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Regrets? Ballmer’s Had A Few: Microsoft’s Outgoing CEO Opens Up About His Tenure

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Steve Ballmer (Kimhiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images)

Steve Ballmer (Kimhiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images)

REDMOND, Wash. (CBS Seattle) – When Steve Ballmer took the reins of Microsoft from co-founder Bill Gates back in 2000, the software giant stood astride the world like a colossus.

During his 13-year tenure, Ballmer has had to fend off challenges from Apple and Google which have cut into Microsoft’s once seeming invincibility.

Now that Ballmer is stepping down as CEO, he’s opened up about what he sees as his biggest successes and biggest regrets.

Ballmer tells ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley he’s glad that Microsoft turned way from buying Yahoo at the last minute.

In 2008, the company came close to buying the once-powerful search engine.

A Yahoo deal “had a lot of economic synergy, a lot of product creation,” Ballmer told ZDNet. But “in the annals of history, it will be really smart we didn’t buy it, because the market collapsed, of course. It would have really looked silly to have bought it.”

As for his biggest regrets, Ballmer says the long delayed operating system that was released as Windows Vista tops the list.

Originally called “Longhorn,” the program took a lot of time and cost a lot of company resources.

‘Longhorn becomes Vista.’ That was the single biggest mistake I made,” said Ballmer.

“Not only because the product wasn’t a great product, but remember it took us five or six years to ship it. Then we had to sort of fix it. That was what I might call Windows 7.”

He lamented that the energy and focus on the project kept the company from developing other products, like phones.

Vista was widely panned by critics and users when it came out in January, 2007.

Ballmer says he accepts full responsibility for the failure.

Another regret is that the XBox gaming system took so long to make money for Microsoft.

The first XBox was released in 2001, the XBox 360 in 2005. And until 2010, the company took a loss on every single machine it sold.

But he says Microsoft made the right move getting into the console business.

“But what you’re trying to do is make money for the long run, not the short run,” Ballmer said. “So I feel bad about how we got here on Xbox, but we’ve built a heck of an asset. And could we have built it a little cheaper, yes. But we built it. We weren’t swayed from building an important asset.”

Looking back on his time leading Microsoft, Ballmer feels good about the just released Xbox One’s market potential and the company’s investment in Windows 8 and touch screen computers and tablets.

Ballmer announced he was stepping down in August and Microsoft has undertaken a massive hunt for its next CEO.

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