Going all-in: Ars interviews Microsoft's Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is something of a polarizing figure. His loud, bombastic style on stage stands in stark contrast to the generally more reserved demeanours of other CEOs, and his tendency to gloss over what he sees as irrelevant detail with a cavalier "blah blah blah" rubs many the wrong way. Even after thirty years at Microsoft, Ballmer is nothing if not enthusiastic about the company and the work it does, and sometimes that enthusiasm boils over.
The contrast is particularly striking when we look at Apple. Though there are certainly similarities between Jobs and Ballmer—neither CEO is a straight-laced, buttoned-down, ordinary businessman, both have high-profile public images and personas, and both, apparently, have tempers—Steve Jobs is seen as almost the diametric opposite of Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs does go off the reservation
from time to time, but his manner is orderly, precise, and controlled.
The different characters of the two men lead to very different perceptions in the media and beyond. When Steve Jobs makes an absurd pronouncement—for example, his recent (and thoroughly dishonest) claim that Apple's Facetime is "the first video calling on mobile devices
"—he's almost allowed to get away with it. It's just part of the Reality Distortion Field, the aura of marketing spin (and occasionally outright deceit) that surrounds the man. Rather than criticizing that the guy is living in a fantasy land, it's just attributed to the strength of his vision and belief in the company's products.