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.
September 19, 2008 11:34 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
Following up on yesterday's report from Microsoft's company meeting, during which CEO Steve Ballmer shared his views on the company's mobile strategy, here are some other tidbits gleaned from folks in attendance:
-- Comedian Rainn Wilson of "The Office" was described as a "great emcee." He gave a 10-minute intro and did a few bits in between executive speeches. Toward the end, Wilson yelled to the crowd, "Stand up, losers!" That was prelude to an attempt at a paper-airplane world record. At past company meetings, employees have let fly airplanes from Safeco Field's upper decks, trying to land them on the stage. Wilson led the crowd in launching thousands of paper planes with the goal of breaking a world record for simultaneous planes aloft. The crowd was told the previous record was 12,000. About 23,000 Microsoft employees registered for the company meeting.
-- Satya Nadella, senior vice president in charge of engineering across Live Search, MSN and Advertising Platforms, "reaffirmed" Microsoft's commitment to Live Search, according to one observer. (Yesterday, comScore reported more disappointing results for Microsoft's search engine.)
-- Employees got a preview of the latest Windows ads, as well as Windows 7 and upgrades of Word and PowerPoint, which the presenters emphasized will have unique features not available on competing products from say, Google.
-- One employee noticed the absence of discussion of HR or philanthropic milestones though the company did turn its event into a food drive; I'm checking on how much they collected.
-- Ballmer apparently entered to fireworks and touted the company's financial success in the last fiscal year, according to one observer's Twitter dispatches, posted here. "60B in sales. 22B in gross income. No other company (if they aren't an oil company) can say that."
-- The Microsoft CEO addressed the company's stock price, noting that it's about what it was a decade ago. (He gave me his take on the long-term performance of MSFT during an interview earlier this summer, calling it "volatile" not flat.) One observer summarized his message this way: "He said in general, we have to understand that the market is unpredictable, and we should just stay focused on our job and team goals and work hard."
-- (Update, 1:22 p.m.: Can't believe I omitted this earlier. An observer also conveyed this reset of Ballmer's retirement date: He told employees he originally planned to stay at Microsoft until the last of his children went to college. Now he plans to stay until Live Search beats Google. Mary Jo Foley reported it, too, which reminded me that my source had conveyed this detail. As Foley pointed out, it's also mentioned in the comments on a Mini-Microsoft post about the meeting.)
-- A trivial aside: Some in the audience thought Ballmer was drinking honey during his speech. Literally. One observer described an amber, oddly-shaped bottle that upon further inspection seemed to be a bear-shaped honey bottle in one of Ballmer's hands. Another person told me they thought it was honey, too, but then decided it couldn't be because he was drinking it too quickly and it would take longer for honey to pour.