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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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April 17, 2008 11:47 AM

Microsoft's Ballmer gives unvarnished take on Windows, online businesses

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke in Seattle this morning to one of the friendliest, but also most knowledgeable and critical audiences he faces: Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals. In a jocular, hourlong speech and conversation, Ballmer gave some unguarded assessments of his company's position in online search; its bid for Yahoo; the success of Windows Vista; and its market acceptance vs its predecessor. Here are some of the highlights:

Ballmer touched on many of his usual talking points about the company's history, core strengths and the four big areas of its business: desktop software, enterprise software, entertainment and devices, and online.

"In the online area we've got a lot of users. We've got some big competitors. We've got some big whatevers -- competitors or acquisition targets, whatever you want to call them. We've got a little bit of everything out there," Ballmer said, referring to Yahoo.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Yahoo is looking to deepen an advertising deal with Google that it began testing last week. The move is viewed as a way for the company to evade Microsoft's efforts to acquire it.

Ballmer said Microsoft is the global leader in e-mail and instant messaging, but in Internet search -- the most important application category and the biggest source of online revenue -- "we are the clear No. 3 in the market."

He sought feedback from the crowd of IT pros, many of whom have dedicated their careers to becoming expert in Microsoft's products, on which Internet search engine they use.

"How many of you use Live Search as your default?" Ballmer asked.

A smattering of hands went up. Tepid applause.

"How many of you use Yahoo search as your default?"

Far fewer hands went up and the room was relative quiet, until it filled with laughter.

Ballmer, trying again, louder this time, "How many of you use Yahoo search as your default?"

The same response.

"Wow, we offered 31 bucks a share," he said, to more laughter.

"How many of you use Google as your default?" Ballmer asked.

The vast majority in the audience raised their hands, cheering and hooting.

Ballmer looked around. Smiled. Scratched his cheek. Rubbed his face with his hand.

Ballmer acknowledged that the desktop software business, a deep well of revenue for much of the company's history, is changing.

"Things are kind of in a state of flux in some ways," he said. "It's this age of transition."

Ballmer gave a muted report on Windows Vista -- the company's flagship operating system product -- which, according to some analysts, faces a make-or-break year in 2008.

"Windows Vista," he said, pausing for a moment, "A work in progress."

The crowd laughed and applauded.

"A very important piece of work and I think we did a lot of things right and I think we have a lot of things we need to learn from," Ballmer continued. "Certainly, you never want to let five years go between releases and we just sort of kiss that stone and move on. Because, it turns out, many things become problematic when you have those long release cycles. The design point, what you should be targeting. We can't ever let that happen again. We have some things that we can't just set the dial back, but I think people wish we could."

He then launched into a comparison of Windows Vista and its predecessor, Windows XP, which some users and businesses are favoring and even petitioning Microsoft to continue selling the operating system after June 30, when most sales are scheduled to stop.

He acknowledged that Vista is bigger than XP and said the company has to make sure it doesn't get bigger still.

"And believe me, top of mind for me, for [Chief Software Architect] Ray [Ozzie], for the senior team here is making sure that we continue to drive forward and take the good work that we did in Vista, take the chance for improvement and progress and drive forward," Ballmer said.

Ballmer seemed to open the door to a conversation with customers and partners about extending the life of Windows XP, even though the company has previously stuck to the June 30 end-of-sales date:

"In the mean time, we have some customers, a lot of customers using Vista. A lot of customers. And we have a lot customers that are choosing to say with Windows XP and as long as those are both important options, we will be sensitive and we will listen and we will hear that. I got a piece of mail from a customer the other day ... about not being able to get XP anymore. We responded, XP is still available, and I know we're going to continue to get feedback from people about how long XP should be available. We've got some opinions on that. We've expressed our views, but certainly to this crowd ... I'm always interested in hearing from you on these and other issues."

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Posted by robert laughing

3:28 PM, Apr 17, 2008

5 YEARS for a 'work in progress?' How long is this w-i-p going to suck resources from the CRITICAL NEW OS? Vista? Looks like Mexico City on a HOT August visibility!!! Flush vista and get a real, FUNCTIONAL OS, for Heaven's and MSFT's share price sake!!!! MSN has HAD great potential - you bums BLEW IT! Outside of antitrust issues, MSFT can't get a real WINNER, can you?

Posted by MM

6:29 PM, Apr 17, 2008

After a year trying to get my Dell / Vista piece of junk to work, my wife and I are buying a Mac with tax rebate money to end our P.C. computing insanity.

Posted by robert laughing

8:25 PM, Apr 17, 2008

MM...that's what we did too, got a24 inch I- Mac and will never look back at the horrors of ME, 98, XP, Barf, er... Vista.

Posted by GCV

3:18 PM, Apr 18, 2008

I use Vista for my main desktop , but still have to develop software in an XP environment, which I run in a virtual machine. I find that I can go back ind forth easily because both work in much the same way to me. Yet Vista is many times larger than XP. The operating system grew by an order of magnitude, yet in day to day use it offers no added value. That is a disgrace to Microsoft. I have disabled many of the features of Vista because their design and implementation is so bewilderingly stupid. At the top of that list is UAC.

Posted by steveballmer

8:56 PM, Apr 18, 2008

Let's see Steve Jobs come close to a speech as good as that!

Posted by Alex

12:45 PM, Apr 19, 2008

"...a lot of customers using Vista..."

And how many actually ike it?

Posted by John C

1:51 PM, Apr 19, 2008

And what Enterprise customer is willing to run it's business on "a work in progress". I sincerely hope that our IT department continues with XP. Lets wait and see what the next version of windows brings. Meanwhile, I'm running Ubuntu at home and I'm very happy with it. MS has got big problems - will taking on Yahoo fix it? Certainly not in the short to medium term. Meanwhile Google is eating it's lunch in the online space.

Posted by fileprompt for free software

3:32 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Vista sure is bigger, bigger headaches, bigger incompatible list of non-supported hardware, and bigger bugs

The reason why xp lasted over 5 years, is that MS couldnt come up with anything better to replace it, nothing wrong per-se of leaving an OS in place for 5 years, its the updates that count.

well done !

Posted by J S

4:03 PM, Apr 19, 2008

This reminds me of an earlier article I wrote on MS business improvements ( - and it's the same problem faced by the auto industry. MS has maintained a "5 year refresh cycle" - which kills the US auto industry using the same cycle because you have to guess what people will want or be available to use five years from now. I think much of Vista would have been ok had Moore's law prevailed - but the only way to increase computer power was to start doubling up on cpu's - which many programs are not written to utilize... so Vista overshot. Meanwhile Ubuntu is renewing itself every six months (which I reinstall either Kubuntu or Xubuntu every other version).

If you want to try out Linux, I put a quick start list together (, the thing about Linux is you can try it out for free - if you don't like it then certainly run to the mall and buy a different copy of Windows (XP or Vista) or go buy a new computer to get a different operating system (Apple Mac) - it just depends on your level of need, pain, and stress.

Posted by sfosparky

5:12 PM, Apr 19, 2008

In the years preceding Vista, Microsoft intentionally de-modularized Windows as a way of locking out competing products. The embedding of Internet Extorter in the operating system as a way of preventing the emergence of Netscape middle-ware being the most notorious example.

The result was and is an over-integrated, bloated piece of junk that requires extensive third-party software to protect.

To "fix" the problems created by Vista, Microsoft needs to modularize Windows; to pull the over-integration out so that inessential pieces can be removed or improved upon -- by third parties if need be.

But of course if pieces of Windows can be removed, Microsoft comes full circle, forced to live in a world in which Windows can be reduced in role if not marginalized by non-Microsoft products...

Posted by steveballmer

5:26 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Hey! I thought you guys were on our side!
Stop this pile-on Vista SharkFest, it's unseemly!

Posted by Okinawa

6:38 PM, Apr 19, 2008

I think many of us finally see the end of Miscrosoft and Windows...once Google makes its first will be done M$.


Posted by Adam I. Orre

10:04 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Some people claim that "Linux is not desktop ready yet", well, what does this quote really mean?
For me, who has been using GNU/Linux since 1996 it is a funny quote as, regarding the desktop, it has been better than the Windows desktop since the early beginning, even though they have not been competing in an fair way, each of the systems has had their advantages. The big difference, why Windows does not attract geeky people with high demands, is that Windows can not be easily customized to the user's need. Windows is a "take it or leave it" solution. I tested Windows 1995 and soon left it. It hadn't improved from the corresponding GUIs from early 80-ies, and it still hasn't.
I now start to realize what the quote "Linux is not desktop ready" means, despite it is more desktop friendly than Windows will ever be. The reason, the desktop is not the answer, neither is web services. GNU/Linux and all other *nixes represents the future. The desk top represents a dead end.

Posted by dave

10:53 PM, Apr 19, 2008

Ubuntu Hardy Heron for the win!

Posted by steveballmer

10:09 AM, Apr 21, 2008

You have got to be joking! How many of you use hefty Herion? 33?

Posted by steveballmer

6:42 PM, May 05, 2008

Mac on Podium, Proven Fake! Here's the Real Thing!
The scandalous allegations by a couple of fakers that I used a Mac to run a presentation has been proven to be completely bogus! Here is the photographic evidence:My personal PI, Jack Stone, uncovered an unretouched copy from one of the culprit's personal computers (they have macs).
PI Jack Stone gained entry into's trailer in the Sahddy Grove trailer park by posing as an exterminator, his final report says:

"I pretended to be giving away my exterminatory services as a public service for the day, PIB was overjoyed! I convinced him he had to leave for a few hours while I fumigated the 12'x24'. The domicile was alive with vermin of all types, but, my objective was his computer. Per Mr. Ballmer's instructions, I cloned the entire drive and upon completion reformatted the original and installed Vista Home Edition via bootcamp. On my departure, I sprayed two full cans of Raid Yard Guard throughout the place, it didn't seem to do much good."

The geeks here at MS retrieved this original photo from the clone.
The resulting ORIGINAL photos clearly show I was actually using my Sony Viao!

CASE CLOSED! CONTROVERSY OVER! URBAN LEGEND DISPELLED! and Chubbystar, you both may yet be hearing from our lawyers soon! (That's if they don't call the local police department about some of the other more "disturbing" photographs we found first!)

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