Australian partners 'pleased' with Ballmer

Ballmer's Aussie interrogators appeased

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may not have quelled all customer concerns while in Australia, but partners said they were encouraged by his vision of the future.

Ballmer addressed approximately 500 attendees at a partner conference in Sydney last night. After his presentation, which focused on innovation, he was thoroughly probed on Redmond's plans.

One company that challenged Ballmer twice on the software giant's strategy was Melbourne-based WDG.

While the Web specialist elicited an admission from Ballmer that .NET faced interoperability issues with IBM and Sun, WDG managing director Arthur Spanos said he was otherwise encouraged by Microsoft's top brass.

"I was pleasantly surprised by his unifying vision.

"It seems they're a little more hungry these days than a few years ago," Spanos said.

It was music to his ears when Ballmer said .NET will receive a renewed push. About 80 percent of WDG 's business is invested in the platform, Spanos said.

"In our sector, there's a lot of momentum in .NET. But we take warning signs seriously.

"In government, there's still a lot of money being invested in non-.NET solutions. Getting investment in Microsoft software outside the desktop is still a hard sell," he said.

Meanwhile, Open Spatial Australia managing director Anthony Jahshan seeked another form of assurance from Ballmer.

Jahshan pressed the CEO to ensure Microsoft would not affect partners by moving into vertical markets.

"I thought his visit was necessary," he said.

Jahshan cited Microsoft's inroads into the finance and ERP markets as examples where partners who developed such software had become competitors.

Ballmer's response confirmed what the company had suspected, Jahshan said.

"I see his vision as being fairly crystal. He's very good at selling the company and the future.

"But for partners, we're going to have to be more nimble than in the past as the landscape changes," Jahshan said.

"We're going to have to eke out a living from verticals as much as we can. But how do we keep one step ahead of Microsoft?" he asked.