[AUDIENCE CHEERING AND APPLAUDING]
DAVID J. MALAN: This is CS50, Harvard University's introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming. We are so excited to have an amazing alum here with us today. He was a member of the Harvard class of 1977. He concentrated in applied math economics. And he was a resident of Currier House.
He was manager of the Harvard football team, advertising manager of the Crimson, and publisher of the Harvard Advocate. And upon graduation, he headed off for a to Stanford's business school, but didn't stay long, as he was quickly recruited by a friend of his to a little company we all know now as Microsoft, where he served first as business manager, later as CEO, and is now the owner of the LA Clippers.
CS50, this is Steve Ballmer.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
STEVE BALLMER: Well, thanks. I'm honored to have a chance to be here with you today. When I first talked to David about this, he said, I'd really like you to come on in and give an advanced lecture in machine learning and computational thinking. We didn't dwell on that idea very long.
So I thought I'd give you a little talk-- if I can figure out which space bar I'm hitting-- what do we need to do to change? I won't touch that one. This one I won't touch. There we go. OK.
I thought I'd give you a little-- you've got to be a competitor in business. Anyway, I thought we'd talk a little bit today, just a few thoughts, on most of what I learned I learned at Harvard University. I thought I'd try to summarize that in about nine easy steps and then four things I learned after I got out of this place, and hopefully get all through that in about 25 minutes-- just to give you a little bit of food for thought. And then we'll do Q&A.
I am 99.999999999% sure that nothing we talk about today will matter for your grade or will appear on the final. I think you're as safe as rain on that today. But hopefully, get you thinking about a couple things as we go through. First thing that's probably important for you to register-- this is sort of academically dangerous-- of all those many important things I learned at Harvard, it wasn't in the classroom. As I listened to David do the introduction, I thought to myself, it sounds like I majored in extracurriculars when I was here. That's actually true. I attended all of one class session senior year. Junior year was a little bit better.
With modern technology, I don't know what the possibilities are, but they would seem to be even greater today for mischief outside the classroom. But I will tell you it was really very, very formative and seminal. I arrived here in 1973. And I was hell bent and determined that I was going to get my Ph.D. in either math or physics. And about the only thing to figure out was whether it was going to be math or physics. That was it. That's all that needed to be figured out.
Freshman year, the big decision was whether to take Physics 55-- I don't know if that course still exists-- or Math 55. I thought I'd take both, and the kindly adviser said, young Steve, big mistake. I won't allow you to do that. So I took one of them and did an independent study in the other. And thank god I did.
First lesson, I learned very, very early. Freshman year, I took my first exam. I took my first exam. I walked out of it. I called my parents and said, I think I just flunked out of school. I was already involved with the Harvard football team doing statistics. I was supposed to go down to Penn, so it must have been about this time of year, since the schedule for football hasn't changed in 50 years.
We were supposed to go down Penn. I didn't go, because I was crest fallen that I had flunked out of school. I got my exam back the next week, and sure enough, I had gotten a 33, which was about fifth or sixth in the class. The guy who got 75 is Ph.D. in physics, is a professor of physics, and is a genius. So it took me about two months to learn I wasn't a physicist and I wasn't a genius. And everything good started right there with my first big failure, so to speak.
I just finished giving a class, actually, at the business school at Stanford. And I worked with a lady who had been a professor here at Harvard in economics and now is at Stanford Business School. And I took the opportunity to look back and reflect on, let me say, important lessons that I've learned over the time of my life, but particularly that mattered to me as I was running Microsoft.
And I'm not going to try to go through the detail of each, but I summarise them in short form. And when I stopped and looked back and I said, how many of those relate to something concretely that I got out of my experience at Harvard, the answer turns out to be very high.
Small show of hands-- how many freshman do we have in the class? Sophomores? Juniors? Seniors trying to get that last CS in before you leave? OK, good.
I will tell you that in reflection, the amount you can get out of this place is stunning. My best friends, many of them I met to this day while I was here. The formative experiences, I got here. And everybody tells you, but it's amazing what you can get out of the place.
Number one for me, life lesson, is ideas matter. Now, people say, of course ideas matter. What kind of stupid life lesson is it that ideas matter? The truth of the matter is this is both under and over appreciated. Most people think every idea is a good idea as long as they had it. The truth of the matter is not every idea is a good idea. Not every idea matters. And not every idea should be pursued.
And if you're in a field like I am or was of innovation, not every idea is a good idea, even if it strikes you that way on first blush. In fact, most people are lucky to have one idea that really matters in their whole life. That's not a criticism. But earth shattering, life changing ideas are very few and far between-- research insights, investment insights, innovations. A good idea needs to be cherished and nurtured. And in some senses, you could say I learned that here at Microsoft-- here at Microsoft-- here at Harvard.
I actually know what's on the slide, though. I learned it here. Microsoft was started here by Bill Gates and Paul Allen when I was here. When I finally joined the company, it was five years after Microsoft got started. Some people would say it got started up at the Currier House, but it really got started up at the housing project up at Ringe, which is where Paul Allen was living.
But this notion, which Microsoft started, was the idea that software represented a form of free intelligence, and that if you coupled it with this new essentially free intelligence in the form of the microprocessor, unbelievable things would happen. And that basic idea that software was a mobilizing force for this new microprocessor, which was free-- that obviously was a big idea.
And that was the idea that Paul Allen and Bill Gates had when they started the company. And ideas do matter. And it is worth considering and not falling in love with every idea you have, whether you're trying to solve a problem set or you're trying to do something else.
Second thing I learned is there is an advantage to being what I like to call now hardcore. Hardcore-- I don't know quite how to describe it. It's a combination of tenacious and dedicated and passionate and committed-- something like that, hardcore.
I learned about being hardcore from math concentrators at Harvard.
I'm not going to ask whether we have any math concentrators here. But I would say that's where I got my lesson. People could just go crazy-- focused. And it wasn't just that people were genius, but working and working and working and working. I'd sit in my room working on a problem set, and after three hours-- I'm a little ADD-- I just couldn't take it. The most hardcore people could just power through anything.
And the advantage of being that tenacious and dedicated and committed-- I claim it helped us at Microsoft. It was fundamental at Microsoft. But I learned it here at Harvard.
Passion-- I think it's probably fair for me to say at this stage in my life that basketball is a passion. I started keeping track of rebounds and assists. $12 a game I used to get paid. I went to every Harvard basketball game, which I would have gone to anyway. But I got paid $12 to keep track of rebounds and assists.
And I will say that finding your passion is something you get to do almost in a unique way in college. And finding the things that you are passionate about is probably the most important thing that you get to really start doing when you get to college. Before college, everything's about getting to college. It's unfortunate, but I know it's true.
Here, take the time to explore your passion. I now this year will probably go to about 200 basketball games. I think it's fair to say it is a passion. But sitting there in the old IAB, which I think is called the Malkin Center, marking down-- there's a guy named Lou Silver who played on the Harvard basketball team in 1975. I gave him the benefit of the doubt on every rebound ever. I think I was part of his All Ivy success. And who was one of the first guys to email me when I bought the LA Clippers? Lou Silver-- passion built early in life.
Own the results. This is actually, I think, one of the hardest things for college kids to get, especially kids at Harvard, which is at the end of the day, it's not just about whether you have a good idea and whether you're really talented and really smart. That's enough to get you into a lot of good colleges, including this one.
But all of those things are not really measures of success. You have to do something other than make grades and get measured on them in life. That's generally how the world works. And really being accountable for outcomes makes you better at everything you do. I comped for the Crimson and had to go sell $1,000 worth of advertising. That was a lot of money. I don't know what the numbers would be these days-- but $1,000 of ad revenue, and then took on ad sales.
And feeling the pressure, particularly at an institution that basically has no money-- at least that's where the Crimson was 35 years ago-- it's good for you. It's good for the soul. And it actually makes you better at everything you do to own outcomes.
Time-- how many people in the room would say they are too busy? Not busy enough? That's a politically unpopular place to put your hand, but God bless you for putting your hand up over there. The truth of the matter is, thinking about time as something to be managed, whether it's how long-- for those of you who are seniors, I'm sure you'll ask the question, how long will I do my first job? How long? Will I stay in my job six months, a year, five years?
How long before I decide whether I really like my career? How long before I really like my major? How am I really managing my time?
I got involved in a lot of extracurriculars. The one that broke the bank for me was becoming publisher of the Advocate. I'm not even sure why I did. Really, I'm not sure why I did it. It was another resume build. I was already busy with football and the Crimson.
But I did it. And then time management really got into my vocabulary. I really did have to manage-- and I don't even measure it. I started skipping class. I already confessed to that. But managing time even amongst the extracurriculars got to be a big, big deal.
Today, I actually keep a spreadsheet, a bunch of them. These are all the things I'm going to do in my life. Here's how much time is budgeted to them, and allocate it. I record everything into Outlook. I have a macro that spits it out in Excel. And I do budget versus actual comparisons.
It's a little different since I've, quote, retired, unquote. But at Microsoft, I could tell you I was going to have 12 one on ones with Harry this year. And then I would track them. How many did I have? I was going to spend 10 hours a year talking to customers over the telephone versus in person. And I just measure everything, because I think time is so important.
Storytelling-- I think in whatever you choose to do in life, even if you're going to be the most hardcore, dedicated computer engineer, learning to tell a story, whether you do it with my-- I can't write a lick, but I'm not bad at a speech, but my speech style is very different than people standing at podiums. It's very different.
Being able to tell a story through your work, through your speech, through your writing is so important. You want a grant application? You better tell your story. You want your start up idea funded? You better tell your story. You want to be the top engineer on the team who's compelling vision about where the product should go? You better be able to tell a story.
And in general, I don't think people come out of school well versed in storytelling. On the other hand, as Harvard football manager, I had to get up every team meal-- listen up, everbody-- and make announcement for the coaches. And I got to tell you, being a manager is not a lofty, revered position. At least, it wasn't 40 years ago. I'm sure now it's very different, because the whole system has changed. But you'd get up there and you'd say, how do I tell this story? What am I really going to announce? What am I going to do? Even learning to give speeches-- I was very shy as a kid. And being a Harvard football manager for me was like this huge, transformative experience.
The last lesson I learned at Harvard is-- not literally, but figuratively-- it's get in the weight room. The weight room in sports is where you get in shape. You build new muscles. You build new flexibility. You learn to do new things because you have new capabilities.
In life, you have to stay in the weight room. You have to keep evolving, building new skills, learning new things. And that's easy to say, but a lot of people don't do it. You could say, OK, well, people who go into the tech industry all do-- not true.
I'll just give you one big transformation that's happening in the world today. Most people who are my age learned a form of computer science where you wrote a program that took inputs and gave you outputs that were correct or incorrect. Most modern programming says, give me a bunch of inputs and I'm going to statistically guess about what might be interesting here.
That's a very new skill. And if you find people who are, let's say, 10 or 15 years out of college, they don't think that way technologically, even to this day. And so the need-- whether it's in your career or in your life-- for me at Harvard, I taught Math A? Does Math A still exist as a course? It was pre-calculus.
Suffice it to say, because I thought of myself as some super math guy, I had to learn to take concepts and explain them simply. I was teaching pre-calc, something I had done five years earlier. And the ability to build new skills-- I point to the experience of doing that at Harvard.
Beyond Harvard-- yeah, there were still a few things to learn. I know this is the best institution, absolutely, in the world. I was at the Boston Globe today talking about Harvard, number one in everything. I bleed Harvard. But I actually learned a couple things after I got out of Harvard.
The first message I would say is in life, you want to be your own quarterback. See the playing field. Many people like to get myopically tied into one thing, and they have a hard time stepping back. Being CO of Microsoft is this amazing, wonderful opportunity. It turns out, everybody in the world wants to tell you what to do. And they'll educate you.
You want to learn about any field of technology? As long as you don't act like a know it all, somebody will educate you. And you have a unique ability to see broadly across the technology field. Right now, I'm spending a lot of my time studying government and the economy.
It turns out the number of places you can actually read about the totality of government in the United States is almost zero. What is the total spent in government in this country, and what does it get spent on? There's no government report on that topic.
The best site happens to come from some random blogger who I met, who I think it's great, by the way. But I found him through our Bing search engine, not surprisingly.
That's my only plug for today. I'm still a shareholder-- but seeing the field. In life, it's always good to be the first person to achieve something. It turns out the guy who wins is the guy who was doing it last. So it's always best to invent a new idea, be the first to do something. But ultimately, it's about committing to be successful and to stay at something. It's sort of a corollary of being hardcore.
And certainly, there are fields of Microsoft's success, like selling to large enterprises, where when we started on that in the '80s, people said, you'll never do it. That's all IBM's purview. And today, that would be 70% or 83% of Microsoft profits come because we failed at something for 20 years but we kept at it.
Corollary to ideas matter-- it's hard to have a second idea. If you really study the tech industry, most tech companies have one idea, and as long as the idea is hot, they stay hot and then they fade to black. If you look at all the companies that were important in technology when I got to Microsoft in 1980, only IBM is still around. And I might argue it's not a tech company anymore.
And my great dream for Microsoft is that it is, so to speak, a two, three, or four trick pony. I said someplace that I thought Apple and Microsoft were amazing because they were two trick ponies, and somebody thought I was bashing Apple. No, that's my ultimate compliment.
Anybody who can have two good-- if you have one idea, I think you're amazing. If you have two ideas, you're lionized in history for your success. It's really interesting.
Optimim-- Colin Powell came to speak one year at our executive retreat after he had been Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And he has this quote that I have come to love. "Optimism is a force multiplier." And particularly amongst technical people and really smart people, the chic, chic, cool thing to do is to be cynical and skeptical and pick things apart.
I know that would never happen in CS50, but you see that amongst certain kind of high IQ technical people. And yet, optimism is a force multiplier. So how are you brutally realistic and be optimistic? It's very, very important.
I figured this out after a while at Microsoft. Salespeople at Microsoft are naturally optimistic, probably everywhere. Just tell us where to go and we're gonna run! And I know we're gonna succeed! Because people want to believe. Engineers, you say, here's where we're going to go, and the first thing they say is, oh, come on.
That's not right. That's not the right way to go. But I have found-- and this might belie my fundamental optimism-- that the engineer's optimist is sometimes a little different than the salesman. While the salesman just says, where to go, charge, the engineer likes to say, the world is all screwed up, but I can fix it. That's an engineer's optimism to me. Everything's-- but I can fix it.
Luck-- this is the one that really doesn't always play well amongst Harvard guys. It turns out that as smart as you are, as privileged as you are to be at a place like this, and as hard as you work, luck is still going to be a factor in your life. Whether you're Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or the man in the moon, luck is important. It really is.
Why is that important to know? Because it means you better like what you're doing. You better not be doing things just because it will make you successful, because you're going to need some luck to make yourself as successful as you want to be anyway. So find something where your passion wins out, where you're really satisfied. And then understand-- I know this.
I think I'm really talented guy. I think Bill's a genius. I think Paul Allen is amazing, insightful guy. And I say, boy, how lucky we were. Apple-- I've seen their success, and yet, how lucky they were in many dimensions. We're a company that gave them $500 million when they were almost bankrupt in '97-- confluence of factors. And then they did great things with it. But luck always factors in.
And then last, but not least, because I think I'm about out of time, everything in the world-- and this comes from a guy with a real bias-- everything is a technology problem. Innovation and technology is the heartbeat that leads to progress in the world.
I read this book in the last six months. It's called Inequality, Capital in the 21st Century by a French economist named Piketty. It was kind of controversial. It turns out, if you look at the Amazon statistics, hardly anybody finished the book. It sort of reads like a socialist diatribe in the end. But it's got all this great analysis in the beginning.
But a fundamental point he makes, looking back over thousands of years of history, is GDP growth is only a function of three things. So the improvements in life are a function of population growth and innovation. That's it-- population growth and innovation.
Today, the hot technology, the operating system of all innovation, is computer science. And as I guess David likes to say, I'm Steve Ballmer. This is CS50, the most important class you'll take at Harvard. Thank you.
[APPLAUSE] DAVID J. MALAN: So Steve has kindly left an enormous amount of time here to take questions. We have two microphones here. We have two microphones in the balcony. So you are encouraged to meet Gabe and Davin and others here if you would like to be the first and second to ask these questions. STEVE BALLMER: Or you can shout out. I've heard that's standard protocol in this class.
DAVID J. MALAN: All the better.
STEVE BALLMER: That also works.
DAVID J. MALAN: Our first question over by Gabe here.
AUDIENCE: What was it like for you making that decision to drop out and go to Microsoft? Because obviously, there was a lot of uncertainty.
STEVE BALLMER: OK. It's 1980. I'm at Stanford Business School finishing up my first year. Bill Gates calls as I'm trying to decide what to do for a summer job. He says, hey, look, how are things? Yeah. Yeah, oh, you're not finished yet. Yeah. Too bad you don't have a twin. We could kind of use a business person around here. That was the pitch.
I thought about it, and I said, well, shoot. I guess I could tell him. So I called him back the next day and said, well, maybe we talk. We should talk. And my instincts were actually right. The most risk-free decision you'll ever make is the decision to drop out of college. No, why? I say it for a reason.
Colleges let you drop back in. All my friends, professors-- oh, you're not gonna do that. You're gonna go to work for McKinney or blah blah blah-- I can't remember who I had offers from-- Brownstone Consulting Group.
And I said, I might go join this friend of mine who's got this small start up. Well, what do you know about that place? And I said, it's the world leader in something called software. And I had written a couple programs, but it's not like I-- I did not take CS50. The only programs I had written was for AM115 or something like that. It was a mathematical modeling class.
And they looked at me kind of funny. And I told my mom and dad. My dad was an immigrant. My dad did not go to college. My mom did not go to college. My dad was an immigrant from Switzerland. The only college he really grew up hearing about was Harvard. Even when I went to Stanford to Business School, he was afraid I was making a mistake, because it was some place unheard of to him. And I said, I'm going to drop out. And this company is the world leader in software for personal computers. And my dad said to me, what's software? Well, that was not an ignorant question in 1980. It would seem funny now.
And my mom asked me an even more prescient question, which is why would a person ever need a computer? Because remember, we're in a time of room-sized computers. But I said, look. I made a deal with Bill that said if it didn't work, he could fire me or I could drop back into Stanford at the end of the summer.
After a month, I decided I'd made a mistake going to Microsoft. I was basically the bookkeeper for a 30-person company. I told Bill we were 30 people. We needed to add 18. He said, you're gonna bankrupt this place, Steve. I didn't ask you to drop out of Stanford to bankrupt Microsoft.
And we had a huge fight. We were good at that.
And then he said, come on. We're going out to dinner with my dad. Bill's dad's sort of a scary looking dude-- not really, but he's 6'7". 6'7" doesn't look that tall anymore either to me, but that's a Clipper thing.
But anyway, I went through my shtick for Bill and his dad. And that's where Bill invented what I think was the theme for the company. He said, you don't get it, Steve. We're going to put a computer on every desk and in every home.
And I settled down. I stayed. Stanford would still take me back. It turns out, to this day, I could go finish my MBA. It just isn't that risky a proposition, because these great schools let you take time off as opposed to drop out of their memory banks. It turns out, I'm still a Stanford alum, too, when it comes to alumni giving.
DAVID J. MALAN: Another question from Ian at the mic here.
AUDIENCE: So you've made a series of comments about net neutrality, particularly speaking against it, most recently in a tweet. And that's a particularly unpopular opinion amongst a lot of young people and tech people, so I was wondering if you could elaborate that in maybe more than 180 characters.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah. Well, first, I haven't made a lot of comments. I made one little tweet yesterday, because I was kind of annoying on the plane and had nothing to do. So I tweeted. And boy, did that tweet get more attention than I ever expected.
But look, I can explain. What is net neutrality about? I'm not quite sure. But it's not necessarily about keeping down the price of internet access. Competition keeps down the price of internet access. Net neutrality is merely deciding who's going to pay. If the providers who are making money on the internet-- the Googles, the Netflixes-- the Clippers, for example, if we were to go over the top with the Clippers broadcast, we too would be a broadband content provider. We're looking at that at the Clippers.
But by saying you can't differentially charge for the traffic, what it says is all consumers should pay a higher price for the people who need the services that actually cost more. So if you watch Netflix, there's two approaches. You can tell your neighbor who doesn't watch Netflix, ha, ha, ha, ha. You pay more, even though you don't watch Netflix, than I do. Or you can let the market compete in differentially priced.
I think we're going to get better service, more pricing options, and a better overall deal by having competition between broadband providers than by regulating the price. So this, to me, is not about low prices versus high prices. It's about letting free enterprise solve the problem versus thinking a few thinkers in DC can invent complicated pricing and tariffing schemes that are superior in creating opportunity than the market.
Ultimately, what we really want is more investment in broadband infrastructure that leads to better service at lower prices. I'm with you on that. I'm 100% in on that. I'm making a statement in terms of how I think the world will best achieve that. And I feel clear in my thinking about that. DAVID J. MALAN: Up next, our microphone by Anton. STEVE BALLMER: And I'll say that even though I know we probably will wind up-- if we go over the top with our Clippers TV broadcast, we will wind up paying more and our customers will pay more and we will make a little less profit, but everybody else will get lower prices for fundamental broadband access. AUDIENCE: Thanks for your time. What do you love most about owning the Clippers? Who's-- wave your hand so--
AUDIENCE: Up here. STEVE BALLMER: Oh, hi. AUDIENCE: What's up, Steve? STEVE BALLMER: It seemed like God. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Voice of a deity.
STEVE BALLMER: What do I like best about owning the Clippers?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, exactly.
STEVE BALLMER: I don't know. Three months in, I can find the bathrooms now in the stadium. That's my level of sophistication. There's a lot of things that have been fun. It turns out it's even more fun to think about the team dynamics and hear about those from the coach than I thought.
Worrying about the fan experience in the arena-- I didn't-- the song you were playing before this started, I don't know the name, but I need to get the name from you. I was thinking, that's a great song. We could really use that song for pump ups coming out at time outs.
No, seriously. You could say it's my-- I still am I a "We Will Rock You" kind of guy. But we have 150 possessions in a basketball game. And let's say at least on half of them, we want to do something to keep the crowd engaged. How do you do that? How do you orchestrate that kind of busy environment? What do you want to do on the Jumbotron?
The technology in basketball-- unbelievable. Every MBA arena now has six cameras in the ceiling that are taking pictures of the action. And there actually are start ups that have machine learning technology that looks at the video and characterizes the action so it uses computers to decide that was a pick and roll versus a pick and pop with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. That was a blitz by Jamal Crawford. And every arena is equipped with this technology.
And literally-- it's a company called Second Spectrum. And one of the key guys is a 6'9" hooper out of MIT who never played basketball after college, but he's doing machine learning algorithms across vision recognition on basketball stuff. That's been kind of fun. The in arena, thinking about going over the top and what do the economics look like-- it turns out there's a lot of pretty cool things.
It's much more complicated business than it is large. Microsoft, we have 100,000 people. We got about 130 at the Clippers. And yet, the breadth of problems we get to think about is actually-- well, it's not 1,000 times less complicated. It's probably 500 times less complicated than Microsoft.
DAVID J. MALAN: Next question from Gabe's mic here. AUDIENCE: Oh, hi. My name is Larson Ishii. I write for Clips Nation, so I was going to continue with the Clippers questions. But I was going to ask about how you're incorporating the rest of technology. I've seen that you guys have an increased proportion of statistics within games, such as showing the four factors that produce the probability of victory within the game, which I don't think any other teams are doing in the league currently, which is really awesome.
So I just want to know how, from your math background, you're incorporating more of the technology and statistical side into the game of basketball in what is scene as more than emerging field, and if that can help solve the Clippers' small forward problem right now. STEVE BALLMER: With a little edge in the end of that question-- [LAUGHTER] What we're doing right noq-- and the tech is just not quite there-- is for every game, we produce a couple of plays that actually take some key play from last time we played an opponent, and it shows statistically what the probability was of success and the expected points, depending upon the decisions the player makes. So you see the guys on the court. Chris is with the ball. If he throws it to Blake Griffin, 30% chance. On this one, he'd have a 40% chance of making a basket with an expected two point or three shot point shot. And we're using that to demonstrate.
What you want to do, of course, is get it so comes back real time. So we can take a play that just happened and have the visualization based upon the data that's coming out of the sensors happen in real time so fans can really track just how amazing the speed and the decision making at that speed is.
But we're working our way up to that. The thing that we've done that actually gets a lot interest is the thing we call our Clipper Tron application. You just go to www.clippertron.com while you're sitting in the arena, and you can pick your favorite player. You can pick a kind of a play-- a pick and roll, a blitz, a this and this. And we'll go throw the highlight up on the Jumbotron. We're adding, now, Twitter and Facebook integration. So we put your name. We'll put your picture. And we'll put the plays that you picked and we can-- people love seeing themselves on the Jumbo-- kiss cam, all that kind of stuff.
At least, now, we're letting people throw up basketball action. Eventually, I want to be able to do it in people's homes. So with your phone, you go to Clipper Tron, and we'll throw it up live in the broadcast to you on TV-- so some of the stuff we're playing with.
DAVID J. MALAN: Another mic up by Dan Bradley.
AUDIENCE: Steve, after his contract with the Lakers is up, would you consider signing Jeremy Lin as a backup for Chris Paul?
STEVE BALLMER: I support Doc Rivers 100% in his decision making about our basketball team. My job is to support, ask a lot of questions, and support. How's that for not answering your question?
I did go to the Laker-Clipper game in LA last week, week before last. I'm pleased to report two things. One, Jeremy Lin played well. And two, we kicked them.
AUDIENCE: So I'm Bobby. I'm from LA, just in case you guys need interns this summer. No, I'm just kidding. [LAUGHTER]
STEVE BALLMER: Bobby, email@example.com, in case you need an internship this summer.
Luck, opportunity, take advantage of it. You got to feed the aggressive instinct. Go ahead, Bobby. Run with it, though, babe.
AUDIENCE: So you mentioned your 33 on your first exam or whatever. But can you tell us more about other examples of failure in your career at Microsoft or in your life and what you've learned from it and how you responded, et cetera? STEVE BALLMER: Yeah. I'm funny. I don't actually-- it turns out, I got a B plus on the test with the 33, because it was the fifth highest grade in the class. Although I do to play golf with a guy in LA who reminds me he got 50 on the test and beat me. He remembers that to this day.
So everything's relative. I'm a guy who's so optimistic, in a way, I never think I fail. I just haven't succeeded yet. I say be first, but commit to be last. OK. Well, that's not going well. And you can see it in Microsoft behavior. People used to say we don't get things right till version three. I don't know whether to take that as a criticism or praise. Get it right early is good, but commit to getting things right.
So I've certainly had setbacks, whether it was at school. Certainly, when we and IBM split ways, I thought our company would probably go out of business. That was about 1990. Certainly, I've been told many times that we'd never succeed in the enterprise business. I was told that you can't do a start up video game.
I was told no search engine will ever succeed versus Google. There's still more of an element of truth to that one than I'd like.
I was told that the mobile device market is locked up, which I don't believe. It's partly because I believe in the power of innovation and the power not only for people to change and improve themselves, but that things do change over time. And as long as you're prepared, as I said in my talk-- if you've been in the weight room and you have the capabilities and skills to do something and you stay in the game, then you're prepared to take and seize on the next idea.
It's kind of like saying, hey, look, we don't know how to beat the-- I won't take basketball. I'll take football. People don't know how to beat the Patriots or the Seahawks. But that doesn't mean you don't stop training, working out, building skills. You keep working on your game plan, but you're always building your skills and capabilities. Then you can be optimistic that failure will lead to success the next time. DAVID J. MALAN: Why don't we take a couple more questions and leave some time for hellos at the end? Belinda? AUDIENCE: Hey, thanks so much for coming. So I really appreciated a lot of the things you said, and I think three things in specific really resonated with me. One, treasure your time. Two, see the field. And three, also explore your passions.
So the way I see it, the problem is that time is so finite and that we have such limited time. And explore your passions seems to me more depth-based, whereas seeing the field is very breadth-based. So taken in the context of also acquiring new skills, how do you prioritize your time? And specifically for you, when you said you created a budget for your time, how did you decide what was important and what would be worth your time, basically?
STEVE BALLMER: OK. Let Two stories-- let me start as an undergraduate at Harvard. I beg every senior I know do what I did, because I thought it really worked out. When I was a senior, I interviewed with 35 different companies on campus.
I'm trying to get my son to do that. He's a senior. I've tried to get friends of mine whose kids went to Harvard-- people don't do that. But why was that good? And then I got a chance to sniff 35 different companies, 35 different cultures. I went back and visited. I can tell you what it felt like to run a check processing room at Mellon Bank. I can tell you what it would have felt like to go to Minot, North Dakota and trade grain for Cargill. I can tell you what it would have felt like to run a small start up insurance company in Cleveland-- Progressive Insurance, which is now, of course, a major player. I remember all these visits. And I just think if you want to see the field, you have opportunities to get what I would call rapid little experiences that are really helpful before you get down to your passions.
What I would say as a CEO I did is I blocked two kinds of time. One was time that I would do whatever our people in a given country wanted me to do or our engineers in a given product group wanted me to do. That means they're telling me about things I'm not necessarily interested in. But I can always help the sales rep with a sale. Hey, the boss is here, blah blah blah. But I'm learning, learning, learning, learning.
And then I also blocked explicitly about call it a total of 20% of my time where people couldn't schedule it. And then I could use it for reading, exploring. But even time to explore needs to be blocked. And time to let others educate you needs to be blocked.
And I think that's part of how you can continue to see the field and then develop the kind of passion-- so just a few thoughts.
DAVID J. MALAN: Last question from Davin's mic.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm J. Paul Meyer. Over your years at Microsoft, what product or hire or whatever it is have you been most excited about or you most excited about?
STEVE BALLMER: It's kind of like asking which of your kids you like the best. And it's kind of situational, timewise. You look at Windows 1.0 when it came out-- I can't write a line of code, but I was the development manager for Windows 1.0. Of course that's my favorite product, and at the end of the day, it's the backbone of Microsoft.
On the other hand, when you say slick and interesting, I'd probably point to Excel. Life changing for me, I'd probably point to Surface Pro 3 and the pen and One Note. I finally have the thing I really want to get my work done. I really can be paperless. I really have my life in the cloud.
For me, inking is very important, because if you're the guy somebody's presenting to, you can't sit there and type. If you want to draw and annotate, markup, you can't type. So I might say Surface Pro 3. If I was home with my family, because I have three boys of about the right age, I'd say, well, of course, it was Xbox 360 and the Halo game. My 15-year-old still believes that's the only worthwhile piece of work I did in my working career.
[LAUGHTER] Three weeks ago, he says to me, Dad, I'm very disappointed in you leaving Microsoft. I was worried about this. Aaron. I don't know whether you can still get me the new Halos when they come out.
So beauty's a little in the eye of the beholder, but I'd probably point to the Surface Pro 3 in modern days and Windows 1.0 in historic days. DAVID J. MALAN: Well, let me wrap up with a little something we've never done before. But we, on behalf of CS50 TFs and TAs would like to make you an honorary member of CS50's staff if you'll have us.
STEVE BALLMER: OK, absolutely.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] Nice!
DAVID J. MALAN: And for everyone here, you are all cordially invited to a special event that President Drew Faust, Dean Cherry Murray, and Steve Ballmer will be hosting tomorrow at the I-Lab at 12:00 PM, for which there will be a puzzle hunt which is inside of this packet which you'll be handed on the way out, for which there's fabulous prizes, including several Xboxes and also a pair of Clipper tickets.
STEVE BALLMER: Clipper/Celtic tickets for the game here on March 29, visiting owners seats. Do compete. [CHEERING] STEVE BALLMER: Thanks, everybody. DAVID J. MALAN: CS50, this was Steve Ballmer.
STEVE BALLMER: This is CS50!