Asked what his greatest personal challenge is, Ballmer responded: "time. I have a spreadsheet with 35 columns in it and I allocate time to each. I drop the kids off at school when Im home and get home in time for dinnerthough my wife would say that its in time for dessert." Asked how he felt when Gates announced his intentions to leave Microsoft, Ballmer said that discussion started three years ago when Gates told him that he wanted to start working at Microsoft part-time.Click here to read more about whether Microsoft is ready for Gates transition. "The one thing is that is always nice is to have a partner, and Bill has always been my partner at Microsoft. But now Im transitioning," he said. Asked what, as a leader, keeps him up at night, Ballmer said: "I sleep very well. I do. I sleep very well at night. I do have a fundamental optimism about our business. But the things that eat at me the most are things like developing a new business model. "Take the open-source business model, which is a radically different business model. We grew up with a business model, we had to learn to embrace the enterprise business model and, while we couldnt embrace the open source business model, we had to learn how to compete with it," he said. Keeping staff happy, retaining top staff and getting them to collaborate well together are some of the other things at the top of his mind, even though they do not keep him awake at night, he said. Asked about Microsofts recent organizational changes and the appointment of Steve Sinofsky, the former head of Office, to head up Windows development, Ballmer lauded the new user interface in Office and the taking of a systematic approach, which is Sinofskys style, even though he did say that this was not the approach taken by the Windows leadership over the years. To read more about how Microsoft shook up its Windows unit, click here. "We employ talented people with different styles, qualities and capabilities, which has always worked really well for us," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
Ballmer said it was clear to both of them, though, that the move had to see Gates move from company leader to coach, and that his replacements needed to be put in place two years before he left so that he could coach and mentor them.