Mary Jo Foley, longtime Microsoft watcher, has fantastic coverage of the announcements out of the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver.
Her latest post covers Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's presentation to the audience of third-party software developers, system vendors, business consultants and others who represent the company's de facto sales force. They are gathered this week for the partner conference. About 12,000 people are in attendance.
Speaking to the audience "essentially the same way I speak to our employees," Ballmer offered the audience a view of where things are going with the company.
And to Foley's ear, he came "the closest I've ever heard him to admitting that Microsoft needs to change its course. And fast."
"'Consumers expect a move in this [Web] direction,'" Ballmer said.
Ballmer's broad talk aimed to clarify the company's vision for a new model of computing. Ballmer called it an "evolution in computation and user interface models," which Microsoft short-hands as "software plus services." That's as opposed to other buzz-phrases such as "software as a service" or "Web 2.0."
Foley reports on how Ballmer explained the company's move toward the Web:
Ballmer explained that Microsoft already is rearchitecting its core platform to be more of a Web-centric one. As he told the Partner Conference audience, "the programming model stays .Net and Windows." But beyond that, Microsoft is is redoing its products and business models from scratch.
In a nutshell, Microsoft is taking the datacenter infrastructure it has been building to support Windows Live, Office Live, Xbox Live and other Live services, and is making it the crux of the company's future products, all across the board.
A Webcast of Ballmer's roughly hourlong speech can be found in the middle of this page, under the Webcast heading. I imagine a transcript of the speech will be posted later today.