Ballmer speaks; Can Microsoft be everything to everyone?

Ballmer speaks; Can Microsoft be everything to everyone?

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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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.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Sure...

    M$ can be everything for the 'Mike Cox' crowd, but it is NOTHING but a crook for most of us.
    Linux Geek
    • Are you Mike Cox?

      I don't know if Mike Cox even knows what he is talking about, whether he even has a "rep", or whether he knows the first thing about Windows. He has become a by-word because his statements are so outlandishly pro-microsoft that he would make most pro-microsofty blush for shame.

      Sometimes I think you are getting pretty close to being just like him and you are losing any iota of credibility.

      Some of us have worked with OS X, Linux and Windows and other OS's and were in the industry before personal computers were available and also know some history - are not impressed.

      I don't mind people being more biased to one platform or another but they need at least to be thinking and not spewing mindless diatribe.
      DevGuy_z
      • And YOU are a shining example of why the dinosaurs are extinct

        "Some of us have worked with OS X, Linux and Windows and other OS's and were in the industry before personal computers were available and also know some history - are not impressed."

        Computers are now, and always have been, about the future. So if you hope to impress and prove your authenticity by showing off your antiquity, well, you missed the boat...and I have a feeling it's not the first time you've been left standing at the dock with your thumb up your ass, pontificating about what 'used to be'.

        BTW, you've already LOST (probably back during the days BEFORE PCs that you allude to) any iota of credibility you MIGHT have once had.

        Mike Cox is almost certainly PAID to be a shill for M$.

        What's your excuse for your anti-M$ bias?
        1stcyberian
        • Actually...

          Most people that have been in the business awhile maybe viewed as "dinosaurs" by the immature, and totally uneducated, but in reality they bring the most to the table. "Actual Experience" vs., read experience, and wanna-bes. And for the most part I think Mike Cox is actually a joke...and anyone that really listen's to "it" is truly showing their immaturity. Newbies may know how to use a computer, but their experience (i.e. lack of) show's really quick when it gets tough.
          ItsTheBottomLine
        • RE: And YOU are a shining example of why the dinosaurs are extinct

          ...Mike Cox is almost certainly PAID to be a shill for M$....

          You just don't get Mike. You look like one of the gullible who take Mike's posts seriously and provide entertainment for the rest of us by doing so.
          joe6pack_z
      • First 11 in history for Mikey!

        Caught a fish without even having to post!

        Good Job Mike!

        ;-)
        nomoremicrosoft
        • No kidding...

          Show's they do not even know that Mike C is a totally joke and have fun ... suckers they are.
          ItsTheBottomLine
        • RE: First 11 in history for Mikey!

          ...Caught a fish without even having to post!...

          Where do these NOOBs come from? Oh, I definitely agree first 11!!!
          joe6pack_z
        • Yep, you said it

          that's a first as far as I know
          balaknair
      • RE: Are you Mike Cox?

        ...I don't know if Mike Cox even knows what he is talking about,...

        You just don't get Mike. You look like one of the gullible who take Mike's posts seriously and provide entertainment for the rest of us by doing so.
        joe6pack_z
      • Wow, Mike Cox you're my hero

        Way to go Mike, another one bites, and you didn't even post a message yet. That's got to be worth a perfect 10.
        balaknair
    • Um speak for yourelf ... not "most of us"

      if you mean the 25 people that write in these blogs, then OK, but that group...pretty much means nothing.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • Clean your own room first, Ballmer

    First, find a way to stop treating your customers like criminals. The more you do silly things like this:

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=112346

    The more your customers look for alternatives. Those who already haven't given your sorry software the big boot.
    Chad_z
  • Can they is the wrong question, should they is tougher.

    One of the toughest things for a large corporation (heck, even in a small business) is being able to take a pass on some "opportunities" and concentrating on the core business. I think Micrsoft may be suffering by trying to be all things to all people.

    That tends to make for a company that does a lot of things half arsed and does no one thing with excellence. Once that happens tightly focused companies (and individules) step in and start taking the market from them. (Example: IE and Firefox)

    Case in point. If MS was truely "sticking to the knitting" do you think it would have taken 5 years to produce Vista and would it have had as many issues as we are seeing today? My answer would have to be no.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • I don't know about that

      Microsoft has individual business units and Vista was heavily staffed. I do think there were some features that Vista was supposed to have that distracted them a while but were too complex. WinFS comes to mind. And some of it may have been that they were pursuing a moving target. Personally I think they should move to tighter, more well defined, increments. I think doing something similar to Intel's Tick-Tock release cycle would benefit them greatly.
      DevGuy_z
      • Where I disagree...

        With Vista Microsoft was trying to serve too many "masters". It had to be corporate friendly to support legacy code which means bloat for home users. They wanted it to be a multimedia platform for the living room, which meant bloat for everyone not using it for media. They wanted to tie DRM into it so they can be the media center the content owners select. They want it to be an ad platform to sell advertising to support that side of their business. It goes on and on with so many things it *wanted* to be they created an OS that doesn't do any of them really well. is very buggy, and IMHO nothing more than a stop gap (just like Windows ME was) to satisfy marketing (Dollars from upgrades) demands for a refresh.

        Will they manage to sort through all the bugs? Yes they have a history of getting it right the second or third time (SP) but it doesn't change the fact it is a MASSIVE OS trying to be everything to everyone and not doing anything especially well. If you want, try this exercise. Name anything Vista does that I can't do on XP (other than slow the machine down with Aero.) Sorry but that is not what I expect after 5 years of RD costing Billions each of those 5 years. With this much RD and time Vista *should* have knocked people's sox off instead of people asking why bother with the upgrade.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • XP? 2000!

          "Name anything Vista does that I can't do on XP (other than slow the machine down
          with Aero.)"

          There's not a lot that Vista does you can't do on 2000, one version or another.
          About the only things I've run into are general bluetooth support, and having
          Terminal Server built in (even if it's in stupidly restricted mode). User switching? I
          thought I'd use that much more than I have... and besides, that's a tweak on
          Terminal Server.

          The only reason they got XP out so quick was that it was pretty much "Windows
          2000 Plus Pack". They really did come closest to getting it right for everyone with
          Windows 2000, and I reckon if they'd taken the path of upgrading it and selling
          feature packs instead we'd all be better off...
          Resuna
    • If Microsoft stuck to the knitting...

      Oh man, don't tease me like that. I've been wishing Microsoft would "stick to the
      knitting" ever since they got into the OS business, it seems.

      I mean, their language tools were the market leaders because they were actually
      pretty damned good.

      Their OS... well, MS-DOS was pretty much forced on us, but Microsoft Xenix was
      pretty good. But it wasn't like the Mac, and Bill Gates loved the Mac, so they went
      off after that. Then when it turned out the Mac design wasn't "all that", they went
      out for OS/2 and then NT... and the NT kernel had some good ideas, and isolating
      subsystems outside the kernel made for a decently stable desktop in NT 3.51... but
      then they merged GDI in the kernel and dumped pretty much all the subsystems
      but Win32 and the rump of POSIX, and started gluing every damn thing into the
      OS... and things went to hell again.

      And, damn, Word. Let me tell you, I would rather edit papers in raw HTML using
      EDLIN than use Word for anything more complex than a memo ever again. Well,
      maybe not EDLIN, but certainly EDIT and raw HTML is a better documentation tool.

      God, I'd love it if Microsoft took a good look at their stuff and split up those huge
      balls of undifferentiated muck into the good bits and the bad bits and sold off the
      bad bits and maybe even split up into competing divisions for each of the good
      bits... man, that could even bring me back to admiring Microsoft, like it was 1980
      again.
      Resuna
      • How do you feel

        about the course charted with Vista? Well, first let me say that for an OS company, OS and enterprise go together. Mobile is not a bad division for a company like this either. Forget consumer maybe, but I don't see those 3 I named as "everything to everyone" at all. Oh well. <br>
        Anyway, Vista is the cleanest start/slate Microsoft has had since NT was introduced. I think the jury is still far from returning a verdict on what impact this will have on software and driver security in Microsoft's future. I find it interesting they are moving toward managed code in the OS. <br>
        I truely believe Vista will turn out to be a massively popular OS. At this point, I also believe it will be totally on it's own merits. Every person down to the least knowledgeable home users has heard the "bad news" on Vista. The potential is there, it's a matter of getting the players on board. <br>
        btw, i still believe they have the best dev tools going.
        xuniL_z
        • I don't see any reason to care about Vista

          Microsoft has not made any changes in Vista to address the biggest real flaws in
          Windows, because the flaws are not in NT... they're in the Win32 API and major
          components like the HTML control, and those are sacrosanct. Until they address
          those, it doesn't matter if they make 10% of the system 50% harder to break into,
          when 100% of what's valuable to the user is outside the kernel.

          The bottom line is that security is like sex. Once you're penetrated you're ****ed.
          The system is still a leaky sieve, and will remain one as long as they keep
          pretending that it's possible, even in principle, to integrate the desktop and the
          Internet securely.

          Most of the changes in Vista provide no useful capabilities to end users and few if
          any to enterprises. They're all about giving Microsoft and Microsoft's content
          provider partners more control over the kernel.
          Resuna