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Ballmer at the Seattle Rotary today

[FOLLOW-UP: GeekWire Commentary: Microsoft doesn’t need to replace Ballmer as much as it needs to replace Gates]

You’d think that the Seattle Rotary Club might be friendly turf for Steve Ballmer. But it didn’t take long for a Rotarian to toss a hardball question to the Microsoft CEO after he finished formal remarks today at the Westin in downtown Seattle.

Assunta Ng, publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly, asked Ballmer what he thought of critics who’ve asked that he step down.

Here’s what Ng had to say: Thank you for being here, Steve. Recently I read somewhere, someone said, ‘It is time for Microsoft to change its CEO. Steve Ballmer needs to go.’ What’s your reaction to that?

The question drew some nervous laughs from the crowd, but Ballmer responded in his typical boisterous fashion.

“YOU TELL ME if I lack energy or conviction, or we’re not driving all the change we need to drive.”

Here’s an audio clip of the question and answer.

[audio |titles= Steve Ballmer at Seattle Rotary]

The crowd responded with loud applause. It marks the first time that Ballmer has publicly addressed the question of his future as CEO since the issue was revived by hedge fund manager David Einhorn at a recent investment conference.

The clip above also includes a question about Microsoft’s investment in Windows 8, and once again Ballmer’s response was meant to get across how deep his commitment to the software companies goes.

“You cut me open and saw what was inside: Windows. Windows. Windows. Windows,” Ballmer said. “Our company was born on the back of Windows. Windows underpins a huge percentage of all of our success, all of our profitability, all of the important things that we do. So, how important is it? Very, would be a very fair answer.”

Earlier in his remarks, Ballmer stressed that it would take “optimism” and “persistence” for Microsoft to continue to be a leading company.

Related: Steve Ballmer on bringing the Sonics back to Seattle: It’s a real estate problem


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