Ballmer's 10 years with Microsoft and the Internet

A look back on Ballmer's Web achievements since Bill Gates handed over the reins

Ten years ago on Jan. 13, 2000, Microsoft's Bill Gates turned over the CEO reins to Steve Ballmer, who emphasized then that the Internet would be the target for much of the company's new software development efforts.

Fast forward to today's product integration announcement with HP and events over the past year with cloud computing and Windows Azure, and Ballmer's words ring true. Back in 2000, Microsoft was still under threat of being broken up by the Department of Justice. Today, Ballmer is trying to meld enterprise and cloud computing.

He has spent the past decade working through lawsuits, mergers, acquisitions, competitive battles and, of course, new software, including last year's official launch of Windows 7, which could become the legacy of his leadership at Microsoft.

He has put his stamp on the company, including a multi-year reworking of the executive staff. Under Ballmer's watch, company revenue is up 163%, but the stock price is down 39%. Ballmer oversaw Microsoft first-ever mass layoff last year and was greeted in 2010 by the Newsweek prediction that he would not survive the next 12 months.

The CEO has been noted for his sharp, and sometimes loose, tongue. In 1999, the year before he took over for Gates, Ballmer's comment that tech stocks – including Microsoft – were overvalued cost Ballmer $1.2 billion on paper as the market went on a two-day tank that eventually dragged the Nasdaq composite index to a five-month low.

And Ballmer's developers, developers, developers rant – and accompanying YouTube video documenting his dance moves – are legendary.

But Ballmer is nothing if not tenacious and optimistic.

In November, he sat down with Network World and reflected on the past 10 years. He said he takes pride in where the company is positioned today and its outlook for the future. When asked what were his greatest successes, greatest challenges and greatest regrets over that time, he chuckled and said. "Well, I probably had all three of those in spades."

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John Fontana

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