Steve Ballmer: Longhorn-Vista was the "single biggest mistake I made" as Microsoft CEO

Mary Jo Foley conducted what may be Steve Ballmer's final press interview while he is still CEO of Microsoft in late November. The major parts of that chat were posted today at CNN's Fortune website but Foley has some expanded portions of her chat with Ballmer on her ZDNet column today as well.

In one of those columns, Ballmer expanded on his own previously admitted regrets over the treatment of Longhorn, the code name for the Windows XP successor that eventually was released as Windows Vista in 2007. Ballmer is quoted again today about the Longhorn-Vista efforts, saying, "That was the single biggest mistake I made."

So why does he feel that way? Ballmer said:

Not only because the product wasn't a great product, but remember it took us five or six years to ship it. Then we had to sort of fix it. That was what I might call Windows 7. And what we wound up with (was) a period of let's say seven or eight years where we had the A-team -- not all of the A-team but a bunch of our best people -- tied up not driving. We did not make years progress in eight years, and there were other things those people could have been working on, (like) phones.

Ballmer added he takes personal responsibility for the issues with Longhorn-Vista, and added that in the last five or six years Microsoft has been "really catching back up" after the failure of the OS.

Ballmer also offers some regrets over the Xbox division not making any money on hardware console sales until just a few years ago. He stated the company could have made each console cheaper but in the end, the business is "a heck of an asset". He also was proud that the current Xbox One has "almost a full Windows System now back in it."

And what about Yahoo? Microsoft thought about buying the website back in 2008 but a deal between the two companies later collapsed. In today's interview, Ballmer said, "... it will be really smart we didn't buy it, because the market collapsed, of course. It would have really looked silly to have bought it."

Source: ZDNet | Image via Microsoft

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Never had problems with Vista. At the time I thought it's UI was great. Even all that flash still looks kind of good to me. (Did I just admit that?) 7 was better, 8 was better than both, 8.1 is the best of all.

But I really like Windows Vista, it was not bad, if you have all drivers + good hardware. But I don't like Windows 8 / 8.1

I don't know what this guy keep talking about. Vista had it share of some issue and it got fixed once SP was released. I am sure 5 years from now he will give honest reply and will say Win 8 was his biggest mistake and Metro UI on desktop was the worst idea ever. This guy is buffoon.

I liked vista a lot It was filled with lots of goodies

It also boasted some of the coolest skins (via blinds). I remember it was also supposed to have native FX support (animated OS effects) (pulled). Sadly video hardware at the time could barely handle it haha!! I remember trying out betas and I had to have a radeon 9800 or higher to do any of that cool stuff..

Why is Steve blaming himself? Bill Gates signed off the RTM.

Without Vista, there wouldn't have been a basis to improve on for the next version. Win7 is perfect in my opinion.

I think he's just taking a PR fall honestly. He's hoping that people will think it was his fault (even though many were involved and he did not personally direct the windows team) so that they don't blame Microsoft in general and he's hoping this will "wipe the slate clean".

I liked Windows Vista too, but the system requirements were waaaay too high for it's time. It used too much RAM and laptop gpu's struggled to run aero well. To be honest, it was mostly Intel's GPU's that were horrible.

I actually didn't mind Vista. I didn't have too many issues with it, but Windows 7 a way ahead of it.

The best part of Windows Vista was the release marketing and the online riddle/game thingy ...remember that? So much fun

http://vanishingpointgame.com/

Vista is the first Microsoft OS that fully incorporates NSA backdoor & spying, or so i read.
MSFT was under heavy pressures from NSA because Vista doesn't sell well.

Microsoft join the NSA spying program a year before vista release.

Hello,

Torolol said,
Vista is the first Microsoft OS that fully incorporates NSA backdoor & spying, or so i read.
MSFT was under heavy pressures from NSA because Vista doesn't sell well.

Microsoft join the NSA spying program a year before vista release.


Do you have a source for that?

People will say a ton of crap about Vista, but at the end of the day, it brought us all the changes need to advance the Windows operating system. So it wasn't that bad, just a bit of a mess at the beginning.

Before any company releases a new OS, they should make sure that all printer and scanner makers have updated their drivers for the new OS.

When Vista came out, many of the poor schmucks who installed it initially suddenly couldn't print or scan.

Yes, I know it's called 'planned obsolescence,' but it was certainly inconvenient, and reverting to a previous OS is always a pain.

I never had issues with Vista. I ran it on my laptop but not my home computer.
Why? Because I knew the laptop had the horsepower to run it, but my home computer
did not. I think MS screwed up by telling manufacturers to place the "compatible with Vista"
stickers on PC's that really didn't have the muscle to handle it.

I used Vista from the very beginning when it was still in beta on several different PC's and laptops at home and at work. Prior to SP1 it was slow and buggy. Just horrible. MS completely rebuilt the network stack in Vista and it was an buggy mess. Trying to do something as simple as copying a file over the network was a chore and an exercise in patience. The hard drives on my Vista systems were always constantly churning away on indexing and doing who knows what else. On a brand new system it only took a few weeks and the size of the OS would triple or more in size. The system drive on some of my machines were 80GB in size and that was just the OS with nothing else. Even today a fresh install of Vista with patches is about 20GB were Windows 7 is about 10GB. Windows 8.1 is even smaller.

Sorry Balmer, I respectfully disagree. Windows Vista was wonderful for myself and some of my colleagues. We would collectively agree that Windows 8 was your biggest mistake and if Windows Vista didn't give Microsoft a black eye, Windows 8 surely gave Microsoft two black eyes, a broken nose, a broken jaw, and many years of headaches.

warwagon said,
I've done my fair share of Vista malware cleanup.

But it didn't suffer the plethora of problems XP suffered. It didn't succum to buffer overloads, drive bys, and the amount of zero days XP did.

Vista, if you followed it from the earliest of days in the build, was ambitious and made huge leaps into new areas. At the end, they had to ship an OS and they couldnt complete what the initial vision was. What was left was a mere shadow of what the plan was.

Even Windows 7, which I would argue is their best OS to date, didnt complete the goals they set out for themselves with Vista.

Vista was a good OS, It was let down by some manufacturers being lazy when it came to drivers.
My install wasn't greatly affected by this, just a few peripherals from smaller manufacturers that forced you to use xp software and drivers and were buggy because of it.

But there is an upside to vista... without it we wouldn't of had Microsoft streamlining future OS's

Actually John, Ballmer had already said this to Mary Jo from zdnet when he gave her the interview spot on the day he announced his retirement. So this is kind of a bit late.

warwagon said,
I could have swore this was on the front page a month or so ago.

I was thinking the same thing, but I think it was Gates last time.

vcfan said,
yeah,selling hundreds of millions of something in a year is such below the benchmark of success.

When compared to their earlier product over the same period of time. It is indeed.

NinjaGinger said,
The sales figure seem to show 8 8.1 is a failure as well. Not a hater btw, just observation.

what sales figures? would you please point them out? because the last figures they released put windows revenues at record highs, and windows 8 sales in line with windows 7.

firey said,

When compared to their earlier product over the same period of time. It is indeed.

show me sales figures where sales are below the previous product. sales figures point to the same.

neonspark said,

what sales figures?

Million dollar question. Notice how eager MS is to show us numbers when something is doing great like the Xbox One stats they released. Their silence about Windows 8 speaks volumes.

Lord Method Man said,

Million dollar question. Notice how eager MS is to show us numbers when something is doing great like the Xbox One stats they released. Their silence about Windows 8 speaks volumes.

they shared in may the 100 million figure. I didn't know they had to share figures every few months. they never did with windows 7 .

Lord Method Man said,

Million dollar question. Notice how eager MS is to show us numbers when something is doing great like the Xbox One stats they released. Their silence about Windows 8 speaks volumes.

Sounds like what 100% of the companies out there do. Why would you want to publicize negative news????

vcfan said,

show me sales figures where sales are below the previous product. sales figures point to the same.

I do not see MS bragging about W8 sales..... Never a good sign.... For any company obviously.

It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

Yep! they certainly have.

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...
In my experience Windows 8(.1) is much more solid, has much better scheduling and overall a much smaller footprint than windows 7. In other words it performs better and much more fluid on hardware less powerful than what windows 7 requires.

The only thing 8.1 has going against it is a minute number of cry babies making a major deal about it not having a start menu which the people at large do not even use anyway. It's the same thing with the things MSFT dialled back in Xbox One because a few dumbnuts started a revolt over what they though would be bad and in the end it turns out they basically stopped some great functionality by their uninformed and premature yapping.

As an OS 8.1 is much better than 7.

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

maybe it is all just a plan for windows 9.

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

Here we go again...

If you don't like it, don't use it. Use 7 and quit whining about 8.

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

Windows 8 (when I say 8 I mean 8.1 because that was what it supposed to be at first place) is more stable and faster OS than 7. different but faster application access and touch screen optimized.

Kalint said,
It was brilliant because it made Windows 7 the best version and best selling OS. Then they screwed it all up with 8...

They did screw it up with 8. Then they redeemed it with 8.1 which is more stable and faster than windows 7. If you really like the start bar I can understand. Stay with 7. But I would rather have a customization start bar and metro apps than the older start bar. =)

But not sure desktop users have a big motivation yet to upgrade to 8. But I am glad I did =).

Scabrat said,

They did screw it up with 8. Then they redeemed it with 8.1 which is more stable and faster than windows 7. If you really like the start bar I can understand. Stay with 7. But I would rather have a customization start bar and metro apps than the older start bar. =)

But not sure desktop users have a big motivation yet to upgrade to 8. But I am glad I did =).

The task bar across all my monitors is a big one for the development system. I'll often have an RDP full screen on one monitor and that used to cover up my task bar. I also don't miss trying to find things in that mess of a start menu.

Spicoli said,

The task bar across all my monitors is a big one for the development system. I'll often have an RDP full screen on one monitor and that used to cover up my task bar. I also don't miss trying to find things in that mess of a start menu.

True. I totally forgot how nice it is. The multiple task bars is awesome! =)

Also, if I cant find it I just search for it anyways. I like the metro GUI better now too =).

paulheu said,
In my experience Windows 8(.1) is much more solid, has much better scheduling and overall a much smaller footprint than windows 7. In other words it performs better and much more fluid on hardware less powerful than what windows 7 requires.

The only thing 8.1 has going against it is a minute number of cry babies making a major deal about it not having a start menu which the people at large do not even use anyway. It's the same thing with the things MSFT dialled back in Xbox One because a few dumbnuts started a revolt over what they though would be bad and in the end it turns out they basically stopped some great functionality by their uninformed and premature yapping.

As an OS 8.1 is much better than 7.

Your statement lost any weight when, overcome by the usual arrogance of the Pasdaran, you declared that people who do not like W8 were "minute number of cry babies" and forgot to add "In my opinion".

Kaze23 said,

Here we go again...

If you don't like it, don't use it. Use 7 and quit whining about 8.

The vast majority of consumers are using 7 or something other than 8.x, obviously, that's one of the reasons Ballmer was shown the door and windows 8.x has completely failed.

Once SP1 came out and hardware manufacturers had about a year to develop drivers for the new driver model, Vista was stable.

The other factor that indirectly came out in a lawsuit is Intel pressured MS to certify vista for their most popular gpu G45 I think, and it was too underpowered in reality for Vista, and a lot of OEMS used this chip with computers since it was the cheapest one from intel.

Spicoli said,
I never found Vista to be all that bad although I only had it on one laptop. I never used it as a workstation.

Vista was a year too early even though it was two years too late! Basically Longhorn was a big mistake. They put too much on their plates trying to change so much (WinFS, .NET throughout most of the OS). So they killed off Longhorn and pretty much started again with Vista. This meant a big delay in the release cycle of Windows. This delay meant they missed out on the standard hardware refresh cycle that businesses and consumers had been used too. They also changed a lot of how Windows worked "under the hood" in Vista with new models for how graphics and audio drivers work. These changes when coupled with companies that were late to the party in developing Vista drivers meant that the first experiences most people had with Vista were poor. Missing features that were available in the XP driver on the same hardware, massive performance issues, etc. dogged Vista for the first year of its life.

Once SP1 came out a lot of these issues were resolved however the bitter taste left in everyones mouth from that first year made it a very hard sell even though it was much better. This was why we saw 7 pop along quite quickly and it was very well received (perhaps too well received!) although in reality the differences between Vista and 7 are not as great as the differences from XP to Vista. Goes to show you just how important that first year is!

Buggy Nvidia drivers, Creative dragging their feet, OEM's selling 512MB machines with "utilities" on startup that were never tested on Vista. Crap machines with crap software were what put people off Vista and shows a trend with OEMs: they are comfortable selling last years machine with a new OS slapped on it without any testing or consideration for new features. They did it with XP Media Center Edition, with Vista and now with Windows 8. The weakest link in Microsoft's image will always be the OEM's. Surface was the kick needed to shake them up, it may not sell like the ipad or galaxy tab, but it sparked OEMs to actually start trying and that can only be a good thing.

Spicoli said,
I never found Vista to be all that bad although I only had it on one laptop. I never used it as a workstation.
Vista was a shell of what Longhorn was supposed to be. The future was so bright yet so unstable they had to dump everything out and restart

Sadelwo said,
Buggy Nvidia drivers, Creative dragging their feet, OEM's selling 512MB machines with "utilities" on startup that were never tested on Vista. Crap machines with crap software were what put people off Vista and shows a trend with OEMs: they are comfortable selling last years machine with a new OS slapped on it without any testing or consideration for new features. They did it with XP Media Center Edition, with Vista and now with Windows 8. The weakest link in Microsoft's image will always be the OEM's. Surface was the kick needed to shake them up, it may not sell like the ipad or galaxy tab, but it sparked OEMs to actually start trying and that can only be a good thing.

Totally agree there, I had Zero issues with vista. Its all because I built the system with the proper specs and drivers. It ran smooth. Samething for Windows 7, 8, and now 8.1. However the title of this should have been Windows 8 instead of vista. That due to the backlash the start menu change had. Once people get past that or it gets reverted in the next version, pcs will start to make a come back.

yeah, sure, a 10 year old decision was his biggest mistake (NOT!) nice try at hiding your incompetence for the last few years Balmer.

Rudy said,
Vista was a shell of what Longhorn was supposed to be. The future was so bright yet so unstable they had to dump everything out and restart

Indeed; Longhorn was like Star Treck...

Fritzly said,

Indeed; Longhorn was like Star Treck...

If Longhorn would have went as planned I would probably still be a Windows user. Longhorn was really really cool

Rudy said,
If Longhorn would have went as planned I would probably still be a Windows user. Longhorn was really really cool

Same here....