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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 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.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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