Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sounds like a man who wants to be a little bit of everything to everyone.
Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Ballmer fielded questions from analysts and a few pretaped customers on video. The big takeaway: Ballmer wants Microsoft to take “the best of the PC and the Web and the enterprise and mobile."
"I don't think we will snap our fingers and get there," says Ballmer.
As he fielded questions, all of the various cross currents surrounding Microsoft surfaced. Can Microsoft do Web services? Is Google a threat in the enterprise? How's advertising? Does Vista add value? Is there a war between individuals and the IT department?
What remains to see if Microsoft--a company with four business models (PC, enterprise, consumer and advertising)--can be all things to all people. Here's what Ballmer had to say:
On SaaS, Ballmer staked out the middle ground it has been carving out with Microsoft Office Live Spaces. In the long term, "there's no doubt that the world wants to move in the direction" of SaaS-like applications. Ballmer says Microsoft's job is to take the best of the PC experience, enterprise needs and Web services and lump them together. "You will never be able to do as good a job on Office in a browser as a rich client," said Ballmer. The solution is to take the best parts of all of these models.
On open source, Ballmer said there are some open source fans that are religious, but that's fine. He did say that it's clear that software is going to see what he called community innovation. The twist is that Ballmer wants some of that innovation to run on Windows. "We want the best stuff on Windows," said Ballmer.
Ballmer noted that Microsoft is maintaining enterprise leadership and added that Google is a no-show in corporate America. "We haven't seen much of the other guys," said Ballmer. "I feel very well differentiated in the infrastructure enterprise space." He also touted Microsoft's partnership with SAP on Duet. When asked about whether Microsoft would partner with Oracle to offer better integration, Ballmer said it's on the "go do" list and chuckled.
In advertising, Ballmer acknowledged that Microsoft has a lot of work to do, but it is making the investment to be an advertising player. "Three things: It's expensive to do an ad platform. We're differentiating in certain verticals. We're going to try and rewrite how the game works," said Ballmer.
Is Vista easy enough to implement? "There's always a tension between the value end users see, developers see and what enterprises see. There is a lot of value in Vista. The real issue is that we have some things we want to see in shape before (customers) make that transition," said Ballmer.
On product roadmaps, Ballmer was asked whether Microsoft is clamming up. "There's no intent to share less roadmap, but you'll see us be a little more cautious about promising dates and schedules. For things that are really consumer targeted we won't talk about the roadmap," said Ballmer.