Microsoft's Ballmer: We'll get to one Windows, multiple screens

Microsoft's Ballmer: We'll get to one Windows, multiple screens

Summary: What is one Windows? "What it really means common user interface, common programming interface, common security architecture and user interface adaptability and common developer model and key services," said Ballmer.


ORLANDO — Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that the company is moving toward one Windows across multiple screens and devices and that a touch-first Office will ultimately get to the iPad when it gets to Windows.


Ballmer, speaking at the Gartner Symposium ITXpo, most likely made one of his final appearances before its core enterprise customers. The CIOs in attendance were all Microsoft customers in some form.

In many respects, Ballmer defended and outlined Microsoft's current approach. He didn't cover a lot of new ground, but was typically animated and had his share of quips. The big takeaway is that Microsoft is aiming to be an integrator on multiple fronts.

"We grew up as a company by dividing things into smaller manageable problems. The number one thing we're hearing from customers is that we want you to put it together," said Ballmer, who said Microsoft has to be an integrator.

For Ballmer, putting it all together means hardware, but the heavy lifting will be on interfaces, developer tools and creating a common Windows platform for a heterogeneous world.

See also: Microsoft talks up single app store at company meeting | Microsoft developer directions: One Windows core doesn't mean one store | Microsoft: 'Metro-Style' Office not due until 2014 | Microsoft working to unify further its Windows and Windows Phone platforms

Ballmer said it's realistic to have one Windows platform across multiple screens. "Sometime in the next short cycle we'll see great progress on that. What it really means common user interface, common programming interface, common security architecture and user interface adaptability and common developer model and key services," said Ballmer.

He noted that a common experience will be coming sooner rather than later, but "I'm not going to give you a schedule."

"We need to build a common operating system as well as a common back end based on what the device knows about you," said Ballmer.

As for other platforms, Ballmer said Microsoft has made Office and terminal services to the iPad. Lync and OneNote are native. Outlook may make sense, but hard to believe Apple will let us make that available, he said. Word and Office are optimized for keyboard and mice. "iPad will be picked up when there's a touch first user interface. That's in progress for Office," said Ballmer.

Here's Ballmer on other key topics:

  • What's the new dream for Microsoft? "We're talking about a new world and enabling people to achieve what's more valuable in life," said Ballmer. Devices and services are just the "how" behind those personal and professional lives.

  • Have we completely redone the way people conduct themselves through digital techniques? Ballmer pointed out that the Gartner analysts had notebooks and pens. Paper is failsafe and prove that Microsoft can still add value. "Think about the way we conduct everyday tasks," said Ballmer. "We see a range of activities driven by software activities...that make us stronger."

  • Partnership strategies. Ballmer said that partnerships with OEMs have changed over the last year. "We've spent a lot of time talking with our key partners about the need to push forward," said Ballmer. "We're pushing through with hardware innovation and we're also licensing. We see a world that's heterogeneous with Windows and things that are easier if we push forward with integration."

  • Pen systems. "I believe in the power of the pen," said Ballmer. "I think a lot of systems will have a stylus built in. We're going to go all in." Microsoft's approach will be to make the big all-in bets and then give it to the ecosystem.

  • Design. There's software and hardware design, said Ballmer. User interface is critical and there are a number of people focused on it. On the hardware side, Nokia will bring expertise to the table. Windows does form the center of design and interaction principles. Microsoft also has a design guide that all applications follow, said Ballmer.

  • Spread too thin? "Our most ambitions competitors are trying to compete in all the same areas that we are," said Ballmer. "We have more success in more areas than anyone else does."

  • Enterprise customers are asking three questions: How do I manage infrastructure? What will we use for business process? What will be use to empower our workers? "We have a broad footprint," said Ballmer.

  • Multiple devices. If you're going to be on one screen you need to be on all of them (from a software perspective)," said Ballmer. He dismissed talk that about buying a PC vendor. Ballmer did say that Microsoft is working on an 82-inch screen Windows 8 device. "It looks great on a wall, but isn't very portable," he quipped.

  • There's no disconnect between designing for consumer and enterprise. "People are people," said Ballmer. "They are people in their work and personal personas. Consumers want to have an integrated life." The biggest consumer businesses are Google, Apple and Microsoft, noted Ballmer. There are connections everywhere. For example, Microsoft needs to make Lync and Skype more interoperable to bridge both communication tools.

  • Licensing. "What we've learned about licensing is the best thing we can do to make it simpler is not changing it," said Ballmer. About 10 years ago, Ballmer said Microsoft changed licensing and "we made every customer mad." Licensing changes cause more upheaval than wanting to simplify. "What we're doing is looking forward as we add SaaS and cloud options that we're not making things more complicated," said Ballmer.

  • Developers solve tech problems. Ballmer said every problem in technology is fixed by developers. Developers, however, will operate differently. Deployments will happen more quickly. "The cycle from development, test to deployment will happen much faster," said Ballmer.

  • Who is the top competitor? Google, Apple or Amazon. "All of the above," said Ballmer. The day you say it's all about one guy the other one emerges, said Ballmer. Apple and Samsung have grown revenue and earnings more than anyone else, he noted. Ballmer said five years ago he wouldn't have projected that outcome.

  • Future trends. Ballmer was upbeat on the potential for learning machines and 3D printing. "We need to focus on enabling 3D printing," said Ballmer.

  • What makes a great CIO? "It takes two things. One I do believe CIOs need to understand technology and feel comfortable. On the flip side, all CIOs need to understand the culture, go-to-market processes and the business processes. A lot of CIOs feel divorced from the business of the business," he said.

  • Best places for tech to make a difference. Ballmer said education, healthcare and communication and making the world feel smaller via real-time translation software and other tools.

Related stories:

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Mobility

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  • flop in the making!

    windoze can not get there because it is too bloated and bug ridden.
    Only Linux and FOSS can do something like that.
    LlNUX Geek
    • LlNUX Geek

      Thank you for your time to take your head out of Linus's cr0tch. You can get back to it now.
    • Typical

      This is the type of response we normally get from Linux-fanboys. No value add and grade school level thinking... Very sad. Linux is certainly good for some things, its sad that people like this cannot communicate those advantages in an intelligent way instead of making low class (or no class) non-intelligent comments like these.
    • A single programming and UI model?

      Good grief, you Linux guys and your flame wars about Gnome... you really think you can agree on a single anything?
      • Re: A single programming and UI model?

        Why single programming *and* UI model? Why not (for example): single programming and multiple UI? Or multiple programming and single UI?
        Or, what is wrong with multiple programming and multiple UI?

        And what does Linux have to do with Gnome? Except that both favor GPL...
      • Still missing the point

        Users care about just one thing: a single binary distribution model. They like customization, not being locked into a fixed GUI. And they don't like the non-G aspects of Microsoft's touch vision... the non-intuitive nature that spits in the face of 30 years of GUI evolution.

        Programmers care less about a unified Windows programming model than they do about the easy of supporting New Windows along side of iOS, Android, and perhaps Old Windows. They'd generally prefer a choice of programming model; one company may be fine doing simple panel-based things in HTML5, the next may be doing a 10 windows, 20 thread thing with built-in JIT, all in C/C++.
    • Seriously

      You're wasting precious pixels writing insipid comments like this one.

      And BTW, the "windoze" joke is as old as the "Linux Desktop Year" - you know, 10 years ago.
      Time for a change my friend. Boring.
    • Lol...that was biggest laugh ever....

      Linux can do this? How many hundreds of Linux distribution are there? 500?
      Actually, Linux is closer in having 1 OS for every Linux developer out there...
      Oh and something else, Microsoft is very close in achieving this and proves that the windows OS is modular, scalable and not bloated.
      • On the other hand...

        Just one of those Linux distros (Android) outsold all versions of Windows last year, and is on track to outsell all versions of Windows by a factor of three this year. That ought to give at least a little pause to Windows fanbois degrading Linux.
        • Android is not a Linux distro, and it cannot be ported

          to PCs like a regular Linux distro.

          An OS that has a specific form-factor in "mind" and that is locked down to that form-factor (tablets and/or smartphones), is not a full-featured OS like Linux or Windows or Mac OSx.

          You Android and Linux fanatics keep trying to up-sell Android as a general purpose OS, but, it's more like a motorcycle being sold by an unscrupulous used car salesman as a Ferrari. Most people are a lot smarter than you hope they are.

          So, why not try you Android distro on a 4-core i7 Haswell-based PC? Tell me about how well your "distro" works on that device. It will be more like a "distroy" OS than anything else.
  • I actually agree with him... in part

    I think making a common OS or at least providing a common abstraction layer of the OS is great. Obviously its technically possible, but I just don't think having a common UI across device form factors makes any sense at all. These devices are different and they provide different capabilities. They interact with each person differently. I think Windows is morphing, but it needs to morph intelligently and that means one size DOESN'T fit all. You can have common API's, common back-end interactions, common development tools, ease of migration from one form factor to another, all with a common layer of the OS - this is all great and should be the #1 goal. But why not give each individual customer the option of what kind of UI they want to use? You have some different UI options... allow the customer to choose any one of them. Perhaps one customer likes the Aero interface and wants to use that on their tablet - not too user friendly, but that is what that user wants to use.

    Also he apparently wasn't asked or didn't talk at all about Sales & Marketing and pricing their products competitively, two areas which they are sorely lacking.

    I do agree with his view regarding developers and the use of 3D printing. This will be big in the future.
    • 18 years late to the party

      haven't Sun tried the same API's and UI themes everywhere with java since 1995?
      Look where they are (not) now!
      LlNUX Geek
      • no relevance

        sun's poor management skills led to their demise- nothing to do with technology. Java is still used more than any other programming language today.
        • Java

          Definitely, Java is a great technological advancement by SUN, as are other of their great projects such as ZFS.
    • technical stumbling block(s) for ms

      For years, they perfected embrace and extend to keep competition at bay and that tactic of moving from open standards is now biting them in the a$$. On non-m$ platforms ( which are the dominant ones), people do not care about windows APIs, direct whatever etc. For e.g., on the tablet and smart phone graphic drivers, they are all about supporting openGL/ES going forward over direct draw, 3D etc. That in itself will be a huge stumbling block for them to keep a common programming interfaces across platforms.

      They sure can rewrite core layers of windows but that will break from many legacy apps and that in itself obviates the need for windows.
    • good

      But UNIX has provided unified OS for ages (since before Microsoft ever existed). With all the common abstraction layers, modularity etc.

      If you ask most people, they will still believe "Windows" has always been "one OS" and that the different versions differ mostly in licensing and price. You will confuse a lot of Windows people by telling them that for example Windows 2000 has nothing to do with Windows 98 internally and that there is indeed huge architectural difference between "Windows Server" and "Windows Client". (need to note, that most of those differences are not widely known, even to Windows developers and admins -- but then, not everyone needs to dwell deep into operating systems)

      At the end, it does not matter what Balmer or anyone else says. What matters is waht is delivered. And, after so many years -- "one Windows" is still utopian.
    • One OS-Ring to Rule Them All

      Doesn't work because, as you recognized, one-size does not fit all.

      MS still does not see that's it's revving up its kamikaze dive and alienatingits core business base.

      JJ Brannon
  • Common Programming Interface

    If that's true, I hope it is based on the high horsepower traditional Windows model, and not the crappy lite, unpowerful, sandboxed WinRT model.
    • unlikely

      In situations like this, the lowest common denominator always wins. Unfortunately.
  • Summary

    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS. corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS
    . corporate BS

    Couldn't be bothered to do a proper summary. Nor could Dignan.

    OK, OK ... one gem ... "Design: there's software and hardware design".