Ballmer says that learning how to run a basketball team is like learning how to do Windows 1.0 "75,000 years ago." And the new season is like a product launch.
The Clippers have a new ad with a song by Fergie--which Ballmer sings a bit of for us--but "ultimately, it's about winning the darn ballgame."
Ballmer says he's learning about the best way to stream games to fans. Should the Clippers do it through Fox? On their own? He's studying the analytics and talking to partners. But he's only owned the Clippers for two months. He's been thinking about this stuff conceptually but mostly focused on getting ready for the first game.
Technologywise, "anything we spend money on is probably going to end up being Microsoft," says Ballmer, who still owns 4% of the company.
Microsoft made a quarter of a trillion dollars during his tenure and Ballmer's successor (Satya Nadella) has assets like strong enterprise software, machine learning, a great hardware team, and cloud services. And cash in the bank and a great consumer brand in Windows.
Langley asks Ballmer if he doesn't want to talk about "how you missed social." "You're very persistent, aren't you?" he says. He says he's bullish about Microsoft's future and has no plans to sell any of his stock.
Ballmer says he doesn't plan to be an angel investor. "My big bet in tech is Microsoft."
The big money in tech is selling devices or otherwise benefiting from device sales, says Ballmer. And IT products and services. And stuff like wireless services. And selling to marketing departments, as Google and Facebook do, with Bing a distant third. And the last major piece is "vigging commerce"--taking a piece of mating buyers and sellers, as Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber do.
Ballmer doesn't see other things going on which involve making a lot of money. He's about making money, not eyeballs. With the Clippers "I WANT TO WIN A LOT OF GAMES (and make some money)."
Ballmer is razzing Langley for using written notes. "You've got to go paperless."
Langley asks Ballmer about Amazon's business model and whether he has unkind words for it. He's rattling off the profits which Microsoft has made. He says Amazon should commit to making $100 billion of profit in the years to come if it wants to be like Microsoft. "Over time, markets care about profit. At least that's what they taught us in economics class."
After Ballmer left Microsoft he binge-watched every episode of THE GOOD WIFE.
On his retirement, Ballmer is quoting a WHITE CHRISTMAS song: "What do you do with a general, when he stops being a general?" After leaving Microsoft, he made a list of priorities. One was to buy a basketball team. "That worked out better than I could have hoped for."
He wants to be "an appropriately active" investor in Microsoft. He resigned from the board to spend time on his new stuff, and because as a board member, your job is to represent all the investors, not just yourself.
He's also thinking about how to make a civic difference. No matter how much money he gives away he can't compete with the $6 trillion which the government spends.
Ballmer says we spend way too much in the U.S. with bad results. Fixing that would be a contribution. Langley asks if he would run for office. "That would never happen."
Someone in the audience says that the Clippers are cool, but Microsoft isn't. Will Ballmer mess up the team? He says that it's got great plays and great fans and a great new ad campaign. "We're not going to screw this up."
Clippers season ticket holder in the audience is thanking Ballmer. And asks what Ballmer can do to level the digital divide in education. He says he's focusing on education in general and talking to his wife, who's involved with education in Washington. "Mostly, I want to learn."
Ballmer is doing the Hebrew studies for his Bar Mitzvah. Not going to predict when it'll happen.
Question from the Journal's Jonathan Krim: What does Microsoft think about the fact that Microsoft is not part of Silicon Valley? He says that's overblown, and that his successor Satya Nadella can start fresh, especially now that Ballmer and Gates aren't running the company. "That'll be a good, positive thing for Microsoft."
Ballmer says it's imperative that Microsoft invest in "big, bold things. I believe hardware is part of that."
Ballmer: "I want to hold the stock until I die." Microsoft continuing to grow requires big bets. Langley asks when he last talked to Nadella. Ballmer says it was a few weeks ago.
A year from now, Ballmer says the technology we'll be talking about are the amazing analytics which will help the Clippers win games.
And that's the end of the Ballmer interview, and of WSJ.D Live. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read our coverage. I had fun attending the conference and sharing it with you.