Ballmer on services, twitch cycles, AJAX, Google and innovation

Ballmer on services, twitch cycles, AJAX, Google and innovation

Summary: Following up on my questions earlier in the day, Steve Ballmer cleared some of the fog around how Microsoft plans to innovate in services and iterate at Web speed (compete with Google and others treading on his company’s turf) during an interview at Gartner’s Symposium ITxpo with analysts Tim Bittman and Dave Cearley [video clip here].

TOPICS: Windows

Following up on my questions earlier in the day, Steve Ballmer cleared some of the fog around how Microsoft plans to innovate in services and iterate at Web speed (compete with Google and others treading on his company’s turf) during an interview at Gartner’s Symposium ITxpo with analysts Tim Bittman and Dave Cearley [video clip here].

podcasticon3_01.gif[Listen to the freshly minted The Dan & David Show podcast, where we play clips from the Ballmer Q&A and David and I provide commentary]

"The top priority for us is to innovate. If we don’t, nobody needs to buy from us," Ballmer said. "The important thing we are focused in on across Microsoft is how through a combination of both product and through services that talk to those products—Internet-based services—all of our major businesses can have a short twitch capability--call that every six or nine months--a medium twitch capability and at same time we can’t stop doing the R&D that takes every three or four years to get done. We just can’t make our customers wait three or four years for things that should have been on more interim cycles. We try to orchestrate ourselves, so  that we have innovations coming on all three of those cycle paths."


"If you do things that are innovative and bring value, and you respond to the big core trend, which is to move more toward a services approach, whether it’s service-oriented architecture, on demand delivery through virtualization or services running out in the cloud—there is sort of a theme there," Ballmer added. 
Each product will have its own cadence, Ballmer said, and needs to have services so that innovation can be fed to the market on nine month cycles. Major twitches are about a two year cycles, and some, like Vista and WinFS, take longer, but Microsoft wants to give visibility to customers on progress and get feedback, Ballmer added.

In today’s world Windows is a long twitch, Office a medium twitch and MSN is the short twitch, but I suspect those territorial boundaries will be altered over time. Ballmer said Microsoft has a "phenomenal opportunity" to create new value for customers at the desktop, server and Internet cloud. "That value is going to come from both new applications and services, not only created by Microsoft but created by third parties. The question of  how to allow third parties to create interesting scenarios that live partly on the client, on Windows; on the server, Windows; and out in the cloud is a very important one and certainly one we are focused in on." He mentioned MSN as an example of that direction.

Ballmer acknowedged the new coding techniques, such as AJAX, are having an impact on creating rich user experiences for Web applications. But he downplayed any notion that it could enable a client-side revolution where the need for thick clients (rich visualization, processing power and local storage) will go away. Rich clients and services will proceed in parallel, Ballmer said, first making Windows more manageable to lower the costs of rich clients and secondly with services. "We think most users like the benefits out of a rich local environment. I don't think that will go away. AJAX and Atlas only let you send Javascript down. You will see that deploymet as Ajax in Windows extend to other capabilities in the Windows environment," he said.

On the subject of Google, Ballmer joking said, "Other than curing cancer, Google will do everything." He went on to talk about the smart people at Microsoft (a competitive arena with Google, which has been poaching Microsoft talent) and the relentless focus on innovation.

Ballmer also talked about how there's plenty of room for improvement in the experience that most users see today and how Microsoft intends to be the company to take the search experience to a new level. He noted that 50 percent of all searches don't lead to a desired outcome, and Microsoft would focus on getting answers right and on improving relevancy and natural language querying, as well as on the targeted advertising front. Ballmer also suggested that the corporate network and the Web shouldn't be thought of as two entities that get searched separately and that the two should be tied together to provide one seamless search experience. Google would agree.

He also claimed that the products to be delivered over the next 12 months is the greatest innovation pipeline the company has ever had, touting Vista, new servers, IE 7, mobile windows and the Motorola Q smartphone (due in Q1),  Xbox 360, IPTV, and Office, which he said would be the most exciting release in 13 years. 

In regards to Vista, Ballmer said that it's the most important new version of Windows since Windows 95. "I'm going to trust Vista on day one," Ballmer said. "I bet most people in this audience will trust it day one--on their home computer," he joked. He's realistic about enterprise adoption cycles. "I'm trying to be honest among friends," he told the crowd of about 4,000 IT executives and managers. He also address some of the issue with Microsoft's licensing practices. The company just introduced a new license to deal with virtualization and has made the contracts easier to parse. "The simplest thing we have today is our enterprise agreement. Used to take two years of postgrad education (to understand it), now it's a 9th grade education. We know we have a lot more work to do in terms of tools and license forms," he said.

Topic: Windows

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  • OMG! Look at that guy!

    Is he crazy or what?

    need mo proof?
    Reverend MacFellow
    • No way

      Eric Schmidt is way spookier looking.

      And of course, the best way to judge software is by the leader's appearance.
    • too much coffee or sugar?

      He looks like my nephew after we have feed him too much sugar. :)
  • Hey Ballmer, how about fixing...

    XP before braging about how rich and inovative Vista is.
    • Fix XP

      Yeah but if he fixed XP then why would we need Vista? It is a vicious cycle. :)
  • Survival 101

    I have heard this from somewhere...

    "You [Balmer] know how to survive? You make people need you."

    About Google, well he can just simply, "Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I?m going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I?m going to fucking kill Google." lol.
  • A Twitch in time saves nine

    Web Services will enable thousands of single purpose web services to be published and used, some free, some for click charges and some for licensed users, but the implementor will soon be more interested in the most cost effective solution that he can compose from the current market of components and services.

    Mr. Ballmer is quite right that innovation is necessary and that Microsoft is "trying", but the days of Microsoft lock in are numbered and their margins will decrease as the number of choices for solutions providers and IT shops grows and "cost effectiveness" will drive prices down and I envision Steve Ballmer twitching at ever step until he is a twitching ball of mush in the empty lobby of a certain Redmond Corporation.
  • Please ...

    Somebody, anybody... do a hostile takeover over this Redmond company and clean the clocks of this "management team"! Free us from this dribble and their warez.
    Sun? Oracle? Google? Jobs? Trump? Martha? Any takers?
    • Sorry..

      About the only guy with enough funds to actually have a shot at taking over would be say, the Sultan of Brunei and I doubt he's interested. Nor do I think you'd like the outcome.
  • Need to Buy

    The language of Twitch Cycles is interesting and somehow fitting. Everytime I have to use a miKro$loth app beyond thier OS I get twitchy. of course, Balmers observation:
    "The top priority for us is to innovate. If we don?t, nobody needs to buy from us," Ballmer said.
    Is true whether they innovate or not. bottom line is nobody needs to buy from them. there are other alternative that become increasingly attractive everyday as a lot of folks are starting to discover.

    Death to Bloatware.
  • Panning Microsoft

    Slamming MS is all the rage today. It's easy to attach the big guy. XP? A very stable OS IMHO and in the opinion of lots of experts, too.

    I always felt MS should re-do Windows from the ground up to lock it down security-wise. But, all you "pundits" would scream bloody murder about the lack of backward compatibility. MS cannot take such a drastic approach, so it forced to write incredibly complex code to permit Win 95 and Win ME users to continue using obsolete equipment.

    I can't tell you how many "friends" using old OS's and old PCs don't realize that they can replace both for about 20% of what they paid for their current antiques.

    My current position is: I won't repair or debug ancient PCs. I take them to the computer store or online seller and show them what a new system can be had for. So, far 7 have opted to get up-to-date systems and have thanked me.

    MS is facing competition and that's good for all of us. The new products coming forth in the next year will be amazing. I see good products coming, not just updates.

    In this day of rootkits and advanced malware, I see MS stepping up to the plate. Yeah, I'm calling my broker now... buy Microsoft.

    J Saale
    Overland Park, KS
    • lack of backward compatability - what bilge

      about 70% of my kids' pc software never made it from win98 to winxp. just didn't work, also 30% of the hardware. Get real dude.
  • MS is the only true innovator in the neural space

    Well, this was a bit of a leak, but as long as it has already hit the media, I asked permission from my friend Mike's rep to give further details, and he granted it.

    What you're hearing about "twitch cycles" is nothing short of Microsoft leading the way with a phenomenal new offering due out soo. The new product automates neurosurgeries, alleviating risks posed by surgeon fatigue or poor judgement. Whenever you hear "twitch cycles", think epileptic seizures...then think lobotomy. As we all know, medical costs are on the way up, while software costs are on the down. This will be a smoothly executed strategic shift by MS that will make your head spin.

    The savvy MS management team has timed this just right, and within a couple years will sail into retirement on golden parachutes the likes of which have never been seen before, all while garnishing wide acclaim for the humanitarian aspect of this endeavor, which will restore long-tarnished images in the public eye. This will truly be MS at its stunning best.