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2/7/2014
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Microsoft CEOs' Wackiest Quotes: Who Said That?

Satya Nadella has the brains and experience to become Microsoft's CEO -- but does he have the sharp tongue of Gates or Ballmer? Match these Microsoft CEO quotes to their outspoken owners.

Microsoft In 2013: 7 Lessons Learned
Microsoft In 2013: 7 Lessons Learned
(Click image for larger view and for slideshow.)

Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella has some big shoes to fill. He faces great expectations when it comes to innovation and profit, his predecessors set the bar very high, yada yada yada... But that's not what I'm talking about.

Microsoft's new leader will play follow-up to two of the most prolifically quotable CEOs in history. Nadella, displaying a fondness for cricket, a formidable intellect, and a borderline-hipster wardrobe, is already carving out an identity. But he has nothing on the cult of personality that formed around Gates. When a satirical website claimed the Microsoft founder told a reporter, "I give you a million bucks, and I get to sever your arm right here," and "Let's face it, the average computer user has the brain of a spider monkey," many perceived the statements as fact -- in fact, some wounded PC users were still lamenting the faux comments years later.

[Will Satya Nadella and Bill Gates click? Read Nadella, Gates: Right Team for Microsoft?]

Nadella's public persona can't compare to Ballmer's, either -- at least not until the new boss has had a chance, as Ballmer did on several occasions, to spit on an Apple product that subsequently goes on to redefine the industry. No, in terms of headline-grabbing outlandishness, Nadella is still a rookie among wizards.

Need a refresher on Gates's and Ballmer's most outrageous and insightful statements? Take our quiz, which features 12 zingers from not only Microsoft's first two CEOs, but also Nadella, who's already offered a few noteworthy statements as he's risen through the ranks. The answers are on the next page (no peeking.)

When you're done, use the comments section to write in your vote for the wackiest tech CEO quote of all time. It might be one of these -- or one from an even more colorful character. We will report back on the write-in winner. Do bring your sense of humor; just keep it safe for work.

Now put your Microsoft cred on the line. Which Microsoft CEO said:

1. "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

2. "Our industry does not respect tradition -- it only respects innovation."

3. "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That's the way that the license works."

4. "You might hear me say 'That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard' many times during a meeting."

5. "I'm going to f**king bury that guy. I have done it before, and I will do it again."

6. "About three million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

7. "Legacy is a stupid thing! I don't want a legacy."

8. "They yell at you, they'll scream at you, they'll sort of say you're crazy and you're destroying this place. And all the melodrama aside, you come back at it with the data, with the -- with your own conviction, because a lot of that stuff is all to test whether you know what you're talking about."

9. "What is it about sarcasm in a meeting? Or just going, 'This is completely screwed up'?"

10. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item."

11. "All in, baby... We are winning, winning, winning, winning, winning."

12. "Now people are saying, 'Hey, where did you come from? You guys were getting your ass kicked by VMware.' "

Wow! (We resisted any mention of cream pies or developer dances.) See page 2 for the answers...

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 1:44:56 PM
I've always liked this one
"A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa."

-- Mark Zuckerberg, early in his journey to figuring out how to be a public figure
Laurianne
IW Pick
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 1:19:44 PM
T-shirt, anyone?
Don't be shy. Write-in favorite will get some shiny InformationWeek gear.
Shane M. O'Neill
IW Pick
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 12:23:59 PM
Eric Schmidt was the king of creepy quotes
"We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."

Ummm, ok.
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