Asked in an interview with CBS This Morning whether he was happy with Ballmer's performance, Gates said that he and the Microsoft chief executive are "two of the most self-critical people you can imagine," adding that neither is satisfied that the company is doing everything it can to move computing forward.
"And there were a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done with the company in the last year," Gates said listing the CEO's recent achievements. "Windows 8 is key to the future; the Surface computer; Bing, people are seeing as a better search product; Xbox."
Still, given Microsoft's position in the previous generation of computing, Gates is not satisfied with the company's place in what looks to be the future of the industry.
"Is it enough?" the Microsoft chairman continued, "No, he and I are not satisfied that in terms of, you know, breakthrough things, that we're doing everything possible."
He went on to admit that the company didn't "get out in the lead very early" on cell phones. Microsoft had an early start with Windows Mobile, a system that was out for some years before current industry leaders Apple and Google debuted their respective iOS and Android platforms, but ultimately let the competition pass them by.
"We didn't miss cell phones," Gates conceded, "but the way that we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership. So it's clearly a mistake."
Gates went on to discuss the assorted philanthropic efforts he and his wife have engaged in over the past several years. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest, has targeted malaria and polio for eradication and has contributed to the fight against AIDS and tuberculosis. In the interview he stressed the importance of innovation not only with regard to Microsoft, but also in terms of fighting disease, improving education, and solving the world's energy concerns.