Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has admitted that not taking steps into the mobile market early enough has been his biggest regret at the vendor.
Speaking at a financial analyst conference in Bellevue, Washington yesterday, Ballmer – who is set to stand down from the top role within the next year – admitted that he had focused too heavily on Windows Vista.
"I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows, that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device form factor called the phone," he said.
"[It] was about the time we were working away on what became Vista, and I wish we'd had our resources slightly differently deployed... during the early 2000s. It would have been better for Windows and probably better for our success in other form factors."
Despite only gaining low single-digit share in the mobile market – dwarfed by that of Apple and Android-based phones – Ballmer remained optimistic.
"[With] mobile devices, we have almost no share," he said. "I don't know whether to say that with enthusiasm or kind of uncomfortable tension, but I'm an optimistic guy. Anything we have low market share [in] sounds like upside opportunity to me."
Next in line
During the address to analysts, Ballmer added that it was "weird" going to work with people knowing he was set to leave, but said announcing his retirement before a replacement was found was the best way to find the strongest successor, who he hinted would come from within.
"I've spent three years getting to know a bunch of people. I know senior leaders at all of our competitors at this stage. I've spent time talking to them, interviewing them, getting to know them, talking about Microsoft.
"And there's a lot of good talent out there, but when I come home I'd tell you there is just an incredible group of talent at Microsoft that is competitive with everybody else in the industry, full stop, period.
"We made this decision to announce [my retirement] before we had a replacement so we could run the absolute best succession process on the planet. I've got to say it's a little weird for me to come to work and have that... known."
He closed his address with a plea to investors to support the company, adding that he himself would become "just" an investor – owning four per cent of the company.
"I hold on and I treasure my Microsoft stock. And I've treasured it. I know some of you wonder if I treasure it like one of these crazy founders who can't let go, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. No, I actually treasure it as an investor, too.
"All of you, get up. You all own Microsoft stock. Cheer for it, for God's sake. We all want it to go the same direction: up," he said.
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