Comparing the Steves (Ballmer & Jobs that is)

Went to the Microsoft Liberation Day in Sydney the other day where they announced the Microsoft operating system Azure.

It also gave me cause to reflect on the differing presentation styles of Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs.
Mr Ballmer has a very loud and energetic presentation style, but I came away with the distinct feeling (a) that he was not very close to the content he presented and (b) he was not being himself.  Now this is just an impression not a fact.  But it is how I felt upon watching his live performance in Sydney the other day.

Steve Jobs (whom I’ve never seen live only via internet) has a much less loud or energetic presentation style. But I come away from his presentations with the feeling that (a) he is extremely close to the content he presented and (b) that he presents much as he would if I met him in real life.   Again, this is just an impression not a fact.  I’ve never even seen this guy in person.  But it is how I felt watching the iPhone launch video online.

I was conscious of thinking about these things as I watched Steve Ballmer present and it niggled.  It took a while for me to identify just what was irritating me.  At the pub later the answer came – it was about authenticity.  To me Steve Ballmer did not sound authentic when talking.  To my ear he did not sound connected to the ideas he was talking about nor did his presentation style seem natural.  Again these are just my feelings and he might have been totally connected to what he was saying and the way he said it might be completely natural.

One other thing I wonder is how much of Steve Ballmer’s presentation style is culturally appropriate to Americans and not to Australians? I suppose my values are coming out her, but I like to feel that the presenter’s persona is somehow congruent with them in daily life. And should I meet them in another context they would be quite similar to how they had been during their presentation.

Note: I’m pretty much technology neutral – using and very happy with Windows Media Centre, HTC Windows Mobile device, Linux EEE, and Macbook. My approach to technology is very pragmatic.  So nothing said above should be taken as supportive or otherwise of the technologies these men represent.


4 thoughts on “Comparing the Steves (Ballmer & Jobs that is)

  1. Kate–SteveB: I’ve seen Steve in more “intimate” internal meetings, and he tomes down the american-over hype (less anthony robbins). He seems thoughtful, and across the business. Having seen many IT Industry CEOs/Founders in my time (and some face to face) — he stands equally amongst them. Certiainly less marketing/management speak and more real world.Comparing this persona to the large audience size: he is a different person. Developers/Developers/Developers style of presentation. Especially in front of sales people.SteveJ: I agree: the stage persona of Steve is controlling, on message and more natural. Steve is a natural actor, and has been all his career. That’s why he is an Icon of this Industry, and we have Apple.I’ve seen SteveJ in smaller crowds (including 1997 MacWorld just after Apple purchased NeXT); and have friends who have worked with SteveJ one:one. In this context he is a take-no-prisoners, swearing-like-a-sailor type of guy. Single minded and iconic again: not like his stage persona at all. I wouldn’t want to negotiate with him, nor cross him. Again, exactly what Apple needs to be successful.Dr John Warnock: A geek’s geek. ImpressiveDr Chuck Geschke: 20 minutes 1:1, like a smart grandfather you’d love to have!Gil Amelio: A managerGuy Kawasaki: hyped up evangelist selling his brandMike Spindler: Teutonic ManagerBill Gates: (from afarish) Geek with capital G. Must have Asperger’s…. there are others, but this industry is what it is due to the nature of these guys. In the future, this time may become known as the Digital Renaissance :-)–Nick


  2. Hi Kate,That’s a very interesting piece. I have never seen either present ‘in person’, but in general when I am in a presentation it is always quickly apparent when the presenter is not at one with their topic. I find engagement in any presentation is 100% dependant on this. So to think that someone like Mr. Ballmer may give anyone the impression otherwise either reflects his disconnection from the reality of HIS services or his failure as a presenter. Either way, it would be concerning for an investor in a company – no matter how large – if the CEO was neither intimately connected with his/her responsibilities nor capable to represent them in Public Arenas.


  3. Kate, I think you hit the nail on the head. I too found something quite unsettling about his presentation style and over the top (almost fake) enthusiasm.


  4. Thanks for your comments Nick, Frank & Jodie. I've been thinking about it and pretty much now think it is a cultural thing. Aussies are fine with a 'take no prisoners' approach but that US evangelistic preacher style of presentation does not seem to sit well.


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