Ballmer: 'Windows isn't going away'

Windows today. Windows tomorrow. But how much longer?
Written by Charles Cooper, Contributor

Chief executive Steve Ballmer on Thursday said Microsoft continues to invest in developing and marketing its flagship operating system -- with a big however.

Detailing a not-too-distant future, Ballmer reiterated a point he has made in the past, that the company intends to morph into a supplier of software subscription services and technologies.

"Windows isn't going away," said Ballmer, addressing an audience of reporters and analysts gathered for the company's Forum 2000.

Still, he suggested a future where Microsoft makes its money from a very different business model than the one employed today.

"Software as a service is a concept you have to let your mind wrap around for a while," he said. "I'm enthused. I'm charged up. We can deliver a better user experience."

Describing the planned transition, Ballmer cautioned observers not to expect abrupt changes. He nonetheless indicated that the company expected to receive an increasing percentage of its annual revenue from subscriptions and services rather than royalties.

"This is the direction of transformation that we're describing," he said.

Ballmer made his comments as Microsoft described an umbrella of technology announcements under the term of .Net, which is final name for the company's Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) architecture. Officials acknowledged that the full rollout of the .Net platform would take at least another couple of years.

It was a day for technology, and Ballmer -- like the other company executives preceding him -- stayed on target, making only passing reference to the continuing antitrust saga.

"The last three weeks made me like a caged animal," said Ballmer, capping off a full day of presentations by Microsoft executives. "We were ready to go 1 June and ready to come out of the closet. 'Back into the closet,' the PR people said. 'You don't want to do it on that day.' "

1 June was the day US district judge Thomas Penfield Jackson announced his breakup decree.

The company got good news earlier this week when Jackson froze the conduct restrictions he had earlier decreed as part of the final remedies in the Microsoft trial. Jackson has sent the case to the US Supreme Court, which will decide whether to hear the case or send it to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Still, the threat of a breakup hangs in the balance and Ballmer said the company is proceeding "upon the notion of remaining an integrated company".

In a separate interview, Ballmer said lifting the conduct restrictions would pay immediate benefits, freeing Microsoft -- at least temporarily -- from the pressure of needing to comply with what the software company described an onerous burden.

"They were every bit as severe as the breakup itself," he said.

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