In what will likely be his final appearance at Microsoft's companywide meeting as chief executive, Ballmer took the stage with his typical bombast, according to Reuters. The Microsoft chief sought to reassure the 13,000 full-time employees in attendance ? as well as the 25,000 tuned in on the web ? that the Redmond software giant still has a big role to play in the future of computing.
"We have unbelievable potential in front of us, we have an unbelievable destiny," said Ballmer, reusing a quote from Microsoft's first companywide meeting in 1983.
Ballmer also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Apple and a couple of other competitors that have largely stolen Microsoft's thunder in the new age of computing. Apple, Ballmer said, is about being "fashionable," while Amazon is about being "cheap," and Google is about "knowing more." Microsoft, Ballmer said, is about "doing more."
Ballmer's most recent swipes are just the latest in a string of dismissals from the Microsoft exec toward the company's rivals, even as those rivals have gone on to greater heights in the areas where they are head-to-head with Microsoft. Apple, derided as a "low-volume player" last year by Ballmer, is the most profitable firm making smartphones and tablets, which appear to be the future of popular computing. Google, too, has been the target of barbs from Ballmer, even as that company maintains a massive market share lead over Microsoft's Bing search engine.
Still, the Microsoft exec is upbeat on the company's future.
"Only our company and a handful of others are poised to write the future," he continued. "We're going to think big, we're going to bet big."
In less than a year, Ballmer will step down as Microsoft's CEO, though a successor has yet to be named. The announcement came abruptly in late August, and it has been suggested that his departure ? coming soon after Ballmer announced a reorganization of the company ? was neither as planned or smooth as the company wants it to appear.
That future will be as a devices and services company, a path solidified recently by Microsoft's $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's cell phone business, as well as the revelation of new Surface tablet units this week.