Steve Ballmer and the Guy From the Time Machine

ballmer happy great pic via flickr username cellanr

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a donation to the computer science program at his alma mater, Harvard University.

Credit: cellanr via Flickr

This morning, I got in touch with my inner Marc Andreessen and did a tweetstorm on Steve Ballmer and Microsoft. It was meant as a thought experiment on how hard it is to predict the future of technology in 10 years, not necessarily an apology for Steve Ballmer, although I do think he did a better job than he gets credit for.

By request, here it was:

A couple of additional points:

  • As Simon Bisson pointed out, Microsoft indeed got quite rich off its investment in Facebook in 2006 at a valuation of $15 billion.
  • Richard Burke pointed out that Chrome is not actually the most popular browser in the world in terms of installed base, although some usage stats show it on top. You can parse the methods of the various statisticians cited in this Wikipedia article for yourself.
  • I personally think there is no 2004 Apple. Perhaps Yahoo will come roaring back, but I haven't seen anything to suggest that so far, and it's nowhere near as in dire straits as Apple was at its nadir. I can't imagine anybody else coming back from that far down.
  • My bet for 2004 Google is Facebook. I can see it being the leading telecommunciations provider in the world in 2014. With a nice immersive-reality wearables side business, too. 
  • 2004 Amazon? No idea, but probably some late-stage startup with canny founders and big ambitions, like Uber or Dropbox.
  • 2004 Facebook is literally impossible to know right now, and anybody who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. I don't even think that Mark Zuckerberg and the founders knew their side project would become a $200 billion business in a decade. 
  • It's also interesting to wonder who 2000 Microsoft would be today. I have no bets there.

Finally, if you're interested in Microsoft and haven't read the article on Ballmer, Gates, and Nadella, check out the full Vanity Fair article here. McLean is an amazing journalist -- she was the first to expose Enron as a house of cards -- and she's done quite a remarkable job pulling together sources here. 

This story, "Steve Ballmer and the Guy From the Time Machine" was originally published by CITEworld.

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