Ballmer hints at Microsoft's future in the 'cloud'

Microsoft chief provides a few more details on company's effort to build a set of services in the Internet cloud.
Written by Ina Fried, Contributor
DENVER--Microsoft has its head in the Internet cloud.

The software maker has been talking for some time about its plans to have a full-fledged platform that lives on its servers, as opposed to a set of discrete services, as is the case today. However, the company has been extremely short on details. During a speech at the Worldwide Partner Conference here Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer didn't quite answer all the questions. But he did promise more news will come sooner rather than later, while also offering a few hints as to where the company is headed. During the presentation, Microsoft also pledged to share more information with partners and developers.

"This is an ambitious project for us but it is very important," Ballmer said. "We have a lot of news and things that we'll be talking about and unveiling...this year."

Ballmer said that later this year Microsoft will deliver the first version of a set of developer tools to build on top of Microsoft's Windows Live effort and noted that the tools will be based on .Net.

"We are in the process today of building out a services platform in the cloud," Ballmer said.

Doing so, however, will take time. It requires Microsoft to have a new computational model, a new storage model, a new virtualization model and more, Ballmer said.

Later during the talk, Windows Live general manager Brian Hall came out to demonstrate some of the existing partner opportunities. Hall also promised far more to come.

"Fundamentally, we are opening it up," he said. "What's ours is yours."

Ballmer also said that Microsoft is moving closer to offering a service based on its effort with Energizer, where Microsoft has been essentially managing the battery maker's desktop IT support for more than two years. Microsoft won't offer that full outsourcing ability, but will have a service around communications and collaboration that it will start selling "much more vigorously and transparently."

There is room for partners to both resell Microsoft's service or develop their own, differentiated service, he said.

"This is a case where we'll have a service...and we'll want to support you in having a service," Ballmer said.

Ballmer also said that Microsoft plans to rename its existing Office Live product with a small-business notation as the company introduces a separate set of Office Live services for individuals.

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