The recorded answer was a bit of a shock as Bill Gates stated the following in the midst of nervous laughter.
Ask me after we ship the next version of Windows. Then I'll be more open to giving you a blunt answer. -Bill Gates: CES 2008Since the response was recorded in video there were several visual clues that normally would not be obtained in a normal text based reported. For example, the look on Mr. Gates face, and the fact that while answering the question he started to shift nervously, plus the changes in tone of voice. It was obvious that the answer given was not the answer that Mr. Gates wanted to give. In fact, it was so obvious Gizmodo ran the story under the title: Holy Crap: Did Bill Gates Just Say Windows Sucks?
Now, while getting something along the line of Mr. Gates saying Windows Sucks out of the response requires the use of a microscope while reading between the lines, the response was not positive towards Vista. The question then becomes why would Mr. Gates dodge talking about Vista? Well, for starters, it is Microsoft's flagship Operating System. If Mr. Gates outright degrades Vista on camera, it would be the final nail in the coffin for Vista. As is several other journalists are starting to call foul on the numbers for Vista's launch, with one website referring to the numbers as pie-in-the-sky and then later in the same article suggesting that perhaps the lower management didn't have the guts to tell the upper management what the real numbers were. Source: Bootdaily.
The problem is compounded by Mr. Gates having noted during the same CES, and as reported by Australian site Itnews, the 3 to 1 sales ratio of Xp to Vista hadn't gone anywhere. Over 60% of all new computers shipping with a version of Windows are shipping with Xp.
So, the point is gotten, Vista is a flop and Bill Gates didn't want to talk about it. Why then dodge the question? Why not just admit that Vista wasn't up to par, can't compete with Linux, can't compete with it's predecessor, and just be done with it?
Well, for starters, Mr. Gates is leaving Microsoft this July. As announced in June 2006 by Microsoft, there would be a 2 year transition period to separate Mr. Gates from Microsoft and transition to younger management. If the details were to be taken at face value then, Mr. Gates was not running the Vista Operating. The person running it would have been the prancing developer, Mr. Steve Ballmer.
By dodging the question at CES, Mr. Gates has distanced himself from Vista. He's made it clear that he does not consider it a good product, voices his doubts of the product, but doesn't actually come out and and say anything that could come back and directly haunt himself. For Mr. Ballmer, this is not what could be referred to as a good thing. There are lots of rumors that Mr. Ballmer is only still with Microsoft due to being kept at Mr. Gates pleasure. Once Mr. Gates leaves this July, Mr. Ballmer isn't going to have his protection.
There are also several rumors indicating that many of Microsoft's more senior staff aren't too happy with Mr. Ballmer. Over the past several years Mr. Ballmer has become more and more of a public relations disaster. Exampling the numerous threats that Linux infringes on Microsoft patents when there is confirmed evidence that Microsoft violates Open-Source licenses, and has stolen GPL'd code. Then there was the whole Chair Incident. Now, there's Vista.
With Mr. Gates having had his departure announced before Vista went to retail, he's not in the Vista picture. That leaves Mr. Ballmer as the front-man, and that's not a good thing. It isn't a secret that many within Microsoft also lay the blame for Vista square at Mr. Ballmer's feet.
Now, this is complete conjecture, but I'm going to say it anyways. It's my opinion that once Mr. Gates leaves Microsoft, the shareholders and board of directors will rapidly remove Mr. Ballmer from the company. I would also say it's a decided possibility that Mr. Gates might remove Mr. Ballmer directly just before leaving, as a goodwill gesture to the rest of the company.
Microsoft needs to do something to indicate that they understand exactly how bad Vista went for them, and dropping Ballmer? Might just be the real answer to the question Mr. Gates dodged.