Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki made a great combination on stage. Their hourlong Q&A on Thursday...

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki made a great combination on stage. Their hourlong Q&A on Thursday at Mix, Microsoft’s conference for Web developers, was filled with zingers, tough questions and frank answers — especially once Kawasaki established that he was going to call Ballmer out on any “PR” answers.

Kawasaki managed to draw out some interesting details about the Microsoft CEO:

Ballmer can do a startlingly good impression of a small dog.“When you wake up in the morning, what do you think about Apple, it’s this little Chihuahua you just kick away every time?” Kawasaki asked.

“Arf. Arf,” Ballmer responded.

Ballmer is getting old.

He turns 52 later this month. He’s switching mobile phones.

“I’m having a hard time as I get a little older, I’m going back to a 10-key phone from a bigger keyboard so I can dial numbers, if you will, by Braille instead of dialing them by looking,” he said.

Ballmer doesn’t get a lot of e-mail.

“I used to get a lot, now I get maybe 60-70 pieces of e-mail a day,” he said.

Kawasaki: “How can that be, how can you only get 60 pieces of e-mail a day?”

Ballmer: “I don’t know.”

Kawasaki: “How many virtual assistants do you have filtering your e-mail?”

Ballmer: “Zero.”

Kawasaki: “And do you really answer them yourself?”

Ballmer: “Well, I mean, either I answer them, or I decide who should answer them, and I forward them to somebody who answers them.”

Kawasaki: “I can imagine if I were a Microsoft employee and you forwarded me an e-mail, I would probably take care of it, right?”

Ballmer: “I always hope so. … It is career-limiting not to take care of those kinds of e-mails.”

Ballmer would rather work on Microsoft than his golf game.

Kawasaki asked, “So now you’ve been at this game for a long time, you’re arguably one of the richest people in the world” — Forbes’ latest list put him at 43rd with $15 billion — “what drives you?”

Ballmer said he loves working with some of the smartest people in the world “at the forefront of changing the world.”

He also enjoys a challenge.

“Certainly with the scale and magnitude of what’s going on in our industry, and what we’re trying to do, and the guys we have to compete with, I couldn’t sit at home and work on my golf game or something. I like good challenges, and we’ve got them.”

For the record, we think golf is challenging, too. Maybe in a different way.

Filled with riches

In other Microsoft billionaire news, Bill Gates is no longer the richest person on earth. Forbes ranked him wealthiest for the last 13 years.

Berkshire Hathaway stock went on a tear, elevating Gates pal Warren Buffett to No. 1 with $62 billion, according to the Forbes ranking, which came out last week.

Buffett is giving about 71 percent of his Berkshire stock to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And the Microsoft chairman has eschewed the notoriety of being the world’s richest.

No. 2 on the Forbes list is Carlos Slim, the Mexican industrial magnate.

Gates ranks third with $58 billion, up $2 billion from last year.

But, as Forbes observed, Gates “would have been as rich — or richer — than Buffett, had Microsoft not made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo at the beginning of February.”

There was maybe a subtle hint that the rich-guy deck was about to be shuffled in a spoof video Microsoft showed during a Gates speech in Seattle on Monday.

It was a reprisal of the star-studded “Bill’s Last Day” video that Microsoft debuted in January during his keynote speech at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The Monday version included some new scenes and an appearance by Buffett, who said, “No, there’s never been any animosity between the two of us about who’s No. 1, who’s No. 2. We never give it a thought.”

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