Ballmer, who resigned as CEO of Microsoft in 2014 and remains the software giant's largest shareholder, said he believes Microsoft needs to "make more, better, faster" while speaking at the New York Economic Club in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday. He said his successor, Satya Nadella, is making the right strategic moves but left room for improvement.
"I do approve of my successor, I think they're making the right strategic moves, they've got to make more, better, faster," he said. "I want to see more profit growth."
Ballmer, now 61, resigned as CEO of Microsoft in Febuary 2014 and later that year left its board of directors as well. He left behind a mixed legacy at the company of which he had served as chief executive since 2000, overseeing successes and failures alike.
"It's tumultuous, it's always tumultuous," he said of his 2014 exit.
Ballmer has since moved on to new projects, including buying the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team and this week launching a new project, USAFacts, dedicated to mining and presenting government data. But his heart still resides, at least in part, with Microsoft and his experience in the tech world. When asked by veteran journalist Charlie Rose on Tuesday what he would do if he could start all over again, he said, matter-of-factly, "I'd still say software."
He touted what he perceives as a number of his successes while at Microsoft -- its search engine Bing, its Surface tablet, the Xbox gaming system and Office 365. He emphasized that many of the "hot products" the company is promoting today started on his watch.
"The team that's in place today was largely the team we had in place when I left," he said.
When asked by Rose about his biggest regret at Microsoft, he said the company should have gotten into hardware sooner. He also lamented its failure to capture the mobile phone wave.
"I think our model, trying to reproduce the Windows model in phones, was flawed," he said.
He said Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report and Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report Google had taken the right approach. "It's how you monetize the technology that you build," he said.
Ballmer in 2008 led Microsoft in making a failed hostile takeover bid for Yahoo (YHOO) for $44.6 billion. Despite the company's troubles, he believes it would have been a good investment. He cited Yahoo's Alibaba (BABA) - Get Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Sponsored ADR Report stake and what he saw as synergy between Yahoo and Bing.
"I'd have looked like a genius if we'd actually bought it," he said.
Editor's pick: Originally published April 18