Ballmer’s Biggest Regret Is Missing Out On “The New Device Called The Phone”

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Wrapping its analyst meetup, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed his largest regret regarding product choices: Missing out on phones, which he claims has harmed Windows itself.

According to the live transcript as provided by NASDAQ, Ballmer was blunt in his description of why the error was committed [Lightly edited by TechCrunch]:

“If there’s one thing I guess you would say I regret, I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren’t able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone. That is the thing I regret the most. The time we missed is the time we were working on what became [Windows] Vista and I wish we had resources slightly differently [deployed]. It would have been better for Windows.”

If Gates was late to the Internet, Ballmer was late to phones. It’s oddly nice to hear him admit it out loud, taking responsibility for the mistake. That Vista was what cost Microsoft early aggression into phones is almost ironic.

It was not Ballmer’s only comment on Microsoft’s mobile market position; he stated earlier in the day that his company has “almost no share” in mobile devices. He also promised that he is a realist, and is not confused about Microsoft’s weak position in consumer hardware. Again, nothing surprising, but almost refreshing to hear a CEO plainly detail the state of their business sans the need to hedge.

Ballmer famously said early in Windows Phone’s history that the platform had gone from “very small to very small.” Today’s remarks are a continuance of that candor.

At his final analyst meeting, I’d rate Ballmer’s performance as honest and heartfelt. It was one of his final shows as frontman of the good band Microsoft, and he didn’t hold back, making jokes ranging from Amazon’s lack of profits to Korean accounting standards in his standard tone.

As a final note, here’s the Ballmer Business Metric: “The ultimate measure has to be what happens with profits. It’s got to be the ultimate measure of any company.” So, next CEO, you have your marching orders.

Top Image Credit: Yutaka Tsutano