Steve Ballmer has some advice for Google and Facebook to avoid Microsoft’s past

Kareem Anderson

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been rather candid since his departure from the worlds leading software providing company. From calls for his former company to be more transparent about its financial reporting to openly admitting his missteps in guiding Microsoft through the smartphone wars, Ballmer seemingly has been on a confession tour of sorts.

Adding another stop on his truth tour, Ballmer recently offered some advice to former rival businesses Facebook and Google as they wade the waters of public backlash and increasing consumer distrust similar to what Microsoft faced during the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

In an interview with Yahoo finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer, Ballmer solicited a quick and easy trick for Google and Facebook to follow to circumvent a seemingly inevitable legal collision; work with the government.

“I’m not trying to do a ‘woe is me’ thing, but remember we got by an antitrust lawsuit at Microsoft by the [US Department of Justice]. This government stuff […] it’s serious stuff. And knowing what I know now, I would have resolved the issues,” Ballmer said.

While some critics of the policies enacted by the search and social media giants have called for similar cooperation, Ballmer is in a unique position to offer a perspective from someone who arguably survived a US antitrust lawsuit brought on by similar arrogance in drafting policy affecting millions of users worldwide.

“I think we should have figured out how to settle matters out earlier than we did. I do not think it was helpful for our company, the path we took. I think the tech industry right now […] could well repeat that experience. I think fully accepting that things are not the way they need to be, and going to work on those issues in a way that people understand you are serious about, as opposed to the tech industry generally appearing arrogant, I understand that.”

During part of Ballmer’s tenure as Microsoft CEO, he was forced to navigate a company arguably wounded by an antitrust conviction and under the watchful eye of several legal bodies, many of which, now have their eyes set on Facebook and Google.

Ballmer’s advice comes at a time when both Google and Facebook are already well into their legal journey’s, but hopefully, the two companies have enough of a cursory understanding of Microsoft’s legal history to avoid a similar fate.

Despite the competitive landscape being wildly different than in Microsoft’s circumstance, it seems Facebook and Google may be two stories doomed to repeat history, on their current trajectory.