Quick, identify the speaker of the following sentence: "All in, baby... We are winning, winning, winning, winning, winning."
Charlie Sheen, talking about his new TV gig, "Anger Management"? No way, kemosabe. It's the Mad Ballmer, the Steve you can't believe, the sweat-drenched swami of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to email@example.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]
Speaking at the Web 2.0 conference with John Batelle yesterday [video], Ballmer was his old bombastic self -- trash-talking competitors, making dubious assertions about Microsoft products, and generally partying like it was still (Windows) 1995.
That "winning winning winning" quote? It refers to Microsoft's cloud apps. Because when people say "cloud," the first word that pops into your head is "Microsoft." Well, maybe right after "Google," "Amazon," "Salesforce.com," and "cumulus."
Because, frankly, I was starting to give up hope. All the CEOs that were worth writing about -- Ellison, Schmidt, Bartz, and now Jobs -- have been replaced by dull empty suits. It seemed like Ballmer was poised to join them. Normally a week doesn't pass without Ballmer saying something outrageous, but he's been keeping such a low profile this year that a few weeks ago I felt compelled to ask, "Has anyone seen this man?"
But no more. Ballmer had this to say about Bing, which recently passed Yahoo in search market share but is still being lapped several times by Google:
Today I issue you all kind of a challenge. Take any search you want, try it out on Bing and try it out on Google. ... 70 percent of the time you probably won't care, 15 percent of the time you'll like us better, and 15 percent of the time you'll like the other guy better.
I can just see the marketing slogan now: "Most of the time you don't give a damn. For the rest of the time, there's Bing."
On the competition from Facebook, Google Plus, Apple Ping, and so on, Batelle asked, "Have you decided to punt on social, or have you guys decided to surprise us at some point?" Ballmer's response:
Xbox Live -- we have 50 million people using Xbox Live, touching, connecting. It's a different context, but it seems highly social to me ... We concluded the acquisition of Skype, which is more about connecting with the people you are very closest to as opposed to the people you want to generally socialize with. There are a variety of things that fit under the social banner, and we've picked our play.
For anyone who's watched 14-year-olds shouting obscenities at each other over Xbox Live, "social" is not the first word that comes to mind.