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Ballmer Babies Banned From iPods and Google 554

Valah writes "In a recent Fortune interview with Steve Ballmer, the newer kinder Microsoft CEO is not only ready to take on the videogaming, search, music download and mobile markets - but he's also laying down the law in his own house. Steve says that his kids are not allowed to use Google or have an iPod."
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Ballmer Babies Banned From iPods and Google

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  • by Mattygfunk1 ( 596840 ) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:56AM (#15018015)
    I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

    I'd take the other approach - if they choose rival manufacturers then study first hand why they do so.

    First hand experience can tell you a lot more than market research sometimes, and might just give future MS products an edge.

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:57AM (#15018019) Journal

    From the article (emphasis mine):

    Do you have an iPod?

    No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children--in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

    Well now I get a sense of where the inability to know the market comes from. Get a clue Ballmer -- to best compete with your competition you get to know them intimately.

    Your strongest plan to defeat you competition is to know them as if you were them!

    The only other plausible way to unseat a king is to have so much money and power and control of other resources that you can bludgeon him, beat him mercilessly until all of his resources are gone and you can take the ... Hmmmm. Never mind.

  • That'll work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by illtron ( 722358 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:59AM (#15018032) Homepage Journal
    Telling kids what they're not allowed to do/have will certainly make them stop wanting to do/have whatever it is. It'll work for sure.

    On the other hand, if the alternative is being thrashed about like a rag doll by a sweaty man-ape...
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:02PM (#15018077)
    but he's also laying down the law in his own house. Steve says that his kids are not allowed to use Google or have an iPod."

    Ahh when will parents EVER learn? If you forbid something, it just makes the kids want it more.

    Coming soon, Ballmer's kids eventually end up working for Google, Ballmer buys an Island, sets up a wireless Windows-only network that blocks anything Google, and rules it by Windows-only voice commands from atop his throne.
  • Relevance? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mayhem178 ( 920970 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:03PM (#15018090)
    I have to say that the summary given for this article isn't at all representative of the article as a whole. That being said, I have to say this. How Ballmer deals with his kids is a private matter. It should stay a private matter, and he should have known this. As CEO of a company like Microsoft, he should know that his private home practices are not justification of his proposed business models.

    If he doesn't allow his kids to use Google or have iPods, that's his business. He shouldn't make it ours. That kind of preachiness can come back to bite one in the ass.
  • by Nijika ( 525558 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:05PM (#15018122) Homepage Journal
    I've been saying it for years, a company's attitude starts at the top. If he wasn't a moron, he'd be letting his kids use these things, and then he'd be observing them and quizzing them on why they like them. He has his own marketing team, right there in his house, but he's more content to control than to learn and discover. Well, -shrug-, that's why MS will be MS until he and Bill are gone. I feel sorry for the micromanaged offspring though.
  • by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:05PM (#15018123)
    The best way to get a child to do something is to tell them they're not allowed to do whatever it is. (Especially if you don't give them a good (or any) reason.)

    I'm not talking about using Reverse Psychology on them either. I prefer to educate them and let them decide for themselves what is best. If they're old enough to use a computer and Google/iPods, they are probably old enough to decide for themselves what they feel is a better product/service. Good 'ole Dad is just ushering in another reason for rebellion. Sometimes children need to be treated like children (because they act like children, of course). If you want them to act like they're older, you have to treat them like they're older, which means respecting them. Outlawing a competitor's website is ridiculous. If anything it should inspire him to want to create a better website so his children will WANT to use Microsoft's search instead of Google. I just think he's going about it in the wrong way.
  • Brilliant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mellonhead ( 137423 ) <slashdot AT swbell DOT net> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:07PM (#15018138) Homepage Journal
    Which means:

    1. They used google and were told to stop.
    2. They never used google but were told never to start.
    3. Bought an ipod and Steve got rid of it.
    4. Asked for an ipod and were told no.

    Either way, the genius is admitting that either his kids tried these products or he knew they were so superior that he had to do the preemptive strike to stop them.

    What an idiot.

    Actually, I'll vote for 5. He's a buffoon that needs to pound his chest on a regular basis (not to mention toss chairs) to seemingly make himself look like a tough guy and is making the whole thing up.

    Again, if so, what an idiot.
  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:08PM (#15018152) Homepage Journal

    I'm gonna take a wild guess that Steve Ballmer is, in fact, capable of joking, and that his kids aren't really forbidden from using Google or iPods, but instead really are Microsoft supporters. It's not really unheard of for kids to be fanatical about things their parents are involved in.

    I expect that Ballmer's kids really are "brainwashed" in the sense that they believe in their dad and the company they work for. I doubt they've been actually forbidden from using it, they'd just rather use the tools their dad makes.

    I know I've heard plenty from my father about how the projects he works on are the world's greatest... I'm tempted to name names, but I think I'll pass for now.

  • If my dad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:08PM (#15018154)
    If my dad was as rich as Ballmer, I could think of at least a few other things to do besides googling for stuff and using iPods.
  • by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:10PM (#15018166) Homepage Journal
    Think you can you crack the iPod market?

    It's going to take an innovative proposition. In five years are people really going to carry two devices? One device that is their communication device, one device that is music? There's going to be a lot of opportunities to get back in that game. We want to be in that game. Expect to see announcements from us in that area in the next 12 months.

    But the market is already doing this. Apple is already in on this. First with the ROKR phone (which was horrid) and now with the SLVR. In the near future, with holographic storage [] and other miniaturization, we'll be seeing phones with 30gb to 300gb+ capacity in no time.

    He's saying to look for announcements in the next 12 months. I think in 12 months, the market is going to be vastly different from now. More phones will have mp3 playing features. higher capacities.

    But I forgot. M$'s definition of "innovation" is to follow everyone else. ;)
  • Re:Child abuse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:17PM (#15018235) Journal
    It is a sad world when not having an iPod is child abuse.
  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:19PM (#15018250)
    When Steve Jobs introduced the iTunes store, and earlier when he was selling recording execs on it, he was able to describe to them exactly what consumers did and didn't like about peer-to-peer networks and monthly subscription models.

    He could say "They want to be able to get individual songs on demand without a monthly fee, and P2P gives them that -- sort of -- but we can make the experience much better because look at all the frustrating hunting around and poor copies, and look at the lack of previews, and so on..." His experience with the actual user experience was obvious to anyone who saw the keynote thing.

    By contrast, here we have Ballmer patting himself on the back over not letting his kids use the competition's dominant product. He's using the word "brainwashed" about his own kids. Visionary leadership, I'm sure.

  • by msuzio ( 3104 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:20PM (#15018264) Homepage
    He's Steve Ballmer. Richer than kings of old ever dreamed of. Much like the Hilton sisters, his kids are going to be able to be complete morons and they will get by just fine in life...
  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:22PM (#15018281)

    It's right there in your quote:

    I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

    There is the Microsoft business strategy in a nutshell. Do not debate relative merits, just brainwash your audience. Don't let them decide - tell them what they want.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:26PM (#15018319)
    Just like all the pastor's kids who became coke dealers, right?

    Not coke dealers, no, but a good many of them, perhaps even the vast majority, become anti-orginized religion and even; gasp!


    If you want to get something done:

    1. Do it yourself
    2. Hire someone to do it for you
    3. Forbid your kids to do it

    Children of pastors all sin intentionally at least once or twice, just, well, because. It's called "growing up." Asserting yourself as an individual human being and not just a plaything of your parents.

    One of the key factors in determining whether a child adopts a permanant choice agaisnt their parent's directives is whether or not, as adults, they can perceive that the stricture actually makes sense, or whether their parents were just being assholes.

    If the parents were just being assholes then the likelyhood of the children adopting a contrarian position to "stick it to them" goes up dramatically.

    So the question is, is Steve Ballmer making a stricture that makes sense (i.e., don't be a crack ho), or is he just an asshole?

    I leave this as an exercise for the stundent, but advise you to know where your chair is.

  • Come on! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by int19h ( 156487 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:31PM (#15018366) Homepage Journal
    The post says that "Steve says that his kids are not allowed to use Google or have an iPod.".

    This is plain wrong. Here's what he actually said:
    "My children--in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod."

    How is it possible to take this literally instead of as a joke? Come on!

    In fewer words, to the poster: RTFA + don't be a nitpick
  • Re:Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:37PM (#15018425) Homepage Journal

    I'm going to vote for #6. His kids want to use the stuff that daddy makes, and conciously choose to use Microsoft products because their father runs the company that makes them.

    I highly doubt Ballmer would have choosen to say his kids were "brainwashed" into using Microsoft products unless he was joking. "Brainwashed" is a curious choice of words if he really did forbid non-Microsoft products.

    If you read the interview, and not the Slashdot article, he actually says:

    [Fortune:] Do you have an iPod?

    [Ballmer:] No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children--in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

    My reading of that isn't that he forbids them from using it, it's that his children support their father and his buisness. I have no idea how old his kids are (and neither does Wikipedia) but depending on age, it's quite believable that his kids just like emulating their father and therefore choose to use Microsoft products.

    I read it as kind of a geek joke - Ballmer's kids are "brainwashed" into using Microsoft products because it's what their father uses.

    Not that all kids use what their parents use - my father uses KDE and Opera, but I'm currently posting this from GNOME using Firefox. But when I was younger, and my dad bought OS/2 for our home computer, I believed him when he said it was the greatest desktop OS ever...

  • by TwistedSpring ( 594284 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:39PM (#15018443) Homepage
    Seriously, I've seen this guy on various interviews and TV appearances, read about him online, and the guy seems completely mad. I'm not being facetious, the poor man is literally crazy, and looks like he's tearing himself apart in a continual battle between what's coming out of his mouth and reality.

    Look at him, he's always jumpy, he has a huge vein in his head that throbs all the time, he screams really loud whenever he gets the chance to extoll the virtues of XBox 360 or Windows Vista, but has a constant grimace of a smile hoisted across his face when being asked difficult questions. He shakes his head before everything he says when he's lying (e.g. when he says how they're On Track for Vista) as if he doesn't believe it. He's so tense it makes me feel tense just watching him.

    The guy needs to rest, or leave Microsoft. Banning his kids from google or ipods is just symptomatic of his increasing panic as he tries his very best to banish anything that suggests Microsoft is losing the race from his life. Any rational man would realise that Google and iPod are great products and it doesn't matter if his kids use it. It would be something to aim at. I would be saying "You think that iPod is fucking awesome, son, well just you wait for the crazy shit daddy is going to pull out of his ass," I certainly wouldn't be banning them from my household. I would use one.

    I'm genuinely concerned for his health. He really shouldn't be in the position that he's in, his buddy Bill Gates put him there to act as a forcefield between Gates and the reality of Microsoft. And while BillyG sits back with a fat spliff and chills between dictating endless new features for Vista, poor old Ballmer is shipped around the country to give uncomfortable interviews and spew his insane Microsoft evangelism. I think he's the only Microsoft evangelist there is right now, and he's trying his best to be a one man army. Shame he's losing the battle.
  • by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:39PM (#15018447) Homepage
    Alternatively: tip the veal, try the waitress....
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:49PM (#15018551) Homepage Journal
    Ballmer didn't say that iPods and Google are banned form his house. Here's what Ballmer said: "but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod."

    And "brainwashed" is supposed to be a joke, although nobody here would recognize one of those when it comes to Microsoft.

    If it were Linus saying "but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Windows, and you don't use MacOS," everyone here would get it.
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:50PM (#15018556)
    I'm inclined to believe it is just a BS comment made from the hip. To actually believe an executive officer of any company would "order" his kids to do anything flies in the face of marketing and parenting conventions. For marketing, you've drawn attention to some positives about using the competition's product: that it irritates Ballmer. For parenting, at a certain age telling your kids to not do something without guidence is one of the surest ways to have them do it.

    If it is or isn't true isn't the issue. The fact he said it indicates something of his thought processes on marketing and strategy. It seems to suggest that instead of concentrating on the quality of their product, or the quality of the competition's product, that the thing he would do is supress information about the other product. This isn't automatically a bad marketing strategy but is spooky on its own especially told in this parable. Even if the idea is made up, the idea is that Ballmer isn't interested in either his product or the competition but in control. If you are an investor this is what you should take away from the comment and use this tidbit of insight to help direct where your next investments should go.

    For such a visible face for Microsoft, he sure picked some *aweful* metaphors to discuss their strategy and products. He should recognize this and either chose his words more carefully or let others handle this stuff. He left us all with the implication he is an aweful person or that he is oblivious to consumer tastes.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:51PM (#15018571) Homepage Journal
    Fire Ballmer.
    Really if you can not get him to shut up and act like a human being then he has to go.
    1. Throwing chairs and saying that you going to f'ing kill someone has no place outside of a high school. Even in a high school kid it would be a sign of immaturity.
    2. Talking about not letting your kids use Google is great PR. For Google and Apple!
    3. For Steve Baller's next trick I see this. "Apple and Google are so much better the junk we make that I had to beat the crap out of my kids with a chair to keep them from using them!"
    BTW Steve Jobbs says "thanks".
  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @01:13PM (#15018755) Journal
    We recognise the humour, but consider it to be a crap, sub-standard joke; therefore we will respond with our own superiour humour solutions, many of which will be copylefted Free Jokes.
  • Basically, he is saying that his company cannot compete with the likes of Apple and Microsoft. It's just too good. even his own kis would jump on the iPod badwagon dispite the fact that they could get the Microsoft equivlenet for FREE. I mean that's how much better the ipod is! Steve Ballmer's own kids would use Google instead of MSN search if they were given a choice! So he takes what little control he has and forces his kids not to buy these products...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:31PM (#15019415)
    Seriously, do you think the CEO of Coke lets his kids drink Pepsi? It is the same thing. Their father is rich, so I doubt they are crying because they can't get an iPod. I am sure the brainwash comment was meant as a joke.
  • by deragon ( 112986 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:31PM (#15019421) Homepage Journal
    I often use Google groups to find solution to technical problems. Are there many other search engine for Usenet groups? Are they as good as Google groups?

    If Ballmer's kids cannot use Google, they might be deprived of a tool which no other serious alternative exist.
  • by cnerd2025 ( 903423 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:45PM (#15019539)

    My guess is that Steve was just joking.

    I thought that when monkeys joke, they throw feces at you. Of course, it is his house, and his rules too. Based on his previous statements (i.e. throwing chairs while swearing profanely, "I'm going to f***ing kill Google!"), then google is likely a "bad word" in all n 100000 square feet of his home. And the fact that he called iPod owners "theives" doesn't help the prospect of those in his massive dwelling either. Maybe when they get angry in the Ballmer household, scenes from "2001: A Space Odyssey" are renacted. Of course, how do we know they didn't give Arthur C. Clark himself that idea... I can hear it now, the overlay of "Developers! Developers!" and so on over "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and "The Blue Danube".

  • Re:Exactly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @02:51PM (#15019585) Homepage Journal

    There really isn't a lot to learn from the competing products; Microsoft only needs a bigger market share to be more competative in these areas, and If MS could copy what their competitors were doing (they can't in the case of google), they would.

    Marketshare doesn't just instantly materialize out of thin air. The days when MS could just leverage Windows dominance and expect that consumers would buy whatever they provided are over. I think MS has a lot to learn from competing products. The emphasis on ease of use over multitudinous features is what differentiates both Apple and Google products from Microsoft products. MS has already dramatically restructured MSN Search in an effort to mimimic the simplicity of Google. They'll have a tougher time applying what they learn from the iPod, because MS relies on third party hardware vendors to create devices. Still, it seems they could lean on their partners more heavily, telling them, "Look, if you want to run Windows Media on your devices, you need to make them easier to use."

    My feeling is that Microsoft could conceivably learn from its competition, but like Apple in the early 1990s, it has drunk too much of its own Kool-Aid. Ballmer and company don't want to hear that Apple's business model with iTunes/iPod (build the hardware and the software and the music store) or Google's approach (serve users first, and advertising revenue will follow) works better than Microsoft's tried and true "own the OS and leverage it relentlessly" business model. Hence, Ballmer would rather talk about brainwashing his kids. Whether his kids are old enough to use iPods is, in my opinion, beside the point. His comment betrays his stubborn refusal to acknowledge that MS has something to learn from the competition.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:05PM (#15019696) Homepage Journal
    Every time I hear a story about Steve Ballmer, I wonder how much longer until we see a news clip of him being led out of his house in a bathrobe and tissue boxes on his feet.

    Personally, I'd let my kids use a competitor product so I can find out why they chose it, what it brings, and how we can beat it.

    It is clear to me MS needs a complete managment change. There methods were fine when it was an emerging market, and they had contracts gaurenting OS sales with every computer sold.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:12PM (#15019768)
    Posting this anonymously because even though I no longer work at Microsoft, I don't want them to know who I am or where I work now.

    Funny you should mention dog food. I'm a former Microsoft employee and "dogfooding" is what Microsoft calls internal betas, and "we eat our own dog food" is a pretty common expression at MSFT.

    Last night, as I was navigating around my new cell phone, I was thinking "This isn't a bad phone, but I liked the interface better on my old one (I didn't get another from that vendor because my old one broke too many times), but you know what? I wish Apple would start making cell phones. The UI would be the best; if they sold them, I'd buy one right now." That must be MSFT's worst nightmare. Or one of them, at least.

    Steve Ballmer makes reference in TFA to convergence devices, and to expect to see announcements from MSFT on that in the next twelve months. OK, maybe. Maybe they'll even succeed. But I think a more likely scenario for success would be Apple selling cell phone-iPod hybrids and eating Windows Mobile's lunch. Microsoft has some good products (sadly, those are usually the ones that get the least attention), but they don't have anything that competes with an Apple product that is as good as the Apple product. I'm sure an Apple cell phone would be that way, too.

    About Ballmer's kids, he only *thinks* they don't use Google. Would you want to be laughed at for being the only kid at school who didn't use Google and said "I'll MSN Search it and get back to you" (I'm not kidding, that's what people say at MSFT; you're not allowed to use Google as a verb. I was actually *ordered* not to say "google it" when I was a n00b there). I think what he should have said is "They don't use Google or iPods at home where I can keep tabs on them."

    His reference to having them brainwashed, though, was serious, I'm sure. That's the reason I left Microsoft: the culture is very brainwashed. The propaganda stream is unending. Most people at MSFT seem to truly believe that they are the most creative and innovative company in the world. IMO very few, even at the highest levels, realize they aren't. Well, the propaganda and brainwashing was a major aspect. The other is that I realized something that very few at MSFT do, or at least will talk about: as an innovator and leader, MSFT's day is done. IMO Microsoft reached it's zenith when Windows 95 and Office 97 were still on the market. Microsoft is still hungry, but has become to massive to be agile. The recent management shuffle involving Vista is a nice example of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The people replaced were competent enough, and I'm sure the new ones are too, but they are no more likely to succeed. The organization, the group-think, the brainwashing, and the horrendous legacy code base and commitment to backwards compatibility, will sabotage their best efforts.
  • I always thought (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __aahlyu4518 ( 74832 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:29PM (#15019934)
    I always thought that wanting the best for your kids was 1 of the things that made you a good parent.... ;-) Shame on you Mr Balmer !
  • fair enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by suezz ( 804747 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @03:56PM (#15020145)
    I don't allow any of his products in my house.
  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:03PM (#15020206)
    No iPods or Google? Might as well tattoo kick me signs on their backs.

    It's worse. You don't parent by meddling in kids' lives to the point where you loom over them and not only say "You have to be home by 10pm, and you can't use the car" but then to also say "You can use the web to search but you can't search the way all your friends do" and "You can listen to music but you can't listen to it with what all your friends use" ... what is going to happen to these kids? They're going to be resentful of their father's repeated interference in their lives just becaise he doesn't like the brand of the devices they want to use. Kids have to learn to be responsible on their own and make their own informed choices, and a parent who interferes with their choices based on what you have to admit is an arbitrary criterion when it comes down to it is just going to find that his kids have no respect for him.

    When I was a kid my parents let me make my own choices. If I wanted to use brand X instead of brand Y that they preferred, it was my choice. They expected me to do my own research, and to make choices that were good for me and didn't get me in trouble, or anyone else in trouble. They had their preferences, sure, but if I wanted to buy item X with my weekly allowance, they let me buy it.

    A good parent does that. This isn't good parenting. It's not teaching the responsibility of making one's own choices, it's teaching that you should accept at face value that if someone else says that something is bad, it's bad, and to hell with the 99 people on one side of the room who say that you're making the wrong choice if Daddy gets it into his head that he, who is just one person, thinks he's right.

    My father never did that, and it got him respect. This is just going to get an attitude of "Damn parents meddling in my life". And so the circle of "my parents are idiots" continues, and therefore so does the circle of kids who are ever-ruder and have less and less respect for their parents by the day -- no, by the minute.
  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:06PM (#15020229)
    As someone who actually does go to church, I can tell you that NONE of the pastor's kids I have ever known have become atheists.

    You are in the church, so you see the ones that stay in the church.

    I am not in the church, so I see the ones that left.

  • by gibodean ( 224873 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:06PM (#15021245)
    You say Pastors spend their whole lives trying to help others......

    Umm. No. Some might help others. But, their job description is to further indoctrinate people into their religion, feed them crap ideas and get them to donate money to that same cause.

    Telling people about a "Jesus" who will wipe away their sins if they follow the church is not helpful. Believers think it is, but it really isn't.

  • by linkskywalker ( 956568 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:45PM (#15022018)
    That's the funniest thing I've ever seen on slashdot. Ever.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable. -- C.B. Luce