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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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June 27, 2008 11:48 AM

Gates send-off: Two guys and 90,000 employees

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates reminisced in today's goodbye about their friendship, careers and the development of the software industry starting 34 years ago with their first encounter.

A mutual friend said the two energetic Harvard undergraduates, traveling in very different circles, had to meet. They hooked up for a man date of sorts --taking in a double feature: "Singing in the Rain," still Ballmer's favorite movie, and "A Clockwork Orange." They talked about their dreams and aspirations -- the beginning of a friendship that would evolve into one of the greatest partnerships in the history of business.

The two men seemed astounded by their success. (Gates said today was an exception to Microsoft's cultural bias against celebrating successes.)

In terms of employees, Gates recalled discussing with Ballmer the need to double the staff from 100 to 200, or 200 to 400. "But we always thought that would be it," he said.

In pursuing the company's dream of a computer on every desk, they were more preoccupied with "whether the company could handle the craziness of our current size. We never said, 'Well, someday we'll be 10,000, so let's not worry about the problems of being 2,000,' " Gates said.

As of Wednesday, the company counted 91,192 employees worldwide. Nearly 39,500 of them work in the Puget Sound region.

Ballmer said at some point, around the release of Windows 95, it became clear that the company was going to get a lot bigger. "But if anybody's wondering when we're going to have 180,000 people, stop wondering," he said.

Gates added, "No, I don't think we'll double again. But I've been wrong before."

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