The stock market may be excited about Steve Ballmer’s impending retirement, but we’re going to miss Microsoft’s outspoken CEO almost as much as we miss the Start menu. Since joining the company in 1980, Ballmer has been the tech world’s most exuberant, hilariously over-the-top executive. Yes, Microsoft may have suffered some high-profile setbacks since he took over the captain’s chair in 2000, but nobody — not even Steve Jobs — was more fun to watch.
From advertising Windows 1.0 as if it were an as-seen-on-TV product to screaming “developers, developers, developers,” these are Steve Ballmer’s craziest moments.
Back in 1985, Ballmer tried to channel Crazy Eddie in this video promoting the very first Windows. “Watch as Windows integrates Lotus 1-2-3 with ‘Miami Vice,’” Ballmer intones while going on to list key features, such as Windows Paint and a free copy of the Reversi game that you’d get for “only” $99 ($217.07 in 2013 dollars).
Perhaps Ballmer’s most famous speech is this convention clip, in which he sweats buckets while chanting the word “developers” 16 times. Now, if only he allowed developers to build desktop apps for Windows RT or get basic information, like the battery level for their programs, in Windows 8. I guess if he wanted developers to have that kind of access to the OS, he’d have said the word 32 times.
At a 1998 conference, Ballmer teamed up with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in a parody of the famous Will Ferrell / Kris Kattan scenes from “A Night at the Roxbury.” Watch as the two execs bob their heads to Haddaway’s “What is Love” while standing in front of a Windows 98 poster.
Michael Jackson had nothing on Steve Ballmer, who got down to Gloria Estefan’s “Get on Your Feet” at Microsoft’s 25th anniversary event, before screaming, “I love this company!”
Not satisfied with the level of energy in his Windows 1.0 advertisement, Ballmer turned the volume up to 11 for the launch of Windows XP. Channeling Bobcat Goldthwait, he screams, “Watch as I make Windows XP the center of my home!” Ballmer then crows about the operating system’s ability to send emails, make video chats and offer separate accounts for each person, saying, “It blows my mind.”
After 30 seconds, VP Brian Valentine takes over and adds even more crazy to the mix. If only Windows 8 were this much fun.
One thing you have to love about Ballmer is that he’s never afraid to laugh at himself. Here, at the MIX 08 event, the Microsoft CEO screams “Web developers” several times after a member of the audience makes a special request that he show some love.
To be fair, Ballmer isn’t the only executive to underestimate the potential impact of the iPhone. In this 2007 interview, he laughs at the Apple handset, saying that, at $500 fully subsidized, it is the most expensive phone in the world and won’t appeal to business customers because of its lack of a keyboard.
Oh no he didn’t! At the Web 2.0 Summit, Ballmer said, “You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone. I think you do to use an Android phone.” Well, it seems like the market is filled with computer scientists who want more control over their phones than Microsoft’s oversimplified, training-wheels OS can provide.
While being interviewed on stage by Guy Kawasaki at MIX08, Ballmer noticed that the author and venture capitalist was using a MacBook Air and asked him, “Do you have Vista on that?” When Kawasaki responded by asking Ballmer if he’d like a notebook that light, the CEO pretended to have difficulty lifting the Air and said, “This is heavier than my PC,” while claiming that he carried a Toshiba laptop that was significantly lighter. “That thing is missing half the features of a PC,” he said, pointing at the Air. “Where’s your DVD drive?”