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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: Microsoft's lack of focus
By Tony Swash on 9/30/2010 2:32:26 PM , Rating: -1
What you call a "lack of focus" a mature company calls "diversification". To use a simple analogy, if you dig from the same well one day it will dry up. This has happened to Apple a few times.

The author of that article is purposely using FUD to stir up the uninformed. Either that, or he's an idiot. He asks what is MS' platform and says none of the products are best in class. MS is no different than Apple, and others (but I know you love Apple):

The problem for Microsoft is that they only make money in large amounts in Windows desktop, Office and server software. Everything else either makes a loss, just about breaks even or makes a small profit but only after MS have sunk a vast and disproportionate amount of capital into the project.

They have have tried for a decade or more to break out from the core three businesses and make money in significant quantities in new areas and failed utterly.

Compare this to Apple (broken into three new markets in a decade and had a huge impact and made giant profits) or Google (created huge profits from a new area search). Microsoft cannot innovate its way out of a paper bag let alone into a new seam of profitability.

MS has Windows, Apple has OS X
MS has Office, Apple has iWork
MS has Exchange, Apple has MacOS X Server
MS has Bing, Apple has Spotlight (and god knows what else, it changes so often)
MS has Zune, Apple has the iPod
MS has Xbox, Apple has the iPad/iPhone/iPod

iWorks was created to prevent dependency on Office. Now it is replacing office in the new world of touch devices. Microsoft better make an iOS version of Office soon or they will shoot themselves in the foot again.

MacOS Server is avery minot product for Apple

Duh! Spotlight has nothing functionally to do with Bing. The former is a way to search for stuff on your computer (and still better than anything in Windows 7 by the way) and Bing is a (not very successful) competitor to Google in internet search.

Zune is a failed attempt by Microsoft to match the iPod. One sells few thousand and one sells ten of millions - guess which is which.

iPad, iPhone and iPod do not compete against Xbox. In fact that don't compete against any MS products because MS have nothing to compete with them. They collectively generate billions in profits every quarter. Xbox is yet another failed business venture. MS spent billions (billions!) to try to compete with Sony. Why? The profits they make, given the investment made, is pitiful.

MS may not be best in class in all of them, but it is very successful in most of them, whereas Apple has two successful markets (iPhone/iPod as a music player, iPad/iPhone/iPod as a gaming device, where gaming is a secondary function). Apple has the most risk as it has fewer successful markets.

That made me laugh. The Mac by the way is a very successful and profitable business, Apple make more profits from macs than iPods. Mac sales doubled in the last year. Macs take a disproportionate amount of the profits in the PC market. Apples computer sales and profits are better than Dells.

RE: Microsoft's lack of focus
By acer905 on 9/30/2010 6:54:43 PM , Rating: 2
... Bing is about to kick Yahoo out of the second place spot for search engines, and its actually rising fast. I'd call that being fairly successful.

Also, it must be noted that your primary arguement for Apple, their profit levels, are simply a result of their cult following of supporters such as yourself, who will pay any price for an object regardless of its features/specifications. This allows Apple to rake in boatloads of cash on outdated hardware, because of the "experience"

RE: Microsoft's lack of focus
By robinthakur on 10/1/2010 10:58:40 AM , Rating: 2
Tony's arguments might be biased to justify his foregone conclusion, but nothing he said is really wrong per se...the MSFT stock price duldrums over the last decade confirms that this is the market's view also.

Apple's insistence on a high profit margin for all of its devices (besides the iPad which has relatively high manufacturing costs currently and a lower profit margin) is smart business and has resulted in a miraculous ccomeback from the brink. It has also been pretty recession resistant which surprised and bizarrely annoyed many on here.

Consumer products sink or swim on how good they, how easy to use they are and how much people recommend them. Apple is clearly doing something right because they are growing and people are generally happy with their devices. Labelling it 'cultism' is equivalent to you throwing your hands up because you genuinely don't understand why their products are so successful, and that's slightly worrying. They are successful because generally people don't care about the specs, they care about a products utility. The lack of ability to understand this characterises DailyTech posters in general and terrifies MS because they don't have confidence in the strategicc leadership of Steve Balmer in the same way that Apple employees do in Steve Jobs for example (nowadays anyway!) I'm sure Balmer's style of leadership would work better if MS was actually leading in the mobile sector, the tablet sector and the search industry. To hear his blind arrogance and swagger in fields where MS aren't actually doing all that well seems pretty ridiculous.

Microsoft have a tonne of talented people, I know they do first-hand, but they do actually lack focus. Obviously there are exceptions in their product lineup such as SharePoint, Windows, Office etc. which are massively successful, best of breed products (Windows is debateable depending on your familiarity and usage) Crucially, as Tony pointed out, for certain projects over the last decade, the huge sums of capital which they invested have been squandered on vanity projects such as the Xbox, Tablet pc's Zune, Search, their whole Live strategy, Kin, Bing and various other debacles (Vista comes prominently to mind...)

Whilst the Xbox has sold millions, and that particular brand has now finally turned a meagre profit for three years (considering the billions of dollars invested), the Entertainment and Devices division still operates at a heavy loss overall which is why Robbie Back et al were given their marching orders.

Obviously Bing is still being promoted heavily and MS is doing deals to make it the default search tool on a variety of devices, but the concept of it or Yahoo catching up to Google globally is a long shot I'm sure even they would agree.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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