Microsoft CEOs' Wackiest Quotes: Who Said That? - InformationWeek
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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
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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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Shane M. O'Neill
IW Pick
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.
IW Pick
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.
Michael Endler
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
User Rank: Ninja
2/7/2014 | 4:32:42 PM
Re: Eric Schmidt was the king of creepy quotes
Nadella seems like an interesting guy, a major departure from Ballmer.

I don't know that much about Nadella, but I think Microsoft needs to change badly. They realize this, as they are bleeding cash in some areas.

The Server & Tools business unit has done well. But that cannot be an expectation going forward.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/7/2014 | 6:17:46 PM
Microsoft and free software
Bill Gates on the Chinese: "As long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours." This is as close as Microsoft ever got to endorsing free software concepts.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/7/2014 | 7:51:27 PM
Gates quote
A variant on #4 - I've heard Bill say it many times but it was usually, "That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard, IN MY LIFE!!"  Maybe he added the postscript after 1994.

When Bill says it, it's criticism. When Steve says it, you're probably gone within a couple of weeks.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2014 | 4:59:08 PM
Re: 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


This explains why we have a Like button but no Dislike button. Advertising only works when the backdrop is banal.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2014 | 5:04:06 PM
Re: T-shirt, anyone?
"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."

-Steve Jobs, 2007

Yet Apple has not embraced DRM-free text (ebooks) encoded in open licensable formats.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 7:40:54 AM
Re: 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"

Maybe what Mark Zuckerberg meant to say was that logically what happens in your house is always more relevant than what happens in the neighbor's garden.

Or, at least this is how it should be and there is nothing wrong about this.

The proximity of the problem affects you more than the magnitude of it. 

I believe the Like button's function is to highlight positive feedback, positive opinion. No one in this world needs more negativity online. More than half of the daily news is just enough of that. 


User Rank: Ninja
2/11/2014 | 5:04:48 PM
Re: I've always liked this one
Why stop at like / dislike though? Some forums allow you to rate using a bit more opinion, like "Funny" or "Sad". I actually quite like that. And sometimes 'dislike' represents your agreement that you dislike something that happened to somebody (for example). Usually I hear people asking for it in that context, not in the sense that I don't like what you just said. Maybe I just hang out with awesome people on Facebook?
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