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Bill Gates shirks chance to back Ballmer, admitting Microsoft “mistakes”

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was critical of his company’s recent performance during an interview in which he passed up the chance to back under-fire CEO, Steve Ballmer.

Speaking to CBS News in the US, Gates pointed to a lack of innovation within Microsoft and a strategy that “didn't allow us to get the leadership” as key to the once-dominant firm now playing catch-up with the likes of Google and Apple.

Many commentators have attributed Microsoft’s decline to the poor leadership of Ballmer, and when Gates was questioned whether he was “happy with his performance?”, he side-stepped a direct response, replying:

“Well, he and I are two of the most self-critical people you can imagine. There are a lot of amazing things that Steve's leadership got done with the company in the last year – Windows 8 is key to the future; the Surface computer; Bing, people are seeing is a better search product; Xbox; but is it enough? No. He and I are not satisfied in terms of breakthrough things that we're doing everything possible."

Subsequently probed about media criticism of the company, Gates quipped, "We appreciate the advice," but conceded, "There's a lot of things like cellphones where we didn't get out in the lead early… We didn't miss cellphones, but the way that we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership." This was "clearly a mistake," he added.

Ballmer’s leadership was attacked last month by a former Microsoft exec, who blasted the CEO’s management style in his book on the company. "For Microsoft to really get back in the game seriously, you need a big change in management," Joachim Kempin said in an interview. "As much as I respect Steve Ballmer, he may be part of that in the end."

Gates' interview with CBS can be viewed below.