Leave Steve Ballmer Alone!

Bill Gates on Microsoft’s lagging efforts in mobile:

“Is it enough?” the Microsoft chairman continued, “No, he and I are not satisfied that in terms of, you know, breakthrough things, that we’re doing everything possible.”

He went on to admit that the company didn’t “get out in the lead very early” on cell phones. Microsoft had an early start with Windows Mobile, a system that was out for some years before current industry leaders Apple and Google debuted their respective iOS and Android platforms, but ultimately let the competition pass them by.

“We didn’t miss cell phones,” Gates conceded, “but the way that we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership. So it’s clearly a mistake.”

Anybody who follows the mobile business, or had the misfortune to use anything mobile from MS before Windows Phone 7 or 8, knows all this already. Painfully, in the latter case.

But the telling detail came early in the report:

Asked in an interview with CBS This Morning whether he was happy with Ballmer’s performance, Gates said that he and the Microsoft chief executive are “two of the most self-critical people you can imagine,” adding that neither are satisfied that the company is doing everything it can to move computing forward.

Translation: Please don’t criticize Ballmer, because he’s already criticizing himself quite enough already. Honest.

It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re trying to change the subject.