Ballmer was a math genius, he was also a spreadsheet whiz and knew as much as a CFO did at anytime. His memory was that of a thousand elephants, and could recite forecasts, actuals and numbers for multiple years in one go.
Microsoft played in the enterprise space, and Ballmer was a marketing genius when it came to enterprise positioning. I credit him with driving the attach revenue concept within the enterprise. Companies that bought Windows, bought office, bought Exchange server, bough maintenance and more.
Even more, he was a relationship marketing genius. He had a photographic memory and remembered names of people he would meet once and recall entire conversations after months/years. And this was globally, he took the company global in a very aggressive way.
He rewarded people, both Bill and Steve weren't stingy about doling out stock - unlike Jobs. This kept a strong talent pool of A players at Microsoft.
He had a strong penchant for the enterprise and where he started faltering was when the Internet started maturing and consumer experiences started converging with the enterprise.
Nevertheless, this man took Microsoft from $15B to $70B in revenue and you can't belittle that.
I didn't expect more than a few people to read the story. I hope He wouldn't be pissed if he read it.
But the Apple turn was a pure consumer play, all bottom up.
Guy didn't exactly fall into MSFT by accident, and in fact MSFT was no where near an incumbent, their revenue mark was sub $8m while Apple was literally going public a few months after Ballmer wound up joining MSFT. (2)
I really have trouble understanding why people can be so smart and stupid and the same time.
Lets say you try to explain quantum physics to a lay person. We know quantum mechanics is basically correct, but it sounds batshit insane if you try to go directly to the conclusions of quantum mechanics without starting at the first principles. You can't just go from A-Z, you have to go A-B-C...Z. The average lay person just goes from A->"wow quantum physics are weird, murdering cats and stuff"
The thing is, we can believe some of the more outlandish claims of physics because physics is a trusted institution and we know claims are checked, etc, so we don't need to check it ourselves.
So that works for science; because smart people made it work, but what happens with things that aren't science? The same people smart enough to study quantum physics might also be just as interested in politics. So maybe their thoughts start at the mainstream, but they keep growing sideways off it in their own unique branch. In science, these branches get clipped when they're falsified by the community, but other areas don't really have a bar for determining the correctness of a theory, those branches don't necessarily get trimmed.
Anyway, I guess my point is that if you know a very smart person and they're saying something seemingly insane, what you're probably hearing is step Z in their thought process, but for it to make sense you have to hear the preceding chain of thoughts A..Y that led to that. Not to say their theory is right, it probably is loony, but since they probably haven't gotten anyone to critique their A..Y coherently, when they get called a crackpot they probably rightly assume that nobody quite understand what they're getting at.
0. Intelligence is hard to "measure;" and even informally, there are mostly inferred attribute from a subject's performance filtered through the viewer's (fallible/biased) perception.
1. There's many domains of intelligence:
- critical thinking (i.e., lawyers)
- fact memory
- abstract thinking
- problem solving
... and far too many others to list.
2. Biases - upbringing, environment, experiences and so on tend to influence a person's preferences and beliefs, and they may be expressing what it is their social group expects or how they view themselves.
3. I'm sure there is at least one belief each of us clings to that others find wacky. Sometimes person don't pick up that a certain view is social unacceptable. Examples:
- The guy in Starbucks with backpack supporting "the missile men of gaza"... de-facto endorsement of terrorism.
- I happen to be vegetarian (not driving around with "meat is murder" and slaughterhouse shame pictures)... a lot of people are offended by that and heap on certain biases.
- People struggling to survive, yet don't support unions, basic income or higher taxes on large trusts and estates, and are still libertarian "completely unregulated market" types.
But, in civ 2, the pyramids gave you a granary in every city, so obviously they were for storing grain!
Carson is a world-class surgeon trying to convince whatever subset of the Republicans (a) can decide the outcome of the primary and (b) aren't already secured by Trump.
He probably says whatever nonsense he thinks will please rednecks with a 90 IQ and an sinking feeling that "their" country and its core values are being pulled from under their feet.
And I can understand if he's a hard time empathising with people who think that >6k years ago, when pyramids where built, the Earth didn't even exist.
TL;DR: I think/hope he's failing at understanding plebeians, not Life. It might be wishful thinking because I don't want to live in a world where someone could be both so smart and so dumb.
I guess this could be taken out of context, and he's actually just being sarcastic, but I don't think so.
I think he's one of those people, actually. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/ben-c...
I don't; I assume that the "90 IQ redneck" subset of conservative voters are the ones worth trying to seduce, according to GOP candidates. Because that's whom their political speeches and positions seem targeted towards.
I guess that's because there are many of them, and until recently they've been easier to influence. I must admit there's a bit of shadenfreude in seeing Trump out-rednecking the GOP elite at the game they invented for themselves.
1) Expertise may cause certain types of bias.
Recent studies have examined this idea of "earned dogmatism": the idea that once you gain expertise in something, your ego builds, and that actually makes you less open minded and less able to revise or challenge your existing beliefs.
2) Overcoming bias is different than overcoming ignorance. Categorically different, and perhaps massively harder.
A different study found expert philosophers exhibiting cognitive biases at the same rate as nonprofessionals, even when dealing with undergraduate-level philosophy problems.
Consequently, some smart people choose to play down their intelligence during conversation because it's disarming to do so, and they want to help people feel at ease.
A few weeks ago someone commented how some academic was disappointed that Gates had become an entrepreneur, calling it a "waste". It is interesting to think about what him, Ballmer, or Stallman would've done in academia.
Considering the current state of academia and the many articles regularly posted here, they probably would have burned out and left. That would have been the real waste in my opinion.
Wrote Cathedral and the Bazaar, and was responsible for a lot of the realpolitik and branding that got Open Source to where it is today.
Had varying amounts of a hand in gpsd, ncurses, reposturgeon, and various other tools people actually use.
The big problem is that his worldview is exceptionally conservative culture war while at the same time being fairly social liberal. If something isn't productive to expanding Western Civilization (by his definition), for whatever reason, it must go. This includes Islam, this includes a lot of SJW theory, this includes homosexuals (not out of malice, but because they by definition can't make more population), and so forth.
He's quite interesting to read, and he makes very interesting points--unfortunately, if you have a visceral reaction to his politics it is quite hard to bear him.
He also has an annoying habit of claiming expertise and skills that aren't quite there, such as forensic critique of a police shooting.
"Interesting insufferable intellectual independent" would be my classification of him.
He literally believes that black people are biologically incapable of being as smart as white people and that they are genetically predisposed to violent behavior.
His delusions even extend to his own health status. He thinks he could use martial arts to beat up an intruder on his house. The guy has cerebral palsy so bad he can barely stand. It'd be tragic if he wasn't such a dick.
It's Eric Steven Raymond. That Scott fellow has a Wiki entry but it's not who you're talking about.
Here's the ESR guy's Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_S._Raymond
Author of the Cathedral and the Bazaar.
I've seen the same behavior in way too many wealthy individuals. Just because they are filthy rich; they can spout off whatever comes to mind, and we give them a get out of jail card because we assume intelligence equates with wealth. Trump comes to mind.
I don't know much about Balmer. I just saw a huge, out of shape guy, playing cheerleader for Gates. Sorry--it's just what I saw on the tube. It was obvious Apple, and open source was going to trounce Microsoft. I do think Balmer saw the fall of Microsoft comming--maybe before Gates? Hell--I'm being modest--we all hated Microsoft. He did his best at milking a sinking ship. That is genius, but wouldn't a simpleton do the same?
I have met very few geniuses who were wealthy. The extremely smart individuals, I have known, or watched, did not become very wealthy. Their intelligence seemed to hold them back in too many situations, or maybe they had a higher level of integrity? That integrity that needs to be broken/desimated in too many business situations? That integrity that need to be twisted when becoming very wealthy?
What really bothers me most is way too many of the best students/best minds had nervous breakdowns. I have seen too many great people just crack?
I wish we would stop calling these guys geniuses just because they are wealthy in business. It's getting old.
Now the guy who can carve out a comfortable life, not steal, not take advantage of the weak, has a few people who truly love them, add a few original ideas to this thing we call life; that smart?
Wisdom is the eyesight (degree of visual acuity) of a consciousness.
Your knowledge is what you've heard and experienced and accepted through your individual consciousness.
The issue is that knowledge can be right or wrong – because people hear what they want to hear, generally speaking, and are not aware of the difference between their thought and the reality. Plus, people understand the same things in different ways, when they do not have sufficient wisdom to see the thing itself.
The problem is that some conspiracy theories end up being completely true. Others do not.
My question to you is, given that 'theories' are commonly defined as things still unproven, by what criteria do you distinguish a wacky conspiracy theory from one that seems plausible?
The author was clearly trying to foil Ballmer (in the literary sense) by painting Jobs as a much more classical type of genius than what you described.
to3m is absolutely correct with sheeple term for them
and yes, it's not my native language indeed
> Sheeple (a portmanteau of "sheep" and "people")
If Microsoft is currently undergoing a renaissance, it may be because Ballmer got the supertanker turned onto the right heading. Unlike the much beloved Sun, Microsoft is still around and its works are trending toward the right side of history while Sun's legacy is increasingly sliding into the pale of Oracle.
His style of thinking about competitor's and their innovations trickled down to all levels of the company; people anywhere in the company displayed the same dismissiveness of almost anything Google or Apple or others did. Working at Microsoft is weird and feels like your in some special universe where other technology doesn't exist; socializing with Microsoft engineers (of any age and almost in any environments) and realizing they all had their blinders on was really disheartening.
Things may be really different now, I don't know, but Steve was right to leave when he left.
A+ Be all the Balmer u can be. Balmer forever and ever.
That said, while I've often been critical of Ballmer, I've been reconsidering my attitude towards him now that I've seen the aggressively-invasive direction in which Satya Nadella is taking Windows. Under Ballmer's leadership, Windows 7 never popped up unsolicited ads for Metro on the toolbar, much less ads that I couldn't turn off.
My only context with Nelson Mandela would be his autobiography, but founding the militant wing of the ANC seemed fairly reasonable from that perspective. Just about all forms of peaceful protest were cut off from the ANC and the ANC it's self was criminalized and attacked.
Few people criticize the deceleration of independence and the subsequent revolutionary war, but unfortunately sometimes in history violence was the only reasonable option.
Next time you give a presentation, repeat the same key word or phrase at least 5 times. Preferably 10.
i think Balmer succeeded despite this behavior, not because of it.
When you sense a gap that’s closing push yourself in with full energy. Love the party, get into it, then make it your own
the "make it your own" is almost like saying "tell a funny touching story that everyone will love".
Imagine you are — or be — the tallest person in the room. (Create situations where you’re standing and they’re sitting?)
this reminds me of the NLP craze back in the day, i.e. micro behaviors that are subconsciously making you more attractive / easy to relate to / superior etc. Dubious at best.
* not to dismiss micro behaviors completely. There are numerous TED talks about body language that present convincing evidence that it works. I think they are especially applicable if you're the kind of person that tries to occupy least space and remain un-seen in meetings. For an average person I just think this is a minor tweak, not the big change standing between you and tres commas club.
I'm short. Like 5ft 2 (160cm) short. People have literally given me comments to the line of "You're short, but you have a tall personality. I, like, can't think of you as a short person."
This shit works. To an extent at least. It doesn't help me reach things in cupboards.
A few years ago, I started taking burlesque dance classes. A lot of the lessons concerned "how to look sexy". Which, it turns out, corresponds with a lot of behaviors people read as "confident".
I started learning how to carry myself to give the appearance of being more confident and in control. And the funny thing is that over time I started being more confident in my social interactions. Whether it was because some inner instinct was responding to me adopting confident body language, or because other people were responding to that body language and acting like I was the dominant one, I don't care. It worked. I can do something weird and crazy and people just deal with it, instead of shunning me as awkward.
Sure, if I just naturally had a confident personality then I'd have the same body language. But I feel like the causality on this is not a one-way arrow; confident personality causes confident body language, but confident body language causes confident personality, as well.
Have a look at primate domination behavior. It's a big subject of study for zoologists/ethologists. Displays of dominance are a real thing, even if NLP sold it as pop psychology.
Never dropped a class so hard in my life.
His strategy of being a fast follower worked great for Microsoft when it had crappy competitors - it was ill equipped to deal with good ones like Apple and Google.
There are multiple IQ scales. Stanford-Binet, Cattell etc. Isn't just the number pointless, unless the type of test is also mentioned?
Anyway, that's what I thought BEFORE I read the article. This article is actually pretty awesome! And points out some good things about the guy. I like him a little more now. Nice work, Medium!
One thing I would note is that sticking with 1 company for a long period of time is not necessarily great. You (and the companies you switch among) can learn a TON from each other if you move around a bit. There's even studies that show this (your value to a company is largely exhausted after 2 years).
I also suspect that people would rather not know your phallus size or six+ figure income. All these things are left to discover as a side effect of normal interactions ;)
could you please give some links to this studies I am very interested.
I think this is the actual study?
Basically, a skilled employee gets the most out of a job in the first 3 years. And the new company gets the most out of the employee in the first 3 years (or so). After that, in order to restart the learning experience for both parties, a "change of venue" is necessary.
Gates chose to give him a large slice of equity because he saw that he wanted something that Ballmer had and as far as I can tell that worked out extremely well.
I won't argue that Steve Ballmer was the technical creative genius that Microsoft needed but to suggest that in some way he stumbled in and rode the gravy train, well I don't buy that.
The new generation probably have little concept of how absolutely and totally Microsoft dominated the computer industry, in a way that no company does now (nope, not even Apple dominates today anything like the way Microsoft dominated in the 80's and 90's). It was Microsoft's world in a very real way. There were two men behind that complete domination - Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. The cynical (and there are many) might say "well it's Ballmer that lost that domination", but I wonder if such ongoing utter domination was even possible in the greatly expanded industry post WWW, regardless of who the leader was.
Steve Ballmer is more than worthy of admiration, if you were smart you'd try to learn from him rather than portraying him as a buffoon sidekick to Bill Gates. To evaluate him in this way just displays ignorance.
I think Gates brought on Ballmer as the business partner he needed, not the business partner he started with (Paul Allen). I'm not knocking Paul Allen but Bill Gates felt he needed Ballmer as his partner and as far as I could tell Ballmer and Gates were a powerful team, not Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
And when compared with Steve Jobs, it's worth remembering that Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates comprehensively beat, pounded and dominated Steve Jobs' Apple until "Steve's return". Apple was on the brink of going out of business when Steve returned and stayed in business because Gates and Ballmer provided Apple with $150M to stay in business - a wise move at the time because Microsoft was in trouble with the justice department and needed to ensure that there were companies still in existence that could even vaguely be argued to be valid competitors to Microsoft.
Many, many entrepreneurs tried and failed to get the better of Gates and Ballmer until eventually a perception formed that you were an idiot if you tried to compete with them. VC's wouldn't invest in anything that was even seen as potentially an area that Microsoft might be interested in being involved with. Ballmer is one of the most formidable and, in his time, feared businessmen ever.
Ballmer is one of the greatest business people of all time even if he doesn't have the romantic and charismatic story of Jobs or Gates.
Respect is due.
I'm tired of this myth being propagated. The $150MM wasn't even the most important part of the deal for Apple: http://www.zdnet.com/article/stop-the-lies-the-day-that-micr...
'The demos of OS/2 were excellent. Crashing the system had the intended effect – to FUD OS/2 2.0. People paid attention to this demo and were often surprised to our favor. Steve positioned it as -- OS/2 is not "bad" but that from a performance and "robustness" standpoint, it is NOT better than Windows'.
"I have written a PM app that hangs the system (sometimes quite graphically)."
Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger say that without their top 20 performing stocks, they'd be also-rans. Which really goes to show that when you find a great opportunity in life, you should go at it as hard as you can.
This is a great way to build a career, but if you look at his track record at Microsoft, I'm not sure Ballmer is the guy we want to be emulating. He was hard-headed, amazingly risk-averse when it came to Microsoft's core platforms, and was not a great manager (he was unable to control a lot of the culture problems that plagued Microsoft in the early 2000s).
It's fine to make bold moves that fail, but Ballmer's failed moves weren't really all that bold. They were big, but not incredibly bold, and were often doubling down on a failing business inside Microsoft.
Microsoft might not have been as hip as Apple or Google, but they became and remained the most significant software company in the world for decades. They're still the number one desktop OS by a huge margin. Compare Steve Ballmer to Carly Fiorina, Jonathan Schwartz or Stephen Elop and tell me he wasn't a good CEO.
I also think Ballmer deserves credit for .NET. "Developers developers developers" has been MS's saving grace as OS X emerged, and Nadella is essentially banking the company on .NET-as-a-platform via Azure. It's entirely possible that we'd all be using Solaris on SPARC workstations by now if .NET hadn't existed.
A lot of the good things Microsoft has (deservedly) received praise for recently under Nadella were started under Ballmer's tenure. Yes, he is not personally responsible for everything that goes on at the company, but it's important to keep that in mind.
 While the decision was reversed on appeal, Microsoft was literally ordered by the courts to split itself into separate companies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Cor...
 Incidentally, the Surface, which now appears to be Microsoft's attempt to clean up the wild west that OEMs have created, was announced right at the end of the DOJ's oversight. I cannot believe that this is a coincidence.
The anti trust investigation killed Microsoft's mojo. They never under estimated any one in the past. They were paranoid and always responded to "potential threats" with crappy solution but they responded nonetheless.
In my opinion, Google and the iPhone owe their dominance to time granted them by the anti trust suit.
The same tactics that got Microsoft in trouble is being used my Google and Apple today.
Google services is bundled in Android. There is no alternative browser in chrome OS by design. The default browser can't be changed in IOS(not sure if that's still the case).
It's difficult to take risks when everything you do is under a microscope.
Not only can it not be changed, but you can't even ship true alternative browsers at all.
You'll find plenty of "alternative browsers" in the App Store, of course. But they're all just UI wrappers around Apple's UIWebView or WKWebView. Apple doesn't allow anyone to ship an alternative browser engine.
So even if Apple let you change the default, it really wouldn't be all that interesting.
You can (and I do, because it's the only way to block ads without root on Android).
But that was literally the same claim that was made against Microsoft - while you could install alternative browsers, you couldn't really uninstall IE. And as parts of IE were factored into separate components for reuse by other applications, the concern was that IE was being turned into part of the operating system.
(The difference is that Android's market share, while still dominant, is still not as high as Windows's was back in the 90s. Ditto for iOS, which has a minority market share. But in terms of the software vs. OS components, it's almost exactly the same.)
 or even as high as the Windows marketshare is today, for that matter.
Browser dominance on its own was not the problem. The problem was that Microsoft's strategy was deliberately anti-competitive and monopolistic, and the browser was one symptom of that - not just because it gave MS massive market share, but because it created a technological chokepoint which limited the commercial potential of everyone working in the PC and Internet industries.
Remember, MS spent a lot of time and money promoting site/browser technologies like ActiveX that only really worked on Windows PCs, and seem to have been an attempt to look out everyone else.
It's hard to argue that iOS or Android are anywhere close to doing the same. Both may be walled gardens, and both have toxic effects. But they're not de facto standards setters, and they can't use their influence to kill competing products at equivalent scale. (They can and have killed or assimilated smaller products - but that's plain unethical behaviour, not clear evidence of monopoly. Taking steps to crush Twitter, WhatsApp, or Facebook would probably count as monopolistic. Killing SmallAppCo is just shady; sad, but true.)
If it was found that Apple and Google were colluding, that would be a serious problem - just as both had problems when it was proved they'd made secret agreements about employee mobility and salary negotiations.
Instead, they embargoed Office on every platform but Windows and a shitty, incompatible and infrequently updated Mac port. They tried to leverage Office to make their other platforms (Windows, Windows Phone, Azure) successful, rather than focus on making sure Office runs on everything and the licensing works.
It also was never incompatible. Better than Windows at times (circa 2003 when they had a big team in the Bay Area) and Entourage was better than Outlook's usability. Shitty at times, especially the last several years until Office 2016.
With Office 365, they basically get your point. Unfortunately the new generation mostly uses Google Docs and Pages now, but most over 30 still use Office.
I admit I don't follow the Windows world very closely, and I'm no developer, but Wikipedia says .NET got started in 2002, by which time Solaris was already on its way out.
I'm not sure what you see in .NET that you think killed Solaris/SPARC, or where you see the overlap (where a lack of .NET could have presented an opportunity for Solaris), but from my point of view Solaris was an also-ran by 2002, even though I continued to administer it until after the Oracle acquisition.
Once .NET came out, a lot of companies used that instead of Java since they were already familiar with Windows and the x86 hardware that ran Windows was much cheaper than SPARC hardware that ran Solaris. All this massively diminished Sun and Java's influence in enterprise systems, and caused the sales of expensive specialized hardware like SPARC to plunge.
... he says, about the product that is about to do to his company's phone division (and arguably the entire industry) what microsoft did to ibm, a few decades earlier.
but the article you are commenting on is not about that. it's about how you can use your less-than-stellar god-given gifts to propel yourself to the top, just like ballmer did.
> "We wouldn't define our phone experience just by music. A phone is really a general purpose device. You want to make telephone calls, you want to get and receive messages, text, e-mail, whatever your preference is."
edit: Turns out he was dead on. Problem was that the iPhone combined two devices people already had AND eventually gave you all of this.
It takes a lot of iteration before something becomes mass-marketable, and there's almost always a long, multi-competitor heritage in devices that seem to appear overnight, like the iPhone.
I suppose it also helps that mobile phones have become widely acceptable. I remember when it was rare to see someone with one (can't even imagine how bad the coverage was with so few masts around), and people would label them as "posers" for having one or using it in public. Perhaps the earlier Windows devices (which were very capable, and allowed apps to be installed, albeit not from a central repository like the App Store) were just too early in the market, and by the time people accepted them they wanted something different and new. Android and iPhone rode this wave.
Yes, for values of "H" equal to "head". The first Ballmer Peak is the one his skull comes to.
Great piece. This article is worth a click for that lead image alone. I really wonder what the context was for such an expression.
That's when he was worth $100 or $200 million, not long after the IPO.
Jim Treybig of Tandem Computers did something similar when he lost half his stock in a divorce.
That let him make a measurable deal with Gates & Allen. A new developer as employee #30 doesn't have anything comparable.
Am I doing this right?
Steve is basically a great salesman. He's both a huge extrovert and a great listener. He's delusional enough to completely believe, yet well smarter than other similarly delusional people. I presume he has all the sales process mechanics mastered too, but I don't actually know that for a fact.
Android: 79% versus iOS: 14%
If not, why?
Did he just have no curiosity or interest?
Sounds like he had far more capacity for maths than Jobs.
I don't know why but this just got me laughing so hard. I'm thinking about one of those infomercials. "They laughed at me when I sat at the piano... but when I started to play!"
It's like the Hacker News slogan or manifesto or something. HACKER NEWS: WE'RE PREPARED TO SNARK.
I know you mean this in good humor but I have to protest. Snark is an invasive species, and part of keeping it under control is not to forget that or identify with it.
We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10671199 and marked it off-topic.
you really could learn better from ballmer than from jobs imo.
i'd much rather be successful for the like ballmer than jobs. cult following is creepy, and recieving kudos even when you do nothing makes it easy to lose perspective.
jobs was great at what he did, but massively overrated thanks to the excellent work of the apple marketting guys. those guys are absolutely amazing at what they do. its a shame they don't get more credit.
> If you’re a non genius who hasn’t formed a globally important company in your early 20s — and especially if you’re funny looking — you’ll probably learn more from Ballmer than you can from Jobs.
Just because it's funny doesn't mean it's not true!
That's exactly what Microsoft, and especially Ballmer, never did. As the author points out, maybe Steve Jobs crashing your party would make the other guests feel less cool, but the reality is that a lot of people want to be hangers-on and aren't sufficiently introspective to feel uncool about it. The completion of the analogy is that Jobs got a lot of your guests to pay him $300 for the privilege of following him to crash the next party, while Ballmer brought $20 worth of bad vodka, then robbed your apartment while you were passed out. They both made money without creating much value; the difference is at whose expense they did so.
you are right that he deserves some credit, it just always irks me that the cult follower types seem to think he was single handedly responsible for all of the success of apple.
like most CEOs he set a direction, and it was the people underneath him that took the company there under his guidance, but without that direction nothing would have happened. (or something else would have happened)
it also does it with an original (or at least not cliche'd) perspective, and is refreshingly honest about money.
What do you mean? Is there any company whose marketing department you would rate higher?
i guess if they got the credit it wouldn't work so well. :)