Steve Ballmer: A visual history

We take a look at one of IT's most notorious men, the current CEO of Microsoft


Tech geeks love to know everything about a gadget, from the casing to the hard drive to processor. We are applying this technique to tech's head honchos, such as Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs.

For this teardown slideshow, it's Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's turn.

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Considering there's a great deal to keep track of at the behemoth Microsoft, Ballmer has a pretty good memory. But he has used selective memory from time to time on subjects like Linux and Vista. And he was notoriously critical of Apple's iPod and iPhone products, only to release similar Microsoft products later.

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Battery life

Ballmer's got energy and enthusiasm, that's for sure. He's a rah-rah kind of guy, but with Microsoft's complicated product versions, some critics wonder if that energy comes at the expense of focus. And if you've ever seen the Developers! Developers! Developers! video clip you know that Ballmer's energy can sometimes, shall we say, get away from him.

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Value (net worth)

$13.1 billion. That could buy a few Starbucks Grande Ice Coffees, or a few Starbucks stores.

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Special features

His bald head and animated speaking style have become his trademarks. His passion for Microsoft is always on display ("I LOOOVE THIS COMPANY!") and he's not afraid to lavish praise on revenue generators Windows and Office. But these days he's beating the big drum for cloud computing. Microsoft is "All In" for the cloud in case you haven't heard.

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Although Microsoft has accomplished a great deal since Ballmer became CEO in 2000 (Xbox, Bing, Windows 7), it is not regarded as a fast moving company, to put it mildly. Ballmer and company have been caught sleeping at the wheel by more nimble and innovative companies like Google and Apple in areas including search, mobile, media players and tablet PCs.

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Communication mechanism

While not as confrontational as Ellison or as condescending as Jobs, Ballmer has been known to smack talk the competition. The trouble is, Microsoft's marketing messages can get muddled fairly quickly. What is Windows Live again?

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Ballmer's countenance can range from intense to silly to just plain weird. But his outward vision for Microsoft has often been stubbornly old school. That's dangerous in an industry innovating at lightning speed, analysts say. How much longer can Microsoft rely on its cash cows Windows and Office?

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Ballmer is resilient and driven to succeed. Stumbles in his tenure aside, he runs a global company of 90,000 employees, an epic task and he's been doing it admirably for a decade.

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Ballmer is a born salesman, happy to glad-hand his way across the globe and speak to whoever will listen about Microsoft. His wardrobe is either a modest suit and tie or sweater and slacks. Larry Ellison he is not when it comes to style, but Ballmer can still work a room.


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