A decade ago, Microsoft had little to do with physical hardware devices that weren't called Xbox 360. While Apple was building their own phones and computers, Microsoft stuck with the software that powered PCs and office productivity across the world.
According to a recent interview with Bloomberg, Ballmer says that he and Bill Gates drifted apart due to disagreements on what the company should do. Gates and Microsoft's Board of Directors were hesitant to try duplicating Apple's model of creating both the operating system and that platform itself, whether it be on a PC or a mobile device. Ballmer, on the other hand, says he was the one who pushed the company into the hardware business, stating the Surface brand was especially important to him. His only regret? Not getting into that business sooner. Despite the $900 million writedown of the Surface RT, the Surface line is now profitable with $4B in sales for the current year.
Ballmer is also disappointed that he wasn't able to come up with the idea of subsidized mobile devices, the tactic that helped Apple propel the iPhone into a market leader.
From a personal perspective, Ballmer says he and Gates have drifted apart over the years. The two started off as friends, but Microsoft was the glue that kept the two together and now that Ballmer has left and is busy running the Los Angeles Clippers, the two don't speak often.