GeekWire Radio: Ballmer vs. Bezos — who will get the last laugh?

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the Fire Phone unveiling earlier this year.

A fascinating debate emerged in the tech world this week after Amazon’s big earnings miss and Steve Ballmer’s comments about Amazon’s business model.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

In an interview with Charlie Rose, the former Microsoft CEO said that Amazon isn’t a “real business” without meaningful profits — defending his own record of profitability at Microsoft and implying that critics should take a second look at his legacy as a business leader.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is famous for saying it’s “Still Day One” — underscoring a long-term focus that tests the patience of investors. The company is a giant in the world of e-commerce and cloud computing but has stumbled with its initial attempt to expand into smartphones.

Bezos says real innovators need to be “willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

On the other hand, Ballmer told Charlie Rose, “In my world, you’re not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don’t make money at some point.”

On the other hand, Ballmer underestimated or misplayed massive product trends, like smartphones, and announced his intention to step down as CEO without a succession plan in place. New Microsoft leader Satya Nadella won praise for his early approach but his inexperience as CEO was evident in his recent comments about women and pay in the tech industry.

So who’s right — Ballmer or Bezos? We tackle that question in the first segment of this week’s GeekWire radio show, before diving into more highlights from the week’s tech news. Listen to the show here or below, and continue reading for links and notes on the topics we discuss.

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