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Microsoft CFO bullish in Windows convergence and comms plans

Klein predicts double digit-growth at Goldman Sachs briefing

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Microsoft’s CFO Peter Klein took to the stage at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference on Wednesday to outline where Redmond is headed in the next 3 to 5 years – and it’s all going to be about cross-platform.

“What we're trying to do is develop a complete set of experiences across all device types, be they TV, tablets, PCs, phone, whatever,” he told attendees. “It's unclear exactly what the ultimate device spectrum will be. In everything that we're doing I think things have come together very nicely over the last couple of years.”

Key to the process, especially on the tablet and PC front, was Windows 8, Klein explained. Windows 8 and Windows on ARM (WOA) are as unified as they can be and the Metro interface will open up new opportunities for developers, although he was clear that legacy apps were going to have to be rewritten for the new processor, unless they’re Office sheets, macros, and documents. For corporate customers the advantages of the new interface would ease concerns over migration, he claimed.

With Microsoft selling the applications directly, users would also be offered a greater degree of security, he claimed. Microsoft has been studying the security implication of this and could control the marketplace better, as well as working with developers on more secure coding strategies.

On the search side it’s Bing with everything. Microsoft is planning to increase the integration of social networks into search – and Klein stressed all of them – with Redmond focusing on growing the business and growing revenue per users while keeping a rein on costs. Partnerships, like Microsoft’s deal with Facebook, will also be key.

As for the communications front, Klein reported that Microsoft and Skype engineers were well on the way to integrating the platform across the Microsoft range across the product range. Lync will be exclusively for communications behind the firewall, while Skype would deal with the outside world – which is why Redmond was keen to buy it.

“The most fundamental experience across devices is communication,” he said. “The value of communication is having the most number of endpoints and having the most complete set of experiences. Skype extends that across all of our assets.” We’ll see how that plays with the EU, considering Cisco’s complaint over interoperability on Skype.

The blot on the landscape was Phone 7, Klein acknowledged in a question from the audience. Microsoft was sticking with its existing hardware suppliers and ensuring a lot closer integration between the hardware and software to ensure a consistent experience. Klein denied that Microsoft had come late to the mobile market, saying there was no historical precedent for being too late in mobile, and that that a lot of people wanted a third force in the mobile ecosystem.

“Since we launched Phone 7 qualitativly we were super-happy with the response,” he said. “What we really need to do is accelerate customer adoption, and that's where the partnership with Nokia really comes in.”

Overall it was a bullish performance, with Klein predicting double-digit growth in all business sectors Microsoft was involved in. More and more business customers are signing long-term enterprise license agreements, lured in by the services Microsoft offers, and Klein said that he expected this to accelerate. Office was doing well and the company expected Office 15 to be popular with buyers.

However, when questioned on maybe funneling some of Microsoft’s funds back to shareholders, Klein said there would be no change to the current policy of reinvesting in the business. If circumstances changed Redmond might shift its attitude to keeping cash in hand, he said, but it’s steady as she goes at the moment. ®

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