• 07.30.10

Analyzing Steve Ballmer’s Language: He “Thinks” a “Lot” About “Things”

Steve Ballmer’s a famously eccentric public speaker, and apparently this even extends to presentations at Microsoft’s annual financial analyst meeting. We’ve looked at his language for you. And it’s… interesting.

Analyzing Steve Ballmer’s Language: He “Thinks” a “Lot” About “Things”
Ballmer words

Ballmer’s eccentricity can be exemplified in one sentence, taken directly from Microsoft’s official transcript of the session: “Now, we’ve got some other competitive actions coming back, and we’ll talk about slates and tablets and blah, blah, blah, blah….” Yes, Steve actually said he was going to talk “blah.” And he did. Interestingly enough, this part of his speech was tackling the iPad, and how Apple had “done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out,” and completely owned a market that MS probably wished was theirs. In fact we know this to be true, since Ballmer noted “they sold certainly more than I’d like them to sell, let me just be clear about that.”


Anyway, check out the word cloud at the top there. It’s from Ballmer’s long introduction to the event, constituting some 13,000 words–quite enough to get a flavor of how Steve’s words came out.

What can you see? Immediately we’re reminded that MS is almost a one-trick pony, and that trick is called Windows. That word came up 39 times in the first part of Ballmer’s speech, compared to just 13 appearances of “Office” and 12 for “Xbox”. Interesting, no? On the other hand, Steve used the word “thing” 46 times, as in “let’s talk about this thing” and the word “think” 34 times. “People” are also things Ballmer’s fond of, as that word showed up 37 times.

Other stand-out words are “kind,” “consumer,” “going,” and “got.” What’s conspicuous by its absence are words like “success” or “positive” or “great” or “well”–indeed there were only nine “good”s used during Ballmer’s segment. Is MS really not performing well, or is Ballmer merely not happy about the state of things? You’d be forgiven for thinking that, but there are also remarkably few “bad”s, no “fail,” and just 3 “quit”s. In other words, Ballmer was treading a very neutral road, in terms of his language–neither being overly enthusiastic or revealingly critical.

For fun, contrast Ballmer’s words with Steve Jobs‘ ones from the big D8 conference in June. Sure, it’s a different context, but Jobs said words like “well” and “going” and “want” and “like” a lot. Almost as much as he used the word “people.” So while Ballmer “blahs” and “thinks” “people” “kind” of “get” “windows” “things,” Jobs is “going” to do “well” for “people.” If you were being super-insightful, you may even see these words as a window into the two different CEO’s management styles. Just maybe.

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