• United States
News Editor

Did you hear who’s been in Redmond?

Jan 16, 20064 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

Internet-driven rumors can be a hoot – unless, of course, you’re the one caught under the wheels. Thanks to tools such as Technorati and Google News, today it’s possible to actually watch a whopper unfold over the course of a few days.

Perhaps you too caught this giggler last week: Steve Ballmer is soon to be out as CEO of Microsoft – and his replacement will be a certain former president of the United States. . . . No, it’s not Gerald Ford.

William Jefferson Clinton has been spotted at Microsoft headquarters multiple times in recent months “and has been interviewing for the top slot as the company looks at ways to transform themselves for the future,” Andy Abramson wrote Jan. 6 on his blog called “VoIP Watch,” a platform that has helped gain Abramson enough notoriety as a VoIP expert/pundit to be quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and San Jose Mercury News, among a host of other media outlets. Abramson also co-hosts with Ken Rutkowski the daily World Tech Round Up on, billed as “the Internet’s longest-running technology news broadcast” and the forum where this rumor first took flight.

As you might expect, the Clinton-for-Ballmer speculation shot around the blog vine like the latest on Nick and Jessica (both of whom are said to be in line for key jobs in Redmond once Ballmer bails and Clinton takes over, I am told). A mention of the Clinton rumor in the Mercury News‘ widely read “Good Morning Silicon Valley” newsletter guaranteed that this one would have gums a-flappin’ far and wide.

So I had to call Abramson to find out if he was serious, fully believing he’d tell me that “the rumor” was half idle speculation, half light-hearted radio schtick.

Here’s what I got instead: “They want him and he wants to be there.”

Don’t ask me how I managed not to laugh.

Now to be fair, Abramson also allows that his sources speculate that Microsoft may be wooing Clinton to join its board of directors, or that Bill C. and Bill G. could be putting their heads together on one of their respective philanthropic efforts (ding, ding, ding). Yet Abramson assures me that his reporting of the juiciest prospect – Ballmer out, Clinton in – has elicited largely thoughtful replies from listeners, readers and other bloggers – including some within Microsoft: “No one has said, ‘What kind of pipe are you smoking?'”

Allow me to be first then: What is in that pipe, Andy?

No matter what they may be mumbling around water coolers in Redmond, there is no more chance of Bill Clinton becoming CEO of Microsoft than there is of me catching Jessica on the rebound. Never say never? Nonsense! Never, never, never.

I could cite a hundred good reasons why this Clinton fantasy is inconceivable, but doing so might give the impression that I consider the matter an open question. Suffice to say that ex-presidents do not trundle back to the private sector hat in hand. It’s undignified, even for an ex-president who in the past has seemed not to understand the meaning of that word.

None of which is to say that the what-ifs aren’t great sport.

Example: A close friend of mine writes about business for a metropolitan daily newspaper. We’re both political junkies, so last week we found ourselves debating via e-mail whether Bill Clinton being on the Microsoft board would help or hurt Hillary Clinton’s expected White House run (even though neither of us puts a penny’s worth of stock in the rumor). My friend said it would help, by bolstering Hillary’s pro-business credentials. I said it would hurt, because carrying Bill C.’s baggage out on the campaign trail will be challenge enough without Hillary also having to lug Bill G.’s.

Work time well spent? . . . You decide.

All rumors are always welcome here. The address is