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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was pretty mad about the performance of Windows Vista, which is his own words was "not executed well".   (Source: Tech Digest)

Listen up, adds Ballmer -- "There's nothing free about Android."  (Source: Yahoo Video)
Microsoft CEO's keynote was full of juicy comments

This week such noted guests as Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Jeff Bezos — chairman, president and CEO, — landed in Redmond, Washington for the annual Microsoft CEO Summit.  Unsurprisingly, the keynote speech was given by none other than the CEO of the world's largest tech company and protege of tech pioneer Bill Gates, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer is one of the most energetic and influential figures in the tech industry.  He is also known as one of the most polarizing, for his wild antics and unscripted sound bytes.  Thus you could virtually guarantee his keynote would be pretty interesting.

At the speech Ballmer let his fellow CEOs exactly how he viewed Windows Vista -- an overambitious product botched by a poor launch and poor timing.  He stated, "Just not executed well. Not the product itself, but we went a gap of about five, six years without a product.  I think back now and I think about thousands of man-hours, and it wasn't because we were wrong-minded in thinking bad thoughts and not pushing innovation. We tried too big a task, and in the process wound up losing essentially thousands of man-hours of innovation capabilities."

The admission was surprisingly forthright, when contrast with Ballmer's early statements on Vista's performance.  Initially, despite poor sales Ballmer blamed factors such as piracy, refusing to blame Vista.  As time has passed he has slowly grown more critical of Vista.  Of course the operating system is no longer Microsoft's flagship product, so that could have something to do with his changing attitude as well.

Many analysts have been highly critical of Windows Vista's performance.  The OS came at a $6B USD research and development cost to Microsoft, yet failed to come anywhere close to surpassing its predecessor, Windows XP, in market share.

The upside to that flop, though, was a rich operating system base that allowed Microsoft to push out Windows 7 -- essentially a performance tuned Vista with some extra gloss.  Windows 7, by contrast, has been a wild hit, passing Windows Vista in seven months and cruising towards passing Windows XP.  While that success can't entirely numb the sting of Vista among Microsoft's brass, it does provide a degree of vindication of their overall strategy.

Despite his candor about Vista, Ballmer had no qualms about saying that the super-hot selling Android smart phone operating system from Google was inferior to Microsoft's own smart phone operating systems.

In an interview with Fortune Ballmer commented, "I think what you mostly what you see in the market is that there's a lot of dynamism.  You know, people are up, they're down, they're sideways, they're this.  The whole market is growing.  But, in terms of share and popularity there's still a lot of opportunities for innovation."

"And I think Apple did some good stuff, but they're not number one in the market.  You know, number one is still Nokia, number two is still RIM.  And they did some good stuff.  And you know Android is done more of a... Google has done more of a software only approach.  Which has advantages.  That's our approach.  They hit the market with a good window relative to touch."

When asked about Android giving away Android for free versus Microsoft, which charges smart phone carriers, Ballmer took issue with that assessment, stating, "And there's nothing free about Android.  I mean at the end of the day as we certainly have asserted in a number of cases you know there's an intellectual property royalty due on that.  Whether they happen to charge for their software or not is their business decision."

Ultimately Ballmer is right -- Android isn't free.  It's certainly an expensive project for Google.  However, it's hard to deny that Ballmer essentially dodged the question.  At the end of the day Android is free to handset makers and consumers.  That answer would be a tough one for Ballmer to give, though, when the upcoming Windows Phone 7 comes with a fee, which is ultimately passed down to the consumer.  And then there's the additional fact that Android currently has some abilities that Windows Mobile does not, like copy and paste and multi-tasking.  Ballmer's response, while technically correct, thus left plenty unsaid.

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Google's "Freedom"
By Tony Swash on 5/22/2010 8:28:26 AM , Rating: 5
Came across this interesting take on Google's recent announcements:

It included this perceptive statement:

"It’s true that Google doesn’t want to control what you do. That’s not where they make their money. They make money by watching what you do. They want to watch it, record it, analyze it, and then monetize it by serving ads to you.

Let’s re-interpret Google’s keynote highlights through the perspective of the paranoid. Tinfoil hats on:

Google wants to make sure that every part of your life happens under their searchlight. They don’t want you to use desktop apps; they want you to use apps on the Web, so that they can observe how much time you spend at each task, and get at least a vague sense of the data you work with.

They want you to use their mail service, so that they can better understand your relationships with other people.

They don’t want you to send data to your phone via a secure, user-controlled cable. They want you to do it through the Internet, so that they can note the sort of music you like, the locations you’re interested in, the places you’ve been.

They also want to be able to “push” apps onto your device that you might not want, and let websites push data into specific apps. They want the ads they push onto your device to have an unusually close level of interaction with your phone hardware and the data therein.

And Google wants to know what you do in your living room. What shows do you watch? What shows do you record? Once you’ve recorded them, how long until you watch them? Do you watch them all the way through? Did you pause during a commercial? What did you do during that pause? Did you visit a site or search for a keyword? What was that keyword?

OK, tinfoil hats off. That’s hot stuff, eh?

I’m not suggesting that Google is this devious. What you’ve just read is simply what happens when you run the pages of Google’s two developer keynotes through the same software that interprets all of Apple’s motives as sinister, controlling, anti-freedom, and anti-innovation.

In truth, both companies have ambitious goals for themselves and want to create two things: Priority 1 is immense positive cash-flow. Priority 2 is terrific products and services, which lead to successful accomplishment of the first priority. If their own goals collide with another company’s, that’s not their lookout."

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By SkateNY on 5/22/2010 11:18:06 PM , Rating: 2
Let's all be adults here, even for those for whom this is a huge stretch.

No company controls us. Advertising and marketing use coercion in the service of having consumers first buy and then continue to use their employers' products.

Once I make a purchase, I'm free to break, abuse, forget about, trade, sell, lend or discard the product.

The grand delusion among Apple, Microsoft and Google critics is that each of them, in their own way, forces us to do and buy things we either don't need or want.

There's not only an app for that; there's also medication.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By Tony Swash on 5/23/2010 10:56:19 AM , Rating: 3
The grand delusion among Apple, Microsoft and Google critics is that each of them, in their own way, forces us to do and buy things we either don't need or want.

Exactly - that's the point I was trying to make with the quote I posted.

The notion that Apple is closed (bad, reduces freedom, locks customer in) and Google are good (open - everyone is happy in and free in Googeland) is just plain daft. People can buy or use the products and services of either company.

Each company has a different business model which seeks to maximise its own advantage - but that's just business. Whats silly is couching everything in some juvenile human rights context as if one company is evil and another good.

No is forced to buy Apple products so if anyone doesn't like them just shop elsewhere. Similarly you don't have to use Google to search.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By B3an on 5/23/2010 11:30:54 AM , Rating: 2
It's nice to see a well written and mature post by you Tony. Not the usual Apple fanboy stuff. Keep it up.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By The Raven on 5/24/2010 10:41:16 AM , Rating: 5
It's not that they force you to use their products. It is that they "force" you to CONTINUE to use their products. I'd say using the word 'force' is hyperbole, but it is well employed.

(The following scenario may or may not be filled with inaccuracies, but is used to illustrate a concept. I have heard as much so I am rolling with it. Oh nevermind, I'll just change the names so I don't get sued.)

If you buy music on your uPhone, you might have to use uTunes or an uPod to listen to it. You can't just decide to start using WMP or Rhythmbox when you get sick of uTunes. So you will continue to use uTunes because of the DRM that is attached to it. Or you can forfeit the hundreds of dollars that you spent building your library and start over again with a different content distributor like 7digital or Amazon (which BTW you can use with any media player).

So you are being strongly coerced into use iTunes because of the data (songs) that you will forfeit. You had the freedom to choose it in the first place, but now you feel like you don't. That is what people are talking about.

If you were to be a little bit more detailed in your statement, I think that you would find why people prefer to be free in 'Googleland'.

Apple is closed (bad, reduces freedom, locks customer in)
Google is good (open - everyone is happy in and free in Googeland)

You point out here why Apple is bad, but don't really point out why Google is good (and I use that statement loosely).
But I guess this is why you don't seem to value the freedom that they are pushing with Android. Research why an open OS is better and then come back and fill in you own blank (the part where you mention Googleland).

The other part of this is that the companies using closed source OSs/apps to get as much money as possible usually prey on the uneducated who don't realize that they are 'stuck' with that product or they face a large manuf/dev induced penalty. This in turn takes market share away from those companies/organizations that are selling/giving a slightly less polished (due to inferior funding) product that uses open standards, and we go around the wheel over and over again until people realize that they're being scammed.

The critics are just trying to get us out of the wheel sooner than later. So don't hate.

Besides, I'd rather hear someone cry about how Apple, Microsoft and Google are evil than hear any more about the iP-- or iP----.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By Tony Swash on 5/24/2010 6:43:09 PM , Rating: 1
If you buy music on your uPhone, you might have to use uTunes or an uPod to listen to it. You can't just decide to start using WMP or Rhythmbox when you get sick of uTunes. So you will continue to use uTunes because of the DRM that is attached to it. Or you can forfeit the hundreds of dollars that you spent building your library and start over again with a different content distributor like 7digital or Amazon (which BTW you can use with any media player).

You do realise that you can export iTunes DRM protected tracks as an unprotected MP3 file on a CD anytime you want don't you?

Nobody is locked into anything. Its a bit of a hassle to do it but its doable. As far as I know, based on what Steve Jobs has said publicly, Apple would remove DRM from iTunes in an instant if the music labels would go along with it. Apple don't make much money on selling music - they make it from selling the iPod - and are not particularly interested in DRM except where it is required to get the music labels to sign.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By The Raven on 5/25/2010 4:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
Look bro, as I said I was trying to explain the concept of being locked in by a company. Not tell it how it is with iTunes. That is why I used 'uTunes' instead.

So if you are saying that there is DRM on iTunes you are therefore locked in to using Apple products to use those files. Yes, you can burn a CD and then rip it into some .MP3s. You also can hold a microphone up to your speakers, cut some wax, and slap some vinyl on a victrola. But it is not the same thing. And there are a lot of other things out there that are more difficult to convert (or impossible).

Try opening a .PST file with Thunderbird or Evolution. You can't. Because it is a proprietary format. Though a company could design their software to read it or make a converter if it were an open standard. But no. If you want to read all the e-mails that you have been saving up over the years and look up your old contacts, you'd have to buy Outlook again. I don't know all the details of this particular case, but due to the popularity of Outlook, I'd figure that there are some converters out there that do the job half assed to well. But they won't do a perfect job because it is not Outlook.

The same applies to the DRM protected .AACs that you are talking about. The quality of the files will degrade during the conversion process that you speak of. So you are not able to take what you bought with you when you change music players.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By elFarto on 5/26/2010 9:47:51 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft has recently released documentation on the PST file format.


RE: Google's "Freedom"
By The Raven on 5/26/2010 3:56:10 PM , Rating: 2
Sweet! Well I would really care if I used Outlook. But it is nice that it will be easier to get other people away from Outlook if they want to. Thanks, that's good to know.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By The Raven on 5/25/2010 4:56:09 PM , Rating: 2
Also, even if the burning and ripping of CDs did result in a perfect transfer of the .AACs, it is still a hassle as you said, and that would factor into someone's decision to switch to a different program. I mean I have hundreds of CDs myself and if I had bought all that on iTunes, I would probably never pull myself away from iTunes.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By The0ne on 5/25/2010 5:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
You and I know there are millions that don't understand what you've just said, not a single word. That is the scariest part for me.

RE: Google's "Freedom"
By hiscross on 5/26/2010 12:42:11 PM , Rating: 2
It appears from the not so savy responses that some people like being tied up to enjoy their hinded desires. I always wondered why a certain group of people use public bathrooms for their pleasures, now I think I know. For the rest of us, who enjoy life with the opposite sex and can make a decision, walk, and chew gum at the same time agrees with your thread. Nice post.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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