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.