliver the types of products and services our customers want most.”
“This is all about having great leaders who can drive agile innovation and agile decision-making.”
“This will be a place with some structure, but structure that aids teamwork, not politics and bureaucracy, … Nothing solves big company’ ills quite like a strong focus on accountability for results with customers and shareholders.”
“We need to improve agility.”
Big Bold Bets
“All in, baby!. We are winning, winning, winning, winning.”
"I love what we’re doing with Windows 8, and it’s a bold bet. We’re reimagining our number one product. That’s cool. But it’s not for the fainthearted. It takes a certain boldness and a certain persistence."
“Our people, our shareholders, me, Bill Gates, we expect to change the world in every way, to succeed wildly at everything we touch, to have the broadest impact of any company in the world.”
"The one thing that I think separates Microsoft from a lot of other people is we make bold bets. We’re persistent about them, but we make them. A lot of people won’t make a bold bet. A bold bet doesn’t assure you of winning, but if you make no bold bets you can’t continue to succeed. Our industry doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels forever. I mean, you can milk any great idea. Any idea that turns out to be truly great can be harvested for tens of years. On the other hand, if you want to continue to be great, you’ve got to bet on new things, big, bold bets. It’s in our value statement; you go to our website."
“Throughout our history, Microsoft has won by making big, bold bets. I believe that now is not the time to scale back the scope of our ambition or the scale of our investment. While our opportunities are greater than ever, we also face new competitors, faster-moving markets and new customer demands.”
"But Microsoft’s founding was when somebody said, hey, software is a basis for business. That’s what Bill Gates and Paul Allen did. That turns out to have been an amazingly correct and important thing, correct and important for Microsoft and correct and important for many, many entrepreneurs who have come since."
“I do think that there is such a strong interest in demand for improvements in information technology that we will continue to see a pretty strong information technology sector, no matter what happens with some of these global economic factors.”
"I’d say [one of] the things that eat at me the most … is new business models. Learning a new business model or developing a new business model is so hard."
"Sometimes you are lucky. Ask any CEO who might have bought something before the market crashed (in 2008) … Hallelujah! Putting everything else aside, the market fell apart. … Sometimes you’re lucky.”
“The small-business market is the biggest part of the computer market, … We really need to get after that.”
“You have to cut out parts…react to what the market is telling you. You get into trouble if you assume that you’re going to reach critical mass too quickly—because it’s most likely that you won’t. Through all these trials you can’t lose patience.”
"Ultimately progress is measured sort of through the eyes of our users. More than our investors or our P&L or anything else, it’s through the eyes of our users. We have 1.3 billion people using PCs today. There was a time in the ’90s when we were sure there would never be 100 million PCs sold a year. Now there will be 375 million sold this year alone."
“We had too many products that we were trying to sell to too few customers in the mid-market.”
Consumer and Enterprise
“Everyone likes to differentiate between business and consumers but I don’t see the difference really. Most people are people. I get personal and business mail and I have one set of contacts from my life. I don’t want to manage two sets. I want one view of my world.”
"In the year 2000, people were still saying Microsoft would never be an enterprise company. Now a lot of people wonder whether Microsoft is still a consumer company! I mean, really? But I’ve got to tell you we had no enterprise street cred in the year 2000. We were still trying to prove ourselves to enterprise IT managers."
“Accessible design is good design.”
"But if we were trying to write it the original way, I guess it would be a computer on every desk, every pocket, every watch, every data center, every everything. But in a sense technology is a tool of sort of individual choice, individual creativity, individual empowerment, individual access, and mobility sort of just brings that more to the fold."
“Getting the most out of their people is on the mind of every business leader I speak with. (We) are passionate about the idea that the right software can provide the tools to empower workers to become the drivers of business success.”
“IBM says we have a team of consultants and we can help you innovate. But at the end of the day, unlocking people potential is better. Having people collaborate to make the right decision is more productive.”
"It’s always great when you get a lot of people pushing themselves to do better, be better, invent better, better serve, better lead customers in new directions."
“Our company has to be a company that enables its people.”
“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.”
“Look at the product pipeline, look at the fantastic financial results we’ve had for the last five years. You only get that kind of performance on the innovation side, on the financial side, if you’re really listening and reacting to the best ideas of the people we have.”
“So, I think the output of our innovation is great. We have a culture of self-improvement. I know we can continue to improve. There is no issue. But at the same time, our absolute level of output is fantastic.”
“The lifeblood of our business is that R&D spend. There’s nothing that flows through a pipe or down a wire or anything else. We have to continuously create new innovation that lets people do something they didn’t think they could do the day before.”
"The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard."
“We’re about to kick-start a new growth engine for the mobile industry. To grow, the wireless industry needs to provide end-to-end solutions and innovative services. We’re creating great new tools to do just that.”
“Eventually the Internet will be accessed by PC, television, and wireless devices.”
“More of what we do will live on the Internet, … Nobody will have software products in 10 years. Everyone will have products and services. It will be hard to tell the difference between software products and services.”
“There will be this kind of quantum leap forward in the way people use the Internet over the next several years. There will be ushered in a next generation Internet user experience. That will be marked not only by the introduction of additional devices that take advantage of the Internet, but it will be marked by a whole new set of ways for programs to work together, for users to share data with one another and with programs, and basically, almost a whole new user interface model of the world.”
“We have an incredible opportunity…to revolutionize the Internet user experience. We need to deliver our next generation services platform in order to do that. And we need Bill Gates 100 percent focused on helping architect that.”
“We need to deliver a breakthrough version of Windows that allows PCs and servers to support these next-generation services and host them out there on the Internet."
“All companies of any size have to continue to push to make sure you get the right leaders, the right team, the right people to be fast acting, and fast moving in the marketplace. We’ve got great leaders, and we continue to attract and promote great new leaders.”
“Bill brings to the company the idea that conflict can be a good thing."
“Great companies have high cultures of accountability, it comes with this culture of criticism I was talking about before, and I think our culture is strong on that.”
"Leaders really do need to hit the exact right balance on what I’d call the optimism realism curve. If you’re not realistic, you lose respect from customers, partners, shareholders, press, employees, if you’re not realistic. But if a leader can’t be optimistic, if a leader can’t say, life is going to be better, we’re going to take share, we’re going to improve this situation, if you can’t sort of handle being optimistic and realistic at the same time, I think it [will be hard for you] to be a great leader."
"The key isn’t to quibble with the style that somebody uses or the approach. The key is to grade the results."
“We realized we needed to give our core leaders deeper control and accountability in the way they run their businesses, while at the same time ensuring strong communication and collaboration across business units.”
“And we learned an important lesson: Today’s business software doesn’t look enough like today’s businesses."
“IBM is increasingly a services company … and we are, at the end of the day, a software company.”
“We are still not getting in the manufacturing industry, … We will provide the infrastructure that lets those in the manufacturing industry do their jobs.”
“We will make our products work out of the box.”
The New World of Work
“At Microsoft, we’re investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in.”
“By bringing together the software experience and the service experience, we will better address the changing needs of our customers’ digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"My kids will never understand that it used to be kind of hard to access and find things, and know what the world knows and see what the world sees. Yet it becomes easier and easier every day."
“There are a variety of different things that fall under the social banner. We’re adding what I’d call ‘connectivity to people’ into our core products, The acquisition of Skype is big step down that path toward connecting with other people.”
“Under Ray’s technical leadership and weaving together both software and software-based services, I see incredible opportunity to better address the changing needs of our customers’ digital lifestyles and the new world of work.”
"With Windows 8 we think we usher in a new round, a round of mobility, a round of natural interface. The cloud makes computing in a sense more seamless, more transparent, kind of more every day, more every minute than ever before. I think that’s very powerful."