Microsoft’s Ballmer @ the GSB: Google a “one-trick pony”

Posted by at 9:34PM

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business today, Microsoft CEO and Stanford GSB drop-out Steve Ballmer questioned Google’s ability to accomplish its stated goal of doubling the company to 20,000 employees over a one-year period. “They are trying to double in a year,” he said. “That’s insane in my opinion.”
Ballmer also called Google a “one-trick pony” that is right now “milking” its success in search and advertising. Everything else Google does is either filling in the space around search or is just a “cute” side project (see video clip).
He also questioned Google’s management philosophy, saying “A random collection of people trying to do their own thing — that doesn’t create value, in my opinion,” referring to Google’s policy of letting its engineers devote 20% of their time to pet projects (for more on Google culture, check out the EdCorner).
The GSB has not yet posted news of Ballmer’s speech to its news website, so information related to it is limited to reporting by CNET and CBS News, both of which chose to focus on his remarks concerning Google. The speech was over an hour.

Other interesting tidbits I managed to squeeze from the two sources include Ballmer’s comments on US immigration law and why he decided to drop out of Stanford to join Microsoft as employee No. 24.
Ballmer noted that 60% of engineering and computer science graduates are coming from China and India and that recruiting them is getting harder because of immigration restrictions in the U.S.
On joining Microsoft (from CNET’s video clip of the speech):
“I wanted to work with smart people. … I called my dad, who … thought it was nuts. Completely nuts. You know, ‘Microsoft, what’s that? What is it?’ You know … ‘what’s software?’ My mom said, ‘Why does anybody need a computer?’ This is 1980. And my dad was an immigrant and he didn’t go to college. … He had worked at Ford … my dad thought it was nutty when I went to Stanford because most of the guys he knew at Ford had Harvard MBAs and he had to check it out.”
Joining Microsoft, he said, was the toughest decision he ever made. When he was having doubts about staying after about six months, Bill Gates told him, “You may feel like you just joined to become the bookkeeper of a 30-person company. But we’re going to put a computer on every desk in every home.”
“And I swear,” Ballmer continued, “that recruiting pitch wound up becoming the mantra of the company for the next 17, 18 years.”



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