Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's remarks at a company conference in Seattle last week were remarkable for many reasons, but let's focus on...
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s remarks at a company conference in Seattle last week were remarkable for many reasons, but let’s focus on their holiness.
Yes, we can’t recall a speech from the top man at Microsoft that was so peppered with references to religion and spirituality.
Ballmer spoke Thursday to an audience of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals — an important constituency of loyal but critical IT pros. He said he was reminded backstage that he hadn’t addressed the group, one of his favorites, for a few years.
“And I thought, ‘Heavens forbid, that isn’t true,’ ” Ballmer said.
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Shortly thereafter, Ballmer conducted an informal survey to see how many in the audience had been to a MVP Summit before. The speech took place in a cavernous, darkened room at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, so he couldn’t see the audience clearly.
“Somebody who controls lights, let me have a little light,” Ballmer said. “There’s an expression in the Bible, God says light and he gets light. I say light, and I get two little dim bulbs turned on. How about a little light?”
After the survey, he said, “Now let’s see if I have better luck, you can turn the lights back down.” Then he tacked on this observation: “The guy above, he’s a powerful guy.” He may have been referring to the AV guy.
Later, Ballmer talked about the unacceptable five-year delay between the release of Windows XP and Vista.
“Certainly, you never want to let five years go between releases. And we just sort of kiss that stone and move on, because it turns out many things become problematic when you have those long release cycles,” he said.
What does he mean “kiss that stone”? Maybe it’s just an expression. There are also a couple of stones that people travel to kiss: Ireland’s Blarney stone, which gives one the gift of eloquence — or so the legend goes — and the Black Stone of Mecca, kissed or touched by many Muslims on pilgrimage there.
After acknowledging Microsoft’s No. 3 position in Internet search market share, he added, “God knows what I’d say to you if we were the clear No. 4.”
Ballmer answered a series of questions from the audience. The last one was whether he gets “sound sleep,” and with his answer, Ballmer dipped into Eastern religion and philosophy.
He said he gets excellent sleep, seven to eight hours a night. That’s not to say he doesn’t worry and wonder about Microsoft.
“But the day you don’t sleep well, I think it’s probably a day that you shouldn’t keep doing the kind of job I’m doing,” he said, adding, “It’s one of the things that I think leaders have to sort of get their mind around is this notion of balance. … [Y]ou’ve got to balance what I would call the yin and yang of life very well.”
This reference struck us because these days, when Ballmer says “yang,” he usually says “Jerry” first.
Partying like the ’90s
At one time, the name Starwave would bring nods of recognition around here.
The company, founded by Paul Allen in 1993, was sold to Disney in 1998, but not before becoming the starting point of a bevy of online companies and careers.
Last week, Starwave alumni threw a reunion party at Elysian Fields in Pioneer Square.
In his blog, our Brier Dudley caught reunion organizer (and Eyejot founder) David Geller’s take from the event. Starwavers, Geller said, can now be found at Microsoft, Apple, ESPN/Disney (“some never left,” he said), Amazon.com, BlueNile, Loudeye, Sharebuilder, Newsvine/MSNBC, Jobster, thePlatform, Level 3, RealNetworks, WhatCounts, Eyejot, Snapvine, Vulcan and many other companies.
Geller said about 70 to 80 showed up from what had been a 300-person company.
Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or email@example.com.