On leadership, Ballmer said there are several important things CEOs had to do: insist on accountability while also encouraging people to stretch themselves and their goals, as well as managing delegation while knowing enough to be an intelligent participant in the decisions and funding of those businesses. "Businesses are complicated, yet one of a leaders great value-adds is being able to simplify things to a number of core principles, while being realistic and optimistic at the same time," he said.Microsoft has just finished its best recruiting year ever, despite the fact that there is more competition than ever, "so getting the best people remains a big issue for us. Just as many people thought Windows needed a competitor, and we got this in Linux, we also got a competitor in the hunt for talent. But there is no better place to work than Microsoft is you want to work on the broadest range of technologies that affect the most people," he said. Ballmer also noted that most new graduates are enthusiastic about devices and consumer-like products, and he said Apple has done a good job with the iPod, but that it remains to be seen how successful the iPhone will be. "Great companies have to figure out a way to remain vibrant," he said. Asked about the culture at Microsoft, Ballmer said the company likes people who are very bright and very intense. "Thats part of the culture. But we also have integrity as a core value, as is accountability. We also want people making big, bold bets. Who else would have done anything as nutty as take on Xbox the way we did," he asked. When the floor was opened for questions from students, Ballmer was asked why he dropped out of Stanford to join Microsoft. He responded that he was trying to decide what to do as a summer job after his first year. His options were to join a consulting firm, join Morgan Stanley, Progressive Insurance or the Ford Motor Company. He had decided to visit all of them on his spring break, during which time Gates called him about a job. "I knew Microsoft was a world leader at an emerging something," he said. So Ballmer went to see Gates at the end of his spring break tour and "he got his parents to work me over as well. We agreed to try it out and that I could leave or he could fire me by the end of the summer," he said. Stanford administration questioned the wiseness of the decision, as did Ballmers father, who also questioned who would actually need a computer. "After six weeks I decided I had make a big mistake and should go back to Stanford. Bill [Gates] and his dad took me out to dinner, where Bill told me that his goal was to put a computer on every desk." That pitch sold Ballmer and he stayed. To read more about why Google and open source are among Microsofts strongest competitors, click here. Asked about Googles rapid staff growth, Ballmer said doubling your numbers of staff every year is a "crazy" scenario. "I dont think it has been proven that a random collection of people all doing their own thing adds value," he said, eliciting laughter from the audience, before adding that this scenario still had to play out. Next Page: Challenges.
Can Windows and open source learn to play nice? Click here to read more.