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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Microsoft's CEO is full of colorful, yet insightful commentary

Interviews with Microsoft's vocal chief executive, Steve Ballmer, are always entertaining.  A recent chat with The Seattle Times' Sharon Pian Chan was no exception.

In response to a question about Google CEO Eric Schmidt saying Bing was Google's chief competitor, and "a well-run, highly competitive search engine", Mr. Ballmer enthuses, "Welcome to our world, man. It's a competitive world out there. We're competing, other guys are going to compete with them. We have good competitors. Apple is a good competitor, Google is a good competitor, Oracle is a good competitor, VMware is a good competitor. We partner with Facebook, but we also compete in some dimensions with them. Hey, it's OK, just get out there and work. ... We're his best competitor, and we're a very good competitor and we're going to do a very good job."

While he might be excited to "welcome" Google to "his" world of search/competition (two things Google seems pretty well acquainted with already), he also talked about a more sober topic -- Kin.  The Kin phone project was a massive failure, with perhaps under 10,000 handsets sold after millions in investment and engineering costs.

In the interview Mr. Ballmer admits that Kin was a mess, commenting, "The No. 1 message from Kin is a message of focus. You only get so many things you can really talk about, communicate, work on with the consumer. You've got to be bold, you've got to look forward and you've got to stay focused. Kin was neither -- with 20-20 hindsight -- bold enough relative to where the market's going, and it just defocused activity from Windows Phone."

While certainly a colorful character, Mr. Ballmer seems to have a good feel about Microsoft's most promising upcoming products at least.  He states that "Windows Phone 7 or Kinect or IE9 (Internet Explorer 9)" are some of Microsoft's most exciting upcoming offerings."

Mr. Ballmer is also eagerly awaiting the launch of Windows slates to take on the iPad.

When asked about how long he would stay with the company, he replies, "I don't know. I'm working away doing the best job I know how to do. The company continues to grow. Outside my family, this is my baby. I want to make sure that, whenever I go, the baby's in great health. It's not a baby, it must be at least a teenager by now, young adult. I want to make sure the place is in very good shape."

And apparently Mr. Ballmer has a real Facebook (though there are numerous imposter Ballmer pages -- 11 by his count).  How often does he check his Facebook?  "Every day."

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RE: Search?
By chdude3 on 9/30/2010 10:08:03 AM , Rating: 2
Whether you agree or not with Ballmer's assessment of competition, the fact remains that he was welcoming Google to competition, not searching.

RE: Search?
By mcnabney on 9/30/2010 11:32:21 AM , Rating: 5
Google was born from a highly competitive environment. They buried a dozen successful competitiors on the way to the top.

Microsoft has never really competed on an open playing field. They were 'given' the OS monopoly when they cut a deal with IBM. They used that monopoly to undermine Lotus and wordperfect and force their office products on the masses since they integrated into Windows best. Do you really think it was magic that made Microsoft's office products function in the Windows environment better? Microsoft crushed Netscape by bundling Explorer. Novell was beaten by leveraging the desktop OS against the server environment. Microsoft is all about an 'unfair' playingfield. They fail in markets that they can't dominate with their default monopoly. They did fine with portable devices as long as they depended on syncing with the desktop. Once mobile devices freed themselves from the home computer their marketshare plummeted.

Kin is just a great example of their arrogance. They wanted the market to buy what they liked, but the mobile market is not a hostage like the Windows market is. There were far better products available so nobody bought it. The same thing will happen with Phone 7, but probably not so rapidly. The only obvious benefits of the device are the attachments to old Microsoft monopolies - editing Office documents and X-box Live integration. Apple and Google are going to destroy them.

RE: Search?
By Tony Swash on 9/30/10, Rating: -1
RE: Search?
By Smilin on 9/30/2010 12:43:39 PM , Rating: 5
I disagree.

* Word buried wordperfect because it was better (cardboard keyboard templates, really?)
* Excel buried 1-2-3 because it was better (Lotus loved to blame windows for their crap being unstable but it was features and integration that won the battle)
* Exchange buried Lotus because it was better and the gap is getting bigger every release.
* Windows Mobile buried palm because it was better *at the time* in that perfectly level playing field.
* XBox is the contender to Nintendo's title, not Sony. XBox came into a clean market as an underdog and are now dominating.
* Novell got crushed because they couldn't offer an application server and forced customers to coexist with a competitor. They also clung desparately to IPX/SPX while microsoft moved to TCP/ stupid was that?
* What about sharepoint? Fastest product to 1bil sales. What's unfair about that market?
* What about Communications Server? That market appeared long after the monopoly was settled. Microsoft is utterly embarrassing Lotus and Cisco
* What about Borland? Do they even make dev tools anymore after the butt whipping Visual Studio handed them?

Really I could go on and on...and you know it. The premis that Microsoft doesn't know how to compete on a level playing field is false.

Google has a lot of growing up to do. Outside of search they can't seem to get a money making product built to save their lives. Maybe they should have charged money for android (you too Sony+PSN).

MS lost the smart phone market (after they came to own it mind you) because they let their product fall to sh1t not because they have some fundamental problem competing on a level playing field. From what I see WP7 looks *highly* competitive and the game is just beginning. Their plunging marketshare up to now means nothing. Why? Because being the leader in the smartphone market right now is like being the leader in the PC market in 1982. The market isn't even a fraction of what it will be in 5,10,20 years.

RE: Search?
By superPC on 9/30/2010 1:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
i was about to recite similar list but you beat me to it. it is true that microsoft is highly competitive and oftentimes start as an underdog and ended up dominating. but let's not forget how you get there is at least as important. sometimes they just bought their way to success. it becomes a problem because that can make them complacent and we have vista (at the time of first launched) as a result.

RE: Search?
By Smilin on 9/30/2010 1:57:51 PM , Rating: 3
Yes lack of competition incites complacency for sure. IE6 is one of the bigger examples. Windows Phone is another big example.

With Office they've had a surprising amount of competition from themselves and that got them through to Office 2007. Now Google apps is the first viable competitor they've had in that space and MSFT has come out swinging. Office 2010 + BPOS (and to a lesser degree the free consumer equivalent on live) is impressive and they are immediately stealing customers back from google in droves.

I'm really more worried about Google than Microsoft. People talk about the "cash cows" of Windows and Office but they have many many (like 900?) viable products that *make money* and only a few deliberate money sinks like search. Google on the other hand has ONE cash cow.

You think MS is threatened by Google Apps competing with Office? Sure. They don't like that one bit and that's why we have Bing.
Think Google is threatened by Bing? Even more so. It's a direct (and serious) attack against their only source of profit.
If Bing can get under Googles skin it will give Google less time to play with their never ending pile of unprofitable beta toys.

RE: Search?
By The Insolent One on 9/30/2010 1:54:38 PM , Rating: 3 forgot to mention the elephant in the room.

WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and Lotus Notes for a long time were roughly equal to their Microsoft equivalents (a little bonus here, and a little lacking there). However, what Microsoft's master stroke was came down to their "Suite" pricing.

At the time when it mattered there was no bundled $399 price for WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and a Notes client. Whomever came up with the Office pricing effectively killed the old standard in one fell swoop. After all, who was going to spend $400 for WordPerfect and another $400 for Lotus 1-2-3 when Office "had it all" for one "quick and easy price of $399"?

RE: Search?
By Smilin on 9/30/2010 2:06:11 PM , Rating: 2
Very true.

MS Scored a coup with "Office". They bundled a bunch of individual award winning titles. When others followed suite they had to whip up the remaining pieces to get a "wordperfect suite" for example. The resulting package didn't hold a candle to Office.

RE: Search?
By lwatcdr on 10/1/2010 10:53:40 AM , Rating: 2
Word was a better Windows word processor than WordPerfect but I wouldn't dismiss WordPerfect as a bad product.
Excel was a better Windows and Mac Spreadsheet then Lotus.
Both WordPerfect and Lotus 123 had the same problem. They had to maintain backward compatibility with there massive installed customer base. With Lotus you could see the problem coming for years when they failed to produce a good Mac Product. I used a very early version of Word for DOS. Yes there was Word for DOS and nobody wanted it. Everybody wanted WordPerfect or Wordstar.
So in that case I will give you Microsoft did do better.
Novell I will not give you. Microsoft partnered with them and then killed them.

Yes Microsoft can compete but they have ZERO excuse to fail. They are the biggest software firm on the planet and dominate the OS and Office suite market.
As far as developer tools goes well the wrote the stinking OS so that does give them a big advantage. It did take them long enough to get it right. For decades the where following and copying Borland trying to compete. Any one else remember Quick C?

RE: Search?
By Da W on 9/30/2010 1:49:11 PM , Rating: 3
The same thing will happen with Phone 7, but probably not so rapidly. The only obvious benefits of the device are the attachments to old Microsoft monopolies - editing Office documents and X-box Live integration. Apple and Google are going to destroy them.

I'm always ammazed by all those geeks that bury WP7 without even testing it, or at leats using it's closest approximation, the Zune HD.

Apple created what the smartphone is today, google copied it, but we are still stuck with a shit load of icons spread over 10+ pages, and a shitty-boring music player. Google got features, oh wow. Microsoft is trying to go another way: usability. And i tell you, at least on my zune, the music player is top notch, you can mix playlist on the fly, like a group, you touch it's name and you get all their bios and can download related groups on the fly, their zune pass subscription is way better if you want to discover new things.

Grouping all your apps in metacategories, like "pictures+videos", "people", "office" etc gets things way more simple. Do you use Windows 7? Ain't the library things an improvement? Sure, a little akward at first, but once you know how to use them it is useful.

Pinning favorites programs on the home page is a nice feature too. And yes of course, there will be their monopolies. If you work and want to show your powerpoint presentation from your phone to an hdtv or a projector, you have to go WP7. I'm pretty confident about games on their machines. They will eventually get the damn copy and paste, tethering and so on like any others, and as far as hardware go, HTC and others will deliver their same best of the best that they deliver for android.

RE: Search?
By Smilin on 9/30/2010 2:11:11 PM , Rating: 2
Hey hey now. What's wrong with a Windows 3.1 interface on a 2010 smartphone? It's "magical".


"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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