Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer Aren't BFFs Anymore and It's All Thanks to Smartphones

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Personal relationships are always tricky, but they’re even trickier when they revolve around running a business worth billions of dollars. Just ask Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates!

In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, Ballmer expanded on his relationship with college friend and Microsoft co-founder Gates, explaining that the two have “drifted apart.” The reason? Those gosh darn smartphones, for one.

“There was a fundamental disagreement about how important it was to be in the hardware business,” Ballmer said. “I had pushed Surface. The board had been a little—little reluctant in supporting it. And then things came to a climax around what to do about the phone business.”


Ballmer, who was CEO of Microsoft for 14 years, said that there had been “[a] little bit of a difference in opinion on the strategic direction of the company.” In October, current CEO Satya Nadella said that the company “clearly missed mobile ... there is no question.” (At least it wasn’t the only one.)

Of course, once Microsoft actually did hop on the mobile train, the results weren’t great—it even started giving away its mobile phones in April, and in May, it announced it was “streamlining” its smartphone hardware business.

Had he done things differently, he would have dove in sooner. “I would have moved into the hardware business faster and recognized that what we had in the PC, where there was a separation of chips, systems and software, wasn’t largely gonna reproduce itself in the mobile world,” he said.

Well, at least Ballmer will always have his developers.

Watch the interview below:



Sophie is a former news editor at Gizmodo.

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It’s a shame that Window Mobile never gained traction since I thought it was a decent OS. However, it was too little too late.

That said, I love my Surface Book. It’s fantastic and glad to see that Ballmer push for that. It nails that 2-in-1 form in many of the right spot.