Feeds

Microsoft's Ballmer and Ozzie tag-team on mediocrity

Failure to communicate

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

Comment Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and chief software architect Ray Ozzie put on a poor performance when quizzed by Walt Mossberg at the All Things Digital conference, judging from the live blogs of the event.

What was wrong? They allowed the conversation to be focused mainly on competing products: Apple iPad, Google Android, Google Apps, Google search. Since these products have exposed weaknesses in Microsoft’s own offerings, it was unlikely to work out well.

Mossberg asks about the transition to the cloud. “You guys are putting, for instance, a version of Office in the cloud.”

That was a gift. You would expect the two men to enthuse about how Microsoft’s dominance with desktop Office was now including the cloud as well, how the Office Web Apps enable new opportunities for collaboration, how Microsoft’s investment in XML for Office was now enabling the same document to live both on the desktop and in the cloud.

Nope. Ozzie waffles about people being more connected. Ballmer “disputes the notion that everything is moving to the cloud”.

So what about Steve Jobs' prediction of a transition from PCs to tablets and mobile devices? Ballmer says “not everyone can afford five devices,” lending support to the notion that Windows is for those who cannot afford something better.

Mossberg asks about tablets. Although Mossberg did not say so explicitly, tablets have been a tragicomedy at Microsoft. Bill Gates evangelized the tablet concept years ago, pre-echoing Jobs’ claim that they would largely replace laptops. Microsoft tried again and again, with XP Tablet Edition, Vista on tablets, then “Origami,” or Ultra-mobile PC. Going back even further there were was the stylus-driven Palm-size PC (I have one in the loft). Tablet PC was not a complete failure, but remained an expensive niche. Origami sank without trace.

Ballmer replied that the “race is on”. Meaning? I guess, now that Apple has demonstrated how to make a successful Tablet, Microsoft will copy it? Or what?

I am not sure how you defend such a poor track record. But the starting point would be to explain that Microsoft has learned from past mistakes. In some ways it has. Windows 7 learns from mistakes in Vista, and Windows Phone 7 learns from mistakes in Windows Mobile.

None of that from Ballmer, who says vaguely that he expects Windows to run on a variety of devices. He makes matters worse later, by defending the stylus. “A lot of people are going to want a stylus,” he says. Some do, perhaps, but Apple has pretty much proved that most people prefer not to have one. I’d like to see effort go into designing away the need for a stylus, rather than implying that Microsoft is just going to repeat its part mistakes.

Someone in the audience asks: “Will we see Silverlight on Android or iPhone?” “My guess is if it did, it would be blocked”, says Ballmer, ignoring the Android part of the question.

He’s ignoring the force of the question. Why bother developing for Silverlight, if it is locked into a Microsoft-only future, especially considering the company’s poor position in mobile currently? Ballmer could have mentioned the Nokia Symbian port. He could have said how Microsoft would get it on iPhone just as soon as Apple would allow it. He could have said that Microsoft is working with Google on an Android port - I don’t know if it is, but certainly it should be. He could have said that Silverlight plus Visual Studio plus Microsoft’s server applications is a great platform that extends beyond Windows-only clients.

Microsoft does have problems but it also has strong assets. However, it is doing an exceptionally poor job of communicating its strengths. ®

Tim's article originally appeared on his blog IT Writing, here.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.