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Microsoft biz stars won't shine in Wall Street web show

Offline schmoozing for tired buns

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Microsoft watchers and stockholders scratching their heads over the recent cloud re-org, Bing's continued losses, and potential prospects for Office 2010 will have to personally trek to Redmond this year if they want to hear from those directly in charge about what's going on.

That's because Microsoft has shaken up its annual Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) so the presidents of the Server and Tools, Office and online divisions won't be speaking or answering questions in sessions that traditionally were broadcast live online to the watching world.

Instead, at this Thursday's event, presidents for Microsoft's business groups will be made available offline to FAM attendees in a convivial atmosphere over lunch and during demonstrations of Microsoft's products, services, and research.

Those unable to attend, or not invited, won't get to hear what they've got to say.

A Microsoft spokesperson told The Reg the event was changed to make FAM more interactive and shorten the number of main-stage sessions. In past years, FAM has run from 8am to after 5pm. FAM this year wraps up at mid-afternoon.

That time gave Wall Street's guessmen ample opportunity to make life uncomfortable for Microsoft's presidents in a very public way.

Chief executive Steve Ballmer and out-going E&D president Robbie Bach were pounded by analysts over Microsoft's loss of market share to the iPhone and others smartphones last year. Twelve months on, Apple's share has stabilized but Google's Android is now on growth steroids.

During FAM's narrowed time slot, web viewers will get treated to the hard sell from Ballmer, chief operating officer Kevin Turner, and chief financial officer Peter Klein. Ballmer and Turner's on-stage sessions were also broadcast last year.

One plus: with Ballmer in - temporary, we assume - charge of the entertainment and devices, web viewers could get more details on the Windows Phone 7 mad scramble to catch Apple's iPhone and clarification on how Microsoft can avoid another KIN debacle.

Based on the underwhelming Windows Phone 7 presentations at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) this month, it'll be interesting to see whether Ballmer's got anything beyond retreading the standard Windows Phone 7 consumer-crossover pitch.

FAM will amp up efforts to distract Wall Streeters from asking detailed questions like how much money Microsoft will pour into Bing before it considers it has "won", integration between Bing and Yahoo!, dates for when online will turn a profit, growth goals for Office 2010, and how – and when – Microsoft plans to hit pay dirt on Azure following the S&T reorganization.

Chief research strategy officer Craig Mundie, responsible for long-term technology strategy, gets to reprise his slot that will – again – be webcast. Expect Mundie to talk simple technologyese for Wall Street types.

Investors on site also get a trip around that technology show case, where Microsoft will show off Windows Phone 7 on different handsets, Office, online services, Xbox Connect, and back-end servers, along with different consumer, business, and IT "scenarios". ®

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