The story of Microsoft’s early missteps helps explain how Google became the uncontested leader in making money from Internet searches, and why Microsoft is trying so hard to make up for lost time. It also exposes a broader challenge facing Mr. Ballmer, as he guides his company of nearly 100,000 employees: how to foster groundbreaking technologies and businesses that are under his nose.
With investments into nearly every major area of software, Microsoft has plenty of innovative ideas and technologies. Its challenge is deciding which ones to nurture. But as Mr. Ballmer manages Microsoft without (Bill) Gates…he said the Keywords episode and similar missteps are at the front of his mind.
"The biggest mistakes I claim I’ve been involved with is where I was impatient–because we didn’t have a business yet in something, we should have stayed patient," Mr. Ballmer said in an interview. "If we’d kept consistent with some of the ideas" that Microsoft had in-house in 1999, "we might have been in paid search."