With Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us” blaring in the background, Steve Ballmer rushed the stage one last time on Thursday as thousands of Microsoft employees cheered the outgoing CEO at his final companywide meeting.
Microsoft’s all-day event was held at Seattle’s KeyArena, which housed the city’s former basketball team, the Seattle SuperSonics. Thousands of full-time Microsoft employees showed up to the annual event, many of them bussed in from Microsoft’s Lake Washington campus, while about 25,000 more employees tuned into the event via webcast.
During his highly personal hour-long speech on stage -- the final act of the day’s events -- Ballmer reminisced about his upbringing, his decision to tell his parents about dropping out of Stanford’s business school in 1980 in order to join Microsoft, and how his father didn’t even know what a personal computer was.
Ballmer, who was hired as Microsoft’s first business manager in 1980, talked about transforming Microsoft from its software roots to a “fundamentally more powerful” company that could focus on devices and services, too. He also denounced Microsoft’s rivals, saying Apple is about being “fashionable,” Amazon is about being “cheap” and Google is about “knowing more,” while Microsoft is more concerned about “doing more.”
“We have unbelievable potential in front of us, we have an unbelievable destiny,” Ballmer said, using the same quote from Microsoft’s first employee meeting in 1983. “Only our company and a hand ful of others are poised to write the future. We’re going to think big, we’re going to bet big.”
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At one point during his speech, Ballmer began bounding around the stage, screaming at the top of his lungs for old times' sake as Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” came on in the background, again another nod to his first meeting at Microsoft.
“The sound of Microsoft!” Ballmer boomed.
Ballmer, who will retire within the next 11 months, was visibly emotional at several times during his speech. Once the Michael Jackson song ended, he paused to “enjoy this for a minute” as tears rolled down his face.
“You work for the greatest company in the world,” Ballmer said. “Soak it in.”
Ballmer closed his emotional speech by thanking the ocean of Microsoft employees.
“I want to say thank you,” Ballmer said. “This isn’t about any one person. It’s about a company that’s important, that’s forward thinking, that’s innovative … I believe in you, I believe in the mission. We’ve been a great company for years. We will be a great company for many more years.”
At the close of his speech, the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes song “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life” played in the background, which allowed Ballmer one more chance to jump around on stage.
“I’ve had the time of my life!” Ballmer screamed.