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Ballmer was the "business guy" at the startup that created the greatest ever amount of money for its founders and employees by holding off an IPO and raising a minimal amount of outside investment. The amount of equity he and Gates retained allowed Microsoft to take a long term rather than a quarter by quarter Wall Street driven approach for about twenty years following the IPO.

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.

Ballmer was incredibly successful for the majority of his career but by the time I arrived at Microsoft (2011), I really think his hubris and attitude had a deleterious effect on Microsoft employees.

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.

Huge bummer to hear that. Was the exact opposite of that for my 1996-2000 tenure. Many decks used UNIX, many PMs used Macs--it was encouraged so you'd know the competition, whom they respected.

Really interesting. It was nothing like that while I was there. Being caught with an iPhone just felt so awkward.

Given the work on MS' github and Azure, it really feels like the wall has come down and MS is opening up. They're now contributing code with active engineers to open source projects.

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