Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

Summary: At the Gartner Symposium on October 21, CEO Steve Ballmer was asked what he considered to be Microsoft's riskiest product bet. His answer? The next version of Windows. Huh?

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When you're in the on-stage interview hot seat, sometimes you may say things you regret. And sometimes you speak the truth.

My ZDNet colleague Larry Dignan covered Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer's hot-seat appearance this morning at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando. While Dignan keyed in on Ballmer's pronouncements and avoidances around slates and tablets, I noticed right off Ballmer's answer to Gartner's question about risky bets.

From Dignan's account, Gartner analyst John Pescatore was doing a free-word-association style interview at the end of his Ballmer Q&A. Pescatore asked Ballmer what he considered to be Microsoft's "riskiest product bet."

I'd have thought he might say Windows Phone 7. Or maybe Bing. Or even Office Web Apps. But Ballmer's answer? "The next version of Windows."

OK. This could be more of the hype we heard rumored earlier this year when the "Windows vNext" rumors began going around. There were reports that the next release of Windows -- which most of us out here call Windows 8 -- would be revolutionary, not evolutionary.

But when we saw the leaked Windows 8 slide deck which looked to be from Microsoft (dated April 2010), the supposed early feature set concepts for Windows 8 looked solid, but weren't anything I'd call "risky." Fast startup, facial recognition as a security option, better support for slates, a possible app store -- all good, but not amazing. The one feature on the list that might be considered remotely risky (mostly in terms of the ability of Microsoft to deliver it)? Push-button reset, which allegedly would reinstall Windows while maintaining all of your personal files, applications and settings.

I've heard from some tipsters that Windows 8 would include a very different kind of file system. I'm not sure what that would entail. I'm doubtful we're talking about anything like the old WinFS concept (as this was, for the most part, tabled before the launch of Windows Vista).

So why did Ballmer characterize Windows 8 as "risky"? I'm left scratching my head. Could he have meant risky because of the way it will or won't compete with other coming PC operating systems like ChromeOS, Mac OS X Lion? Or risky because of the adoption by more customers of the cloud? Could Windows 8 and Windows vNext actually be two different things? Or was Ballmer simply trying to deflect the question and provide an answer that would keep the scrutiny off the company's newly launched products in mobile and gaming?

Guesses? Ideas? Crazy (or not so crazy) theories?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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78 comments
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  • User Interface?

    Maybe they?re applying the "Metro"-style to Windows?
    m.schmidler
    • Could be

      @m.schmidler

      Metro meets AERO. Take a look at the IE9 beta.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

      @m.schmidler No. It will run on ARM.
      5ri
      • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

        @5ri - that's my forecast too. MS has been working on porting Windows to ARM for several years now and ARM demand is now reaching critical mass.

        My other forecast is that Windows itself will run atop the HyperVisor enabling you to install and run miltiple versions of Windows seamlessly, eliminating a number of app compat issues in one fell swoop.
        De-Void
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

      @m.schmidler lot higher likelihood that with their search results tied to phone access that they are coming closer
      to the line. Many media outlets have been pared down as well as the phone companies. The day is coming,
      and google may have to spin off something to
      stay within bounds of the law. Lets hope it's the search engine, or everything else.
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    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

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      lanmeng
      • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

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  • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

    I hope they're making Windows 8 as good as Windows 7, maybe even better, or Windows (and Microsoft) is dead.
    Seriously. They're constantly improving the wrong aspects of Windows. Who cares it will support facial recognition? They better focus on stability and app crash prevention and things like that. I hope Steve Ballmer reads this and keeps Windows alive. Because I'm addicted to Windows. Hopefully Windows 8 won't change that.
    jarrichvdv
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

      @jarrichvdv
      They will definitely focus on system stability, that's an integral part of the design process. Simply, they're not gonna advertise it as a feature. The question is, what the hell are they planning to do? will this really be a complete paradigm shift? Exciting to think about, but we're still far from knowing anything
      artstate
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

      @jarrichvdv Doesn't matter. The next version of Windows will suck, and the one after that will be redeeming. It's inevitable, the same pattern as Star Trek movies.
      jensfiederer
    • D'ho!!??

      @jarrichvdv : What are you talking about? It is always a good idea to improve stability... But, Windows is the most stable OS on the market for a long time now!!! Did you see Windows crash for the last 10 years??

      No no! don't talk about blue screen!!! Blue screen are caused at 99.9% by third party device driver... Which is not related to the OS himself...

      Please don't expect Microsoft to be responsible to bad tired party application, this is not their responsibility... Not even the responsibility to Apple or Linux with their respective tired party application...

      Its about more than 2 years I use Windows 7 (I used the beta version as primary OS for one years before the RTM release) and I never saw a crash of the OS, NEVER. I get a blue screen for the first time last week caused by a tired party device driver I installed at this time..

      The be honest, I never saw Windows Crash since the last 20 years... Even Windows 3.1 never crashed... event Window 95 and 98 never crash ... a lot of blue screen in 95 and 98 but always caused by bad tired party device driver...

      If Microsoft should work on about stability is only to find a way to isolate device drivers to help not causing blue screen when they do bad thing ... Devices drivers should run on protected memory memory space.
      EricDeBerg
      • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

        @EricDeBerg If 99% of BSODs are caused by 3rd party drivers, and this is the main problem since Win 95, than Microsoft should have solved this problem years earlier. It's time to clean up the ecosystem, and say goodbye to the crapware-builder 3rd parties.
        tothbalazs
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

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  • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

    maybe he understood the question as "biggest bet".
    kayvaan
    • Nah, it was a Freudian Slip, that's all

      Ballmer is well aware of the fact that windows is on its last legs.<br><br>The code base is a mess and entropy is ruthlessly beginning to take care of it.<br><br>Ballmer meant what he said about windows being in serious risk.<br><br>I'm sure he regrets admitting it but it's too late now, what he said cannot be unsaid.<br><br>Hey, if that were possible then I'm sure there's one dance Ballmer would like to undance: the monkey dance.

      I'd love to watch Ballmer undancing the monkey dance, I bet it would be even funnier than watch him dancing it.
      OS Reload
      • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

        @OS Reload - Windows on its last legs? I think not - Win7 is the fastest selling software product to date. They sold some 240m copies in less than a year. That's hardly a company nearing collapse.
        De-Void
  • There's Reason Behind Ballmer's Statement

    He's predicting that far ahead of time because to say Windows 7 Phone or Window7 Tablet would be speculating that it could fail when it's released to the masses, which implies Ballmer knows those two endeavors are going to flop.
    cyberslammer2
    • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

      @cyberslammer2

      Must have been banned, I see...
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Ballmer: Riskiest product bet by Microsoft is the 'next release of Windows'

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 Yep,and I got plenty of email accounts, so they can keep on trying.

        Their blatant bias towards "other" posters here and allowing idiots like Loverock to continue on here shows they are totally clueless when it comes to IT...

        I get more reliable info from PCworld, Computerworld, and Slashdot..ZDNet is like the National Enquirer of IT.
        cyberslammer2
      • Actually cyberslammer

        you just don't get it, do you?

        If you belive it's bias, then you're just not understanding what it is you're looking at.
        John Zern