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Microsoft CEO -- IE 8 delays, Vista "painful" to customers, MacBook Air not up to snuff

At Microsoft's MIX08 conference in Las Vegas, an annual Microsoft conference for web developers and designers, many people were waiting in anticipation for Steve Ballmer to let loose.  Ballmer's keynote was co-hosted by a surprising guest -- early Apple employee and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. 

Kawasaki, instrumental in developing the original Mac computer, played the role of interviewing Ballmer and prodding him with tough questions.  The audience also did its best to get Ballmer going and get him to open up.  Ballmer did not fail to entertain, as well as inform.

Among the first questions fielded by Kawasaki were about the possible Yahoo-Microsoft merger.  Ballmer emphasized that he sees the hostile takeover as critical to online advertising, a key field in Ballmer's mind.  He said, "We have worked really hard to make it clear that we have real commitment, real aspiration and real tenacity about being a very serious player in the world of search and advertising.  Advertising on the Internet is a big thing and will be the next super big thing.  We've got a long way to go! And Yahoo seems to be a way to accelerate that because of the critical mass that's required to really compete."

Ballmer said that search was the "killer app" of the advertising industry.   When Kawasaki questioned Ballmer about rival Google, Ballmer at first refused to say the rival's name, almost repeating a previous answer.  After some ribbing from Kawasaki, Ballmer relented. "I can say 'Google'" he repeated.

On Apple Ballmer was less than praise-filled.  At one point, when asked questions about Windows Vista, Ballmer distracted Kawasaki by grabbing his MacBook Air.  He then held up the computer and pronounced, "You got Vista on that thing?  This is heavier than my PC. It's true! That thing is heavier than the Toshiba that I carry.  Where's your DVD drive?  We'll get rid of this. We'll get you a real machine, and then you can e-mail me your feedback."

Kawasaki inquired about Ballmer's dislike for Apple, stating, "When you wake up in the morning, what do you think about Apple? Is it this little Chihuahua that you kick away every time?"

A very energetic Ballmer proceeded to bark and howl like a dog, before responding in a concilliatory tone, "Apple does a pretty good job, I'm not going to take away from anything that Apple does. We also do a pretty good job, and we're going to drive hard.  Apple's taken away a little share."

On Windows Vista, Ballmer tried at first to avoid Kawasaki's question "What's the deal with Vista? Seriously", but eventually was compelled to respond.  Ballmer replied, first praising Vistas adoption, but then acknowledging, "we did make the choice to kind of hurt compatibility, and our customers have let us know that has been very painful."

Ballmer also talked a bit about Internet Explorer, which is one of the major attractions at the show.  Regarding the slow progress coming out with IE8, Ballmer stated, "Obviously, we can ship browsers separate from the operating system, but we were really thinking through that next-generation design."  Ballmer then acknowledged that the delay had been "painfully long for customers".

A tidbit about possible XBox 360 Blu-Ray was dropped when Ballmer answered an audience question on the topic.  He replied,  "We've already been working on, for example, in Windows, device driver support for Blu-ray drives and the like, and I think the world moves on. Toshiba has moved on. We've moved on, and we'll support Blu-ray in ways that make sense."

Despite the interesting somewhat more serious opinions of Ballmer, the highlight for many occurred during the Q&A session.  An audience member asked Ballmer to do a "web developers" dance to which Ballmer, obliged, as seen here.  After screaming like a madman, Ballmer returned to his seat, pumped up, quipping to the audience member, "If you just gave the guy behind you a dollar, I want fifty cents."

One issue decidely absent in Ballmer's interview -- any sort of progress update on Windows Home Server, which after heavy marketing remains dead in the water, crippled by growing data loss problems.

A full video of the keynote is found here.

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The Bamer dance
By eye smite on 3/7/2008 1:55:37 PM , Rating: 3
What's up with the link for his dance, it's not working on my end?

RE: The Bamer dance
By JasonMick on 3/7/2008 1:59:55 PM , Rating: 2
Fixed. Now go and watch the madness and be happy! :)

RE: The Bamer dance
By AstroCreep on 3/7/2008 3:00:30 PM , Rating: 2
Give it up for YOU!

RE: The Bamer dance
By geddarkstorm on 3/7/2008 3:03:07 PM , Rating: 3
Now we can get new, awesome, Ballmer pictures for Microsoft related articles :D

RE: The Bamer dance
By bighairycamel on 3/7/2008 3:15:07 PM , Rating: 1
If you're blue and you don't know
where to go to why don't you go
where fashion sits
Puttin' on the Ritz!!!!

RE: The Bamer dance
By BruceLeet on 3/7/2008 3:23:49 PM , Rating: 3
He's an energetic fellow isn't he. I dont think you'll ever see another CEO act the way Ballmer does.

He would probably be the most violent drunk nerd at a party, I mean Bill Gates would talk about code and structure and Ballmer would just start punching arms shouting C++ C++ C++ chugging a pint

RE: The Bamer dance
By retrospooty on 3/7/2008 4:10:20 PM , Rating: 1
LOL @ violent drunk nerd shouting c++ c++ while chugging. This is a scary dood.

RE: The Bamer dance
By BruceLeet on 3/7/2008 6:17:00 PM , Rating: 4
You didn't know nerds can get retard-strong?

By ZeeStorm on 3/7/2008 2:49:17 PM , Rating: 1
I'm sort of confused. We all know what Ballmer is going to say about these topics prior to these conferences, why do people make a big deal about them? Oh, Ballmer made fun of the MacBook Air... did you really think he'd support it? Come on.

I'm tired of these lame MS conferences. It's basically a bash of every single company that doesn't merge/help MS in some what.

What would've been more helpful if he talked about IE8 MORE and maybe Office Live, and maybe support for Office 2003 since a lot of people are disgusted with 07? I really would expect more pro-MS talk than anti-every other company talk. Would be much more beneficial, IMO.

RE: Confused..
By rocky1234 on 3/7/2008 3:05:15 PM , Rating: 4
My first post here
Anyways you say Ballmer did nothing but make fun of other companies. Have you ever watched Steve Jobs do these things he spends his whole time running down Microsoft & thier products instead of talking about the new OS he about to release so I would say he is far worse than Ballmer when it come to this. But I must admit Ballmer is far more entertaining to

RE: Confused..
By kelmon on 3/10/2008 5:54:13 AM , Rating: 2
Have you ever watched Steve Jobs do these things he spends his whole time running down Microsoft & thier products instead of talking about the new OS he about to release so I would say he is far worse than Ballmer when it come to this

You and I must be watching different keynotes. They once dragged Bertrand Serlet out at WWDC a couple of years ago where he proceeded to do some pointless Vista-bashing, but beyond that Steve almost never mentions Microsoft. If you've got some evidence to back this up (I direct you to the keynote selection: then feel free to post back. I really hate it when companies talk bad about their competitions products rather than focusing on what they are releasing but Jobs always talks about his own products and what's good about them (discussion about the competition just provides context).

RE: Confused..
By TomZ on 3/7/2008 3:39:58 PM , Rating: 4
It's really about having a sense of humor, that's all. Obviously Ballmer could get his job done without the fun-and-games, but it's a lot more interesting for him and for us this way.

RE: Confused..
By Doormat on 3/7/2008 4:03:54 PM , Rating: 2
Ballmer did have some key insights he talked about during the Q/A, despite the media's attraction to the monkey dance thing. Of course, I laughed pretty hard when Kawasaki mentioned throwing chairs.

But still, Mix 08 was really good, and this keynote was a fraction of my time at the conference (it was only about an hour or maybe a little over an hour). So what you see as anti-everyone else isn't dominant for someone who was actually there.

I even went to a session where Miguel de Icaza talked about a Sliverlight implementation on linux (Moonlight), and how MS is working with him.

RE: Confused..
By bplewis24 on 3/7/2008 5:39:51 PM , Rating: 3
Because of stuff like this:

A very energetic Ballmer proceeded to bark and howl like a dog

Man, I can't get enough of that guy :)


RE: Confused..
By MrDiSante on 3/7/2008 7:20:32 PM , Rating: 2
I'm tired of these lame MS conferences. It's basically a bash of every single company that doesn't merge/help MS in somewhat

You don't like it, don't read it. The title does a perfectly good job of informing you what the article is going to be about.

What would've been more helpful if he talked about IE8 MORE and maybe Office Live, and maybe support for Office 2003 since a lot of people are disgusted with 07? I really would expect more pro-MS talk than anti-every other company talk

You want to know more about IE8? Download the beta (it's perfectly fine, interestingly enough, although it does eat some sites - included - for breakfast). As for Office Live - yes he could have said more, but he's not really the guy to ask. I'd be more interested in what Ozzie has to say. As for Office 2003 - that is stupid. Everyone I know who has actually USED Office 2007 for more than 2 weeks loves it. He compliments Microsoft just as much as the next CEO and he's fun to listen to. Once again, I have to reiterate: you don't like what he says, don't listen to him and don't read the article

What I don't get is...
By TomCorelis on 3/7/2008 3:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
...WHS is based on a Server 2003 core. How badly do they have to mess up WHS to destroy its ability to keep data intact?

RE: What I don't get is...
By darkpaw on 3/7/2008 3:21:45 PM , Rating: 2
It may be based on the 2k3 core, but the drive management and file system is all new. I'm pretty sure the issue lies in there. I actually like WHS a lot, but the fact they still haven't fixed this is becoming a pretty big issue.

RE: What I don't get is...
By TomZ on 3/7/08, Rating: 0
RE: What I don't get is...
By RogueSpear on 3/7/2008 4:19:16 PM , Rating: 3
If it is a one-in-a-million type of thing, it may not even be worth putting out a special fix just for it.

Perhaps if you lose your data you'll feel differently. The point that some Microsoft apologists seem to miss is that this thing is meant to be a file server, so file corruption would IMHO be priority one on the list of "things to do".

And I don't see Microsoft as an irresponsible company that would totally ignore a pressing problem if it were causing their customers grief.

You should read up at some web sites that are information security oriented. Microsoft has a storied history of knowingly sitting on security vulnerabilities for months at a time. In fact that's what eventually led to the feature freeze or security lockdown (whatever they called it) a couple years back.

RE: What I don't get is...
By TomZ on 3/7/2008 4:30:52 PM , Rating: 1
First of all, I am not apologizing for Microsoft. Nor did I say that it is okay for it to not get fixed. I just said that if it is a very rare occurance, then I could understand why Microsoft might not issue a patch just for that issue. Please read my post again.

Furthermore, only a fool trusts his or her data to a particular machine. "A fool and his data are soon separated" or something like that. My point is that even with WHS, a person should have backups. No degree of RAID in a single machine can protect you from data loss if the whole machine goes belly-up, or in this case, if it happens to suffer from some obscure bug.

RE: What I don't get is...
By cobalt42 on 3/7/2008 5:06:54 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the data corruption bug is something that you know when it happens, or that it happens over time, is it? I thought it was corruption that occurs as files are being written, in which case if you back up your WHS filesystem, you're backing up corrupted data. It's mitigated slightly if you use WHS *as* your backup, since you'd still have at least one good copy on the original machine, but silent corruption is still pretty bad.

(Not that your point isn't valid in general, I just didn't think that was the situation with this specific bug.)

RE: What I don't get is...
By JustTom on 3/7/2008 8:28:07 PM , Rating: 3
You are making an assumption without enough relevant information. I could just as easily say that the reason it has not been fixed is because there is a fundamental flaw in the drive management system.

I do agree that MS is unlikely to be deliberately ignoring this problem; the real question is why has it not been addressed.

Finally, information from MS seems to imply this is more than just a minor problem. They have replicated it in a number of programs.

The compatibility issue is troubleing...
By darkpaw on 3/7/2008 3:13:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well, if they are blaming Vista's adoption issues on compatability problems, I have a feeling forced migration to 64bit is not coming any time soon.

I was really hoping Vista was going to be 64 bit only from the get go, that didn't happen and Windows 7 won't be either. That means Windows 8 (2012? at earliest) would be the first possible 64 bit only OS.

Upgrades are hard, and compatability issues do hurt, but it is becoming more and more clear that this transistion will be needed. Consumer level PCs are coming with 3gb of RAM regularly now, any more is pointless on Win32. Until Windows forces development to 64bit, we'll continue to see very few apps written natively for it.

By TomZ on 3/7/2008 3:48:37 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft has already shipped a milestone release of Windows 7 to partners, which included both an x86 and x64 version, so it seems pretty clear they are going to continue to support x86.

By sprockkets on 3/7/2008 2:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
No question about iphone market share?

RE: what?
By mondo1234 on 3/8/2008 11:21:14 AM , Rating: 2
No question about Zune market share?
Whats up with that? What does it cost to make a Zune and how many did they sell over the holidays? Are they selling songs thru Zune online?

Balmer is an idiot!
By winterspan on 3/7/08, Rating: 0
RE: Balmer is an idiot!
By kelmon on 3/10/2008 6:03:15 AM , Rating: 2
The comment is phrased badly but the sentiment is, in some ways, correct. Ballmer was clearly off-base when he predicted the iPhone would crash and burn and he may well be wrong about the Air (clearly he's not going to be declaring it to be greatest computer ever). The problem for the Air is that, unlike the iPhone, it's not a universal product and it will always be a niche product. That said, asking whether it was running Vista was pretty dumb since it almost certainly wasn't and not doing so is generally seen as being a plus-point. Still, he does tend to enjoy making an ass of himself which, while entertaining, probably isn't an appropriate role for someone in his position.

this is just cr*p
By mikermike on 3/9/2008 5:40:55 PM , Rating: 2
it'd be ok if microsoft was just messing around while it was secretly developing the nano computer in a tube, but it's not, and it doesn't really have an operating system because it knows that the hardware isn't going to be realized -- no, i don't mean nano, just silicon -- set for another five years, and that the machines will probably have dedicated i/o and face. vista? when was the last time ballmer or gates installed their own soundcard or played a game more cpu'd than solitaire or flightsim?? and apple's just as bad -- renaming service packs with mac'brandos and charging a hundred or so bucks for them -- ok, windows actually neeeeeds those service packs. but, really, if memory hadn't become so cheap vista couldn't have been released -- and thanks, apple for fixing the powerchord-is-too-cheap issue and adding an HP dashboard retro look.

i use my worthless G-4 power book for writing and the web and for dvd in bed when it's cold out. i use my desktop for games and video development and having a computer life. for the last 20 years that life has been on life-support while these guys sell and test on me and have a nice house in los gatos, seattle and vail. lamer.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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