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July 18, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Ballmer on Microsoft’s “lost decade”

Microsoft’s run of huge news over the last two weeks – including the Windows 8 launch details, the new Office beta and the MSNBC.com split – snuffed the initial buzz around Vanity Fair’s story on the company’s “downfall” and “lost decade” after it surfaced on July 3.

But the story – appearing in the August issue – didn’t go away.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer – who ran the company during the decade in question – gave his response to Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard during an interview after Ballmer’s speech in Toronto last week.

This exchange was posted today at Forbes.com and will appear in its August issue.

Karlgaard: A recent Vanity Fair article said that Microsoft’s last ten years have been a “lost decade.”

Ballmer: Ultimately progress is measured through the eyes of our users. We have 1.3 billion people using PCs today. There was a time in the 1990s when we were sure there’d never be 100 million PCs sold a year. This year alone there will be 375 million sold. So, is it a lost decade?

The interview was just after Microsoft took a $6.2 billion writedown for its aQuantive investment. Ballmer wasn’t asked about this but still mentioned Microsoft’s commitment to the search business, saying:

“We made a big bet on Bing, and I’m glad we did. Bing hasn’t delivered full financial return, but man, we have a product that delivers more relevant results than Google and is more differentiated for social networks and for our Facebook partnership than anything else out there.”

Asked about the Surface tablets, Ballmer reiterated the current messaging, that Microsoft’s making tablet computers to showcase the platform and not compete with partners:

“With Surface we wanted to make sure that no stone is left unturned, in terms of really showing Windows 8 in its most innovative form. With Windows 8 you can get a tablet and a PC in a single package, and I think Surface probably proves that as well as anything. Our goal is not to compete with hardware partners. The bulk of our Windows volume is going to come from our hardware partners.”

Karlgaard also asked Ballmer if he missed Bill Gates. The response:

“Well, yes, I miss him! Bill comes in a day or two a month, just to brainstorm with groups, talk about their plans and ideas for Office and so on. He’s on e-mail pretty regularly regarding Microsoft matters. And he’s on the board. We don’t have a dependency, though. The leadership team runs the business every day.”

Comments | Topics: aquantive, ballmer, Bill Gates

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