"It was big when I left. It was ridiculous when I came back," he said.
Other early employees described how Gates wouldn't tolerate people being unprepared for meetings.
"Bill can very easily raise his voice," said Vic Heller, who started at Microsoft in 1982.
Microsoft fell 12 cents to US$27.63 last Friday in Nasdaq trading. The shares have dropped 22 percent this year.
Investors will judge Ballmer's future performance on the growth of Microsoft's online-services business, said Heather Bellini, an analyst at UBS AG in New York.
In May, Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo! Inc, the No. 2 search engine, for US$47.5 billion, a deal that fell through because the two companies couldn't agree on the price.
Gates will remain chairman, coming in one day a week to work on projects.
(Shanghai Daily June 30, 2008)