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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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May 28, 2009 9:25 AM

Can Microsoft get a big bang out of Bing?

Posted by Mark Watanabe

As expected, Microsoft took the wraps off its overhauled search engine this morning, introducing a new brand name, Bing.

The Wall Street Journal reported online that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was demonstrating Bing at the Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Here's Microsoft's release on the introduction.

The Journal's report said the search engine, which has been called Live Search, will sport a new look next week when it goes online. In addition, it is being designed to give users "access to a range of categories of search" and that Microsoft is targeting four distinct categories: shopping, local, travel and health.

Whether Bing can cut into Google's overwhelming lead in search will be one of the most closely watched issues in tech.

Bing will attempt to accomplish this by adding more features to Microsoft's search. Among other things, Microsoft is adding Bing Travel to the Bing.com site -- a combination of technology from Farecast and content from MSN Travel designed to help people in making travel plans. Microsoft acquired Seattle-based Farecast, an airfare prediction Web site, in April 2008.

Separately, BusinessWeek has an interesting interview with Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division who came to the company from Yahoo. In it, Lu gives a broad outline of where Microsoft thinks there are opportunities to advance search beyond what Google has accomplished:

"When you see a query box, you type in it. [The assumption is that] it will give you what you want. But [consumers'] expectations have increased. They are using that search box for all kinds of things: to purchase product, to plan a vacation, to research a particular organization, to study a particular concept."

Lu also says he came to Microsoft because the company has the resources to invest in infrastructure and "a world-class R&D team that has top-notch experts in all the critical disciplines."

Oh, yes, one more thing: Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing has a few words to say this morning on brands and brand names, including his own.

Update, 4:36 p.m.: The Live Search team (presumably that now becomes the Bing team?), responded to Stanley Bing's call to work out their differences by accepting Bing's (the person's) offer of services. The team's blog said:

After an emergency meeting (three people were invited, all declined), we've decided to take you up on your offer. We're not certain what exactly this would involve. We're not certain it would pay much (nothing, actually) but we look forward to starting a dialogue and hope we can work together soon. Let's do lunch.

Listen up and you can hear the badda bing.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Digital media , Google , Microsoft , Search , Steve Ballmer , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 20, 2009 8:30 AM

Morning Microsoft news roundup: Windows for netbooks $15, Oracle buys Sun Microsystems, Steve Ballmer is on the road

Posted by Sharon Chan

  • WSJ by way of Electronista: It's reporting that Microsoft is charging PC makers only $15 per copy of Windows for netbooks, low-cost laptops that cost around $300, about a third of the cost of a PC version of Windows.
  • Ballmer Watch: Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, is hitting the road. He is traveling to Europe, Middle East and Africa this week. According to the company, he is holding meetings with high-level government officials, customers and partners to discuss how technology can help during an economic downturn and will appear in several public engagements. The company did not give any more details about whom he was meeting with.
  • Oracle wants to buy Sun Microsystems for more than $7 billion. Ballmer told Reuters he's "very surprised."

Comments | Category: Microsoft , Steve Ballmer , Windows |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 19, 2009 1:02 PM

Ballmer reiterates interest in Yahoo, says tide turned on Apple, would relish IBM-Sun deal

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was in New York for an on-stage interview with BusinessWeek editor-in-chief Stephen Alder as part of the McGraw-Hill Media Summit today. He made some interesting comments on Yahoo, Apple, a potential Sun-IBM tie up. But there was no fundamental change in his position. That didn't stop the Web-cast interview from making headlines, which may have buoyed Yahoo's shares (Microsoft was up a bit, too) against a day of measured decline wrapping up on Wall Street. At the close Microsoft: Up 18 cents, 1 percent, to $17.14. Yahoo: Up 32 cents, 2.4 percent, to $13.74. Nasdaq: Down 0.52 percent. Dow: Down 1.2 percent.

Here's a summary of his comments:

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Billionaire Bill, down $18 billion, is back on top of Forbes list

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Scroogeswim.jpg The Forbes list of the world's richest people is practically a rite of spring around here. Are we home to the richest, second richest or, gasp, third richest person in the world? This year, as billionaires around the world saw their fortunes cut by the global economic downturn, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost the least among the top three -- $18 billion -- and edged back to the top spot on the list with about $40 billion in his money bin. Gates' friend and partner-in-philanthropy Warren Buffett is No. 2 on the list, with $37 very large. (He had moved to No. 1 in last year's survey.) Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who surpassed Gates as world's richest in summer 2007 (by a different estimate), is third on the global list with $35 billion. Another software titan, Larry Ellison of Oracle, leaped from 14th in 2008 to 4th, at $22.5 billion.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Compensation , Financial , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Philanthropy , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 4, 2009 8:09 PM

Ballmer explains how investors are reacting to cost cuts; says WinMobile 6.5 'not the full release we wanted this year'; talks Windows 7 marketing

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addressed a packed auditorium of public sector technology executives gathered at the company's Redmond headquarters for its seventh U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit this week. He touched on some of the economic themes that have come up in several of his speeches recently, giving his take on funding for innovative ideas in a down economy and investors' reactions to Microsoft's cost-cutting measures. Ballmer also expressed some disappointment in the progress of Windows Mobile and gave his thoughts on marketing Windows 7. Read on for highlights.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Mobile , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy , Windows 7 , Windows Mobile , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 25, 2009 2:51 PM

What Ballmer said about Yahoo and what others are saying about search deals

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After a fairly quiet few weeks following the one-year anniversary of Microsoft's bid to buy the Internet giant, a couple of reports in the past day or so, plus an utterance from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, have stirred the Microsoft-Yahoo pot. Let's start with facts and move on to speculation and unnamed sources.

Ballmer, during a strategic update meeting with Wall Street analysts, discussed the broader Internet search market, the tall order his company faces against Google and his continuing hope of joining forces in some manner with Yahoo:

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Search , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 24, 2009 6:15 AM

Microsoft Strategic Update: Ballmer tells Wall Street more dramatic cost cutting would be 'imprudent'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With Microsoft's Redmond campus largely emptied out for the winter holidays, CEO Steve Ballmer crunched the numbers on the proper level of spending for his company against the current economic climate, which he has repeatedly referred to as a "reset" rather than just a recession. Ballmer said his own estimates for the weakness and duration of the downturn tend to be more severe than those of other business leaders he meets.

With that in mind, he settled on $27.5 billion of operating expenses -- a level the company aims to hold relatively steady through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and during its 2010 fiscal year. Ballmer made clear to financial analysts meeting in New York this morning for the company's annual strategic update that cutting back even more significantly -- say to $20 billion -- would be "imprudent."

"I think this is right," Ballmer said.

That should give some comfort to those wondering if the modest layoffs Microsoft announced last month were the beginning of a more significant reduction. Wall Street analysts and investors are pressuring companies in every industry to continue cutting costs as sales and profits slow dramatically.

The strategic update call just came to an end. Ballmer gave a detailed look at seven major business areas for the company. Check back here later this morning for more details.

Update, 7:50 a.m.: As he told Congressional Democrats earlier this month, Ballmer said Microsoft's corporate strategists have been evaluating past downturns -- particularly those driven by "deleveraging." The team read company annual reports from 1927 to 1938 to determine who did a good job managing through the Great Depression. "RCA, God rest them in peace, became our role model," Ballmer said. The company was able to dominate the television business because it continued to invest during bad times, he said.

Then he broke down how Microsoft plans to invest.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Enterprise , Financial , Games & entertainment , Google , Microsoft layoffs , Mobile , Office , Online services , Open source , Search , Server and tools , Steve Ballmer , Strategy , Tech Economy , Windows , Windows 7 , Windows Azure , Windows Mobile , Xbox 360 , Yahoo acquisition , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 6, 2009 3:00 PM

Ballmer tells congressional Dems how Gates worried about making payroll in the early days; gives view of economy, "culture of spending"; calls stimulus package "vital"

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave his take on the economy during the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Caucus Retreat in Williamsburg, Va., today. He also shared this anecdote about Microsoft's early days and Bill Gates worries about being able to make the payroll.

When Ballmer first started at Microsoft, he lived with Gates because "we didn't have the budget to put people up in hotels," according to a transcript of the speech posted on Microsoft's "On The Issues" blog. (I've condensed a great deal of the speech, which I found particularly relevant and interesting, in this post.)

"And every time I sat down, in every corner, nook and cranny of couches, tables, I'd find these little yellow pieces of paper with Bill's writing that had a bunch of people's names and companies' names and numbers," Ballmer said.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Public policy & issues , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 22, 2009 6:43 AM

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer explains job cuts to employees

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In an e-mail sent to employees and released to reporters this morning, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer explained the company's first company-wide layoffs. Of note, while Microsoft is eliminating 5,000 positions over the next 18 months -- in addition to already ongoing cuts to contractor and vendor services, and other expenses -- Ballmer said the company will also "open new positions to support key investment areas during this same period of time" meaning that the net decline of headcount will be between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs or roughly 3 percent of its global employee base.

More coverage of Microsoft's cost-cutting

Microsoft laying off 1,400 today, up to 5,000 in next 18 months

Majority of cuts to be in Redmond; total reduction is roughly 3 percent
Contractor spending could be cut up to 15 percent
Attention turns to what groups will see cuts
Gregoire calls layoffs "disheartening"

Here's Ballmer's e-mail:

From: Steve Ballmer

Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 6:07 AM
To: Microsoft - All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: Realigning Resources and Reducing Costs

In response to the realities of a deteriorating economy, we're taking important steps to realign Microsoft's business. I want to tell you about what we're doing and why.

Today we announced second quarter revenue of $16.6 billion. This number is an increase of just 2 percent compared with the second quarter of last year and it is approximately $900 million below our earlier expectations.

The fact that we are growing at all during the worst recession in two generations reflects our strong business fundamentals and is a testament to your hard work. Our products provide great value to our customers. Our financial position is solid. We have made long-term investments that continue to pay off.

But it is also clear that we are not immune to the effects of the economy. Consumers and businesses have reined in spending, which is affecting PC shipments and IT expenditures.

Our response to this environment must combine a commitment to long-term investments in innovation with prompt action to reduce our costs.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Microsoft layoffs , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 8, 2009 6:53 PM

Ballmer addresses Yahoo search deal questions in CES interviews

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Nearly a full year has passed since Microsoft opened its campaign to acquire Yahoo, and later, just its Internet search business. In interviews published today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave his latest thinking on the matter appears to has changed little in months: He's interested in buying just Yahoo's search business.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 7, 2009 6:36 PM

CES: Ballmer realistic about economy, optimistic about technology

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Steve Ballmer is on stage now. For a rundown of what he's expected to announce, see this post.

He asked the audience to join him in a round of applause for Bill Gates -- Microsoft co-founder and chairman, and his predecessor on the International Consumer Electronics Show stage -- for his decision to devote the majority of his time to helping people around the world, particularly children in Africa. The full house (though not overflowing) obliged.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 7, 2009 6:30 PM

CES: Microsoft announces Windows 7 beta, partnerships with Verizon, Dell, Facebook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is set to take the stage here now. Here's a rundown of the news he's planning to announce, along with some analysis, based on an advanced briefing from Microsoft and an interview earlier today with Robbie Bach, president of the company's Entertainment and Devices Division, who is expected to join Ballmer on stage. Check back for color from the speech and any surprises.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Games & entertainment , Mobile , Search , Steve Ballmer , Windows 7 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 4, 2009 8:34 PM

CES preview: Ballmer takes the keynote torch from Gates

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Paul Sakuma / The Associated Press

Slash joined Gates on stage at CES in 2008.

One significant change at the International Consumer Electronics Show is who will deliver the preshow keynote. Bill Gates delivered it for more than a decade. Now, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will do the honors on Wednesday night. Check out this preview of a story on what the change could mean from Monday's paper. I'll be in Las Vegas covering CES beginning Tuesday. Check back here for updates throughout the week.
Not that he needed one, but Bill Gates had rock star Slash help him cap his performance at the International Consumer Electronics Show last year.


After keeping Microsoft on center stage at the annual gathering of all things silicon and circuitry for more than a decade, Gates said goodbye to CES last year, six months before he dialed-back at Microsoft to pursue philanthropy full time.

But Microsoft has managed to hold on to the coveted preshow keynote at CES.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Consumer Electronics Show , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 4, 2008 1:33 PM

Qi Lu, former Yahoo search exec, appointed president of Microsoft's Online Services business

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


MICROSOFT

Meet the new boss: Former Yahoo Qi Lu to lead Microsoft Online Services Group.

Just announced: "Microsoft Corp. today announced that Dr. Qi Lu will join the company as president of the Online Services Group. Dr. Lu will lead Microsoft's efforts in search and online advertising and all the company's online information and communications services. Dr. Lu will report to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer."

Brian McAndrews, senior vice president of the Microsoft Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group, is leaving the company, Microsoft said in a statement.

Updates throughout at 1:59 p.m.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Coming and going , Online services , Search , Steve Ballmer , Strategy , Yahoo , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 21, 2008 5:27 PM

Ballmer to be deposed in Vista Capable case

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ruled this afternoon that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be deposed in the ongoing Windows Vista Capable class action lawsuit. He must be deposed within 30 days and plaintiffs attorneys will have up to three hours with Microsoft's top executive.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Vista Capable |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 21, 2008 11:19 AM

One puppet's interpretation of Ballmer's message to Yahoo (language advisory)

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

During Microsoft's shareholder meeting in Bellevue on Wednesday, there was an old guy in the front row sleeping as CEO Steve Ballmer repeated the same message he's given on Yahoo several times in the past few months: "acquisition discussions are finished." But a search partnership remains a possibility.

Ballmer puppet.JPGMaybe if his delivery, instead of being calm and measured, was more along the lines of this glove-puppet Ballmer's "final statement on purchasing Yahoo," posted by Loren Feldman at 1938enterprise.com, the old guy would have perked up.


Note: You might want to turn down the volume on your computer before viewing this, or avoid it entirely if you're sensitive to f-bombs, mf-bombs and other blue language. Enjoy.

How much more do you think Yahoo's stock would have fallen if glove-puppet Ballmer gave the statement?

Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 19, 2008 8:40 AM

Updated: Ballmer: Microsoft "done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo," but still open to search partnership

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Updated with full quote, additional information: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer restated his position on Yahoo in response to a question from a shareholder at the company's annual meeting in Bellevue this morning.

"Can you tell us what's happening with Yahoo, or not?" asked a woman who did not identify herself.

Ballmer replied: "Yeah, let me be as clear as I think I've tried to be publicly. We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo. I've said that a bunch of times. Somehow, some people got confused nonetheless. We did our best. We thought we had something that made sense. If it made sense to them, we've moved on. With that said, I've also been clear that if they were interested we would still be--- I think an interesting possibility to look into search collaboration with Yahoo, as we had proposed last summer, but there's no active discussion on that front, but we'd be very open to it. But acquisition discussions are finished."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 19, 2008 8:31 AM

Microsoft shareholder meeting: Ballmer expects much slower hiring this year and next

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting in Bellevue this morning, said the economic downturn will certainly have an impact on the company's business.

The company is looking at every aspect of its business for opportunities to reduce costs; utilize resources more efficiently, and "much, much slower growth, particular in headcount, for the remainder of this financial year and, I suspect into the next financial year," Ballmer said.

Comments | Category: Recruiting , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 6, 2008 3:58 PM

Microsoft still not interested in acquiring Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Despite Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang's assertion that buying Yahoo is "the best thing for Microsoft to do," Microsoft doesn't see it that way.

A company spokesman told Bloomberg News today that there are no talks between the companies and that the official statement it issued on the matter in mid-October remains the official position. To review: "Microsoft has no interest in acquiring Yahoo!; there are no discussions between the companies."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Search , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 5, 2008 9:08 AM

Will Microsoft jump in as Google scraps ad partnership with Yahoo?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

At 7 a.m. today, Google announced on its official blog that it was scrapping its partnership with Yahoo on search advertising:

"[A]fter four months of review, including discussions of various possible changes to the agreement, it's clear that government regulators and some advertisers continue to have concerns about the agreement. Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners. That wouldn't have been in the long-term interests of Google or our users, so we have decided to end the agreement."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Google , Legal issues , Steve Ballmer , Strategy , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 22, 2008 9:08 AM

Microsoft: Stable cash-cow or fast-growing tech?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Interesting essay this morning from Eric Jackson at TheStreet.com on the choice and challenge facing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

"More than ever, Microsoft shareholders are wondering where Ballmer is leading the company. Will Microsoft be a large cash-cow conglomerate that pays a nice dividend and grows much more slowly?


"Will it make a splashy and expensive acquisition of Yahoo!, Research In Motion, or SAP to try to keep up a faster rate of growth? Or will it be stuck in the middle of those two very different strategies, trying to do both?"

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Strategy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 16, 2008 1:28 PM

Ballmer's full Yahoo quote, in context

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Reports on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's comments on Yahoo earlier today included snippets (some not entirely accurate) of his comments. I just watched a Webcast of the interview and took down the full question and answer, which is a bit more revealing.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 16, 2008 9:43 AM

Microsoft's Ballmer revives Yahoo deal possibility

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bloomberg and others are reporting that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this morning a deal between his company and Yahoo may still make sense economically for shareholders and that "[p]erhaps there will be continuing opportunities to" talk about a search partnership in the future.

(Update, 10:38 a.m.: Microsoft just poured cold water on this one, issuing the following statement: "Our position hasn't changed. Microsoft has no interest in acquiring Yahoo!; there are no discussions between the companies.")

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 7, 2008 3:59 PM

Significant Microsoft investor is pulling out with stinging rebuke to Ballmer as shares hit two-year low

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Silicon Alley Insider has an excerpt from hedge-fund manager David Einhorn's letter to investors for the third quarter, in which he explains his decision to sell his position in Microsoft. Meanwhile, the company's shares dipped 6.7 percent today -- along with the broader market -- to close at $23.23, their lowest point since July 20, 2006.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Financial , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 6, 2008 6:30 AM

Microsoft and the global financial crisis

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Brier Dudley's column this morning on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Europe neatly ties up several big issues from the company's ongoing attempt to escape the antitrust shadow to the global financial crisis. Dudley writes:

"Ballmer went to Europe last week for many reasons, mostly to drum up business, apparently.


"But consider the backdrop and the tone of his announcements.

"Like the U.S., Europe is hurting, and Ballmer came across as the Henry Paulson of the tech industry, promising big investments bringing stability, growth and jobs."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Public policy & issues , Recruiting , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 24, 2008 10:01 AM

Microsoft's Ballmer to be in limelight tomorrow at Churchill Club and January at CES

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Kevin P. Casey / AP

Ballmer at an event in Seattle in April. The Microsoft CEO will give the pre-show keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Slightly old news: The Consumer Electronics Association announced at the end of last month that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will take Bill Gates' high-profile spot at the huge Consumer Electronics Show early next year.

For 12 years, Gates gave a keynote address the night before the show kicked off. Attendees lined up for hours in advance to hear Gates talk about the future of technology. He typically invited rock stars, comedians and entertainers to share the stage with him. After Gates' last CES keynote earlier this year, speculation has swirled around who would replace him and whether Microsoft would still be given the prime slot on the industry's biggest stage.

Ballmer will give the keynote on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009, at 6:30 p.m. Other keynoters include Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, and Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally, formerly president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Ballmer is scheduled to take a slightly smaller stage tomorrow night in Silicon Valley. Ballmer will be interviewed by venture capitalist Ann Winblad at an annual dinner of the Churchill Club, the top Valley business and tech club. The conversation will cover "the future of the software industry and the opportunities and challenges facing Microsoft." Ballmer's talk is set to begin at 7:15 p.m. Thursday. A scheduled Web cast can be found here.

Update, 12:29 p.m.: I should hasten to add that Ballmer is speaking at the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner tonight. The Meydenbauer Center event begins at 5:15. The deadline to register was yesterday, but maybe they can make an exception if you really want to go. Info here.

Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 19, 2008 11:34 AM

More from Microsoft's company meeting: Paper airplane record; Ballmer talked stock, drank honey?

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:

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Corporate culture , Games & entertainment , Personalities , Steve Ballmer , Strategy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 18, 2008 3:37 PM

Ballmer fired up at company meeting, tells employees why Microsoft wouldn't build an iPhone

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Employees arrive at Microsoft's annual company meeting.

At Microsoft's company meeting today, CEO Steve Ballmer was in full cheerleader mode, running around the stage, high-fiving Microsoft employees at Safeco Field, breathing hard and yelling into the microphone, said one observer, who asked to remain anonymous while describing an event that was closed to the public.

Ballmer sought to put employees' concerns to rest, particularly around competitors Google and Apple, our tipster said.

In particular, Ballmer said he is often asked why Microsoft doesn't do its own iPhone.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Mobile , Music , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 18, 2008 11:24 AM

Tech moguls claim upper tier of Forbes list of richest Americans

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Forbes published its annual list of the 400 richest Americans yesterday. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is on top with an estimated $57 billion fortune. Forbes notes that Gates has more than half his fortune outside of Microsoft stock and that his pile has declined 5 percent in the last 12 months. Another interesting note: "Inflation-adjusted net worth would top $90 billion if he hadn't given away any cash."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Facebook , Financial , Google , Personalities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 30, 2008 3:54 PM

Ballmer foreshadowed new look for Live Search

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Today, Microsoft began rolling out a new look for its Live Search start page. The company is going away from the spartan search box on a mostly empty white page -- the design most-closely associated with Google's world-beating search engine -- in favor of a look that leaves room for it to highlight various features of its search and online services offerings. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last week that he was no fan of the blank start page.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Branding , Search , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 28, 2008 12:48 PM

Redefining Internet search

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A regular refrain from Microsoft these days is that it's "early days" in Internet search. The status quo model -- 10 blue links on the left, paid-for ads on the right and the top -- "is ripe for innovation," CEO Steve Ballmer said at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting last week. Today, we see the launch of a new search engine that promises to disrupt the model. But it's not from Microsoft. Or Google.

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July 24, 2008 2:22 PM

FAM: What about the reorg?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I was expecting more discussion at today's Financial Analyst Meeting of the significant reorganization of the company announced late Wednesday afternoon. It could be further evidence that Kevin Johnson's departure for Juniper Networks caught Microsoft by surprise.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made little reference to the change, which split the giant Platforms and Services Division into two groups, one focused on Windows/Windows Live and the other on Online Services. Ballmer is taking direct oversight of both groups.

He's due on stage again for a Q&A with analysts later this afternoon, so it may come up.

Here's what he said this morning, introducing the section of his talk focusing on the online business and Internet search in particular:

Continue reading this post ...


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July 24, 2008 10:01 AM

FAM: Ballmer on Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is explaining his view of the Internet search market and the company's pursuit of Yahoo, which has been the biggest story in the tech world for the first half of the year.

Ballmer repeated his mantra: Yahoo was a tactic to quickly build the scale necessary to compete in search and search advertising, but it wasn't the company's strategy.

The company was ready to spend "$40 whatever blah-blah billion for Yahoo," he said. Because it's no longer doing that, the company has more flexibility to reinvent the search and advertising model, Ballmer said.

He said there's "nothing under discussion between the two of us," but did not rule out the possibility of future discussions.

One big reason Microsoft backed off its proposal to buy the whole company was the delay in moving a transaction forward, which would have pushed the regulatory review process into the next U.S. administration. Ballmer said the company had a tight time line and wanted to go through regulatory review of a potential acquisition with one administration, not two.

Comments | Category: FAM 2008 , Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 24, 2008 8:47 AM

FAM: Ballmer's big perspective

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

About 250 financial analysts have gathered at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters to hear from the company's top leaders, starting with Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who is on stage now. A link to a live Web cast of the event is here.

Microsoft announced a significant shakeup late Wednesday, including the departure of longtime executive Kevin Johnson, who headed the company's huge Platforms and Services Division. Ballmer also sent an e-mail to employees yesterday outlining his priorities for the 2009 fiscal year.

Ballmer started out telling the investors and analysts in the room that he's with them:

Being a substantial Microsoft shareholder, "I am deeply concerned about where we're going and being responsible about shareholder interest," Ballmer said.

Check back for updates from Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting throughout the day.

Update, 9:15 a.m.: Ballmer has covered a lot of territory in 22 minutes on the stage. One big issue for this audience and for investors everywhere: The stock price. Why is it such a laggard? Why does the company's price-to-earnings ratio trail its peers in technology and the S&P 500, despite growing profit by 18 percent a year, on average, for the last six years.

Ballmer didn't say exactly why he thinks the stock has been stuck, but he did list the issues he thinks have the greatest impact on share price:

The Windows PC engine;

Growth opportunities in enterprise;
Technology shift risk;
Success in online and mobile;
Earnings, return of cash, willingness to invest.

Incidentally, the company's shares are down 85 cents, or about 3.2 percent, to $25.58 in midday trading.

Update, 9:45 a.m.: One of the biggest topics on investors' minds today is Microsoft's strategy for online. The company continues to increase its investment in this broad area. We'll hear more throughout the day from executives directly overseeing the various businesses that are touched by the online shift (it's pretty much all of them), but just now, Ballmer laid out the size of the opportunity and why Microsoft has to pursue it.

"Everything in the world that can move to be delivered and embraced over an IP network -- over the Interent -- will be," Ballmer said.

Everything you read, watch, want to communicate is going to happen over the Internet: TV, books, magazines, phone calls, shopping, advertising, online customer service, content, community, commerce, he said.

"The whole world goes digital. ... The size and magnitude of that is really unbelievable," Ballmer said.

The digital transformation is fundamentally "as much a software opportunity as anything else," he said. Software, of course, is Microsoft's expertise, which is part of what gives him confidence in the company's ability to play a major role in the online opportunity.

Why go after it? Ballmer said at Microsoft's scale -- more than $60 billion in revenue during the just-ended fiscal year -- there are few remaining opportunities that can have a major impact on the company's growth rate.

"There's at least $1 trillion just of media, communications and advertising -- not all of which we can capture -- but we don't have a lot of trillion-dollar markets that are being transformed," Ballmer said.

That opportunity, to Ballmer, justifies the investments the company is making now. The $1.2 billion operating loss in the company's Online Services Business last year was about 5 percent of total operating income, he said.

"But the amount of economic value that we have the opportunity to create, is certainly at least 40, 50, 60 percent or more of our total economic value today," he said. "... I think it is a very good risk-return."

While the opportunity extends to nearly all of Microsoft's businesses, Internet search is the tip of the spear -- the front door of the Internet.

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July 23, 2008 5:46 PM

Ballmer internal e-mail lists priorities for year, including competition with Apple, Google

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent an e-mail to Microsoft's employees at 4:30 this afternoon explaining the reorganization of the Platforms and Services Division, and the departure of Kevin Johnson, a 16-year Microsoft employee who was president of that division.

Ballmer also laid out his priorities for the company in the 2009 fiscal year, which began July 1. The e-mail is after the jump.

Continue reading this post ...


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July 2, 2008 9:21 AM

WSJ: In secret meeting, Microsoft told Yahoo execs to look for the woman with the red umbrella

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Wall Street Journal is out today with a major rehash of the Microsoft-Yahoo acquisition saga that includes some great corporate cloak-and-dagger details from the last five months. The news, however, is that Microsoft has been making another round of calls to the usual suspects -- Time Warner's AOL unit and News Corp. -- to find partners for a Yahoo bust-up deal.

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Comments | Category: Steve Ballmer , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 27, 2008 3:52 PM

Gates send-off: Gates has had Ballmer's back from the beginning

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I wrote earlier today about Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer meeting at Harvard and going to a double feature of "Singin' in the Rain," staring Gene Kelly, and "Clockwork Orange." But has anyone heard the story of the physical altercation that occurred afterwards?

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May 27, 2008 3:23 PM

Gates to tease with Windows 7 features tonight

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Google , Personalities , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy , Windows 7 , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 20, 2008 2:59 PM

Arianna Huffington credits Ballmer's egg-dodging skills

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Speaking to an influential audience of Microsoft advertisers on the company's campus today, Arianna Huffington started out by asking the crowd whether there were any Hungarians in the audience. Then she asked if there were any eggs.

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Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Personalities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 4, 2008 1:14 PM

Microsoft drops Yahoo bid: Reaction from around the Web

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There's no shortage of punditry and analysis on Microsoft's decision late Saturday to walk away from its proposed purchase of Yahoo. Here's some of the most insightful commentary I've seen so far.

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May 4, 2008 1:08 PM

Microsoft drops Yahoo bid: Ballmer explains next steps to employees

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Saturday night explained his decision to walk away from the Yahoo acquisition in an email to employees. He also outlined the company's strategy in online services and advertising going forward. The email was sent at 5:18 last night, shortly after Microsoft made its decision public.

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April 23, 2008 9:44 AM

Globe-trotting Ballmer says Microsoft can go forward without Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is sending more signals to Yahoo shareholders after the company's Tuesday earnings report. Take it or leave it was the message from Milan, Italy.

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April 22, 2008 9:39 AM

Ballmer: Microsoft's bid for Yahoo won't change on today's earnings results

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in Morocco to launch his company's North Africa Web portal, MSN Maghreb, has taken some of the tension out of this afternoon's Yahoo earnings report. Ballmer said Microsoft is not changing its bid, which stood at $43.1 billion, at the market close on Monday, regardless of Yahoo's performance.

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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:

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Comments | Category: Google , Microsoft , Steve Ballmer , Windows Vista , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 6, 2008 10:52 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Extended coverage

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki made a great combination on stage. Their hourlong Q&A at Mix, Microsoft's conference for Web developers Thursday, was filled with zingers, tough questions and some pleasantly frank answers -- especially once Kawasaki established early on that he was going to call Ballmer out on any "bull***t PR" answers. They also left enough time to take several questions from the audience.

I included some highlights in this story -- Ballmer's latest comments on the Yahoo bid, Google, online services, antitrust and the pending exit of Bill Gates -- but there was much more than I could fit in the print edition. Below you'll find expanded coverage of various topics from the talk.

For those with the time and the inclination, I suggest you watch the Q&A yourself. There are plenty of technical sections -- still interesting, but not for everyone. There are also several laugh-out-loud hilarious exchanges between the two tech veterans.

Is Apple 'this little Chihuahua you just kick away?'

What's up with Vista?

Three days in the life of the Microsoft CEO

Buying in to Facebook

No comment on the Sonics

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March 6, 2008 10:43 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Is Apple 'this little chihuahua you just kick away?'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Steve Ballmer went toe-to-toe with Guy Kawasaki on Apple, dissing his MacBook Air and welcoming his suggestion that Microsoft might view the longtime rival as a "little chihuahua you just kick away."

"Arf. Arf," Ballmer responded, in a startlingly good impression of a small dog barking. He acknowledged that Apple has taken some market share from Microsoft in recent years and credited the company for the iPhone, calling it a "very prominent product."

"They're going to continue to do good work, and we're going to continue to compete with all vigor and energy," Ballmer said.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Microsoft , Steve Ballmer , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 6, 2008 10:37 PM

Ballmer Q&A: What's up with Vista?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

One of the best exchanges of the event came when Kawasaki challenged Ballmer on Vista.

Kawasaki: "Another not-so-softball: What's the deal with Vista?"

Ballmer: "Vista, the second-most popular operating system in history?"

Kawasaki: "The one that you get no choice in getting, yeah."

Then Ballmer changed the subject, reaching into Kawasaki's lap to grab his MacBook Air.

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March 6, 2008 10:31 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Three days in the life of the Microsoft CEO

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Asked to describe his typical day running the world's largest software company, Steve Ballmer outlined three patterns.

There are his days on the road, meeting with customers typically from 7:30 in the morning to 8 at night and then flying to another city for another 11 hours of meetings.

"The second kind of day is what I call the doctor is in his office," Ballmer said. "Every hour on the hour I have a meeting. One-on-one, group reviews, just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom."

That can be a little exhausting, he conceded.

The third type of day is one he spends thinking, writing and researching with only one or two meetings. "Most of the time is mine. Mine to dig into things. Mine to call people I'm interested in talking to," he said.

Ballmer gets a surprisingly small amount of e-mail.

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March 6, 2008 10:24 PM

Ballmer Q&A: Buying in to Facebook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Guy Kawasaki asked Steve Ballmer about Microsoft's "ashtray size" bet on Facebook. Again, it's about advertising and the belief that a few key sites will have an outsize impact on the future of the Web and online advertising, Ballmer said. Neither Ballmer nor Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was involved in negotiating the specifics of the deal, Ballmer said.

Later, Kawasaki asked, "What's the Microsoft perspective on social networking? Is it a fad? What is it?"

Ballmer: "The notion that people are going to use the Internet more and more richly and more and more deeply to stay in touch with their friends, to make new friends, that's not a fad. There's no question that's not a fad. The fundamental nature of how people socialize is changed forever."

The business models for social networking will continue to evolve, however.


Check out our complete coverage of Ballmer's Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

Comments | Category: Microsoft , Online Communities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 6, 2008 5:13 PM

Mix: Microsoft's Steve Ballmer mum on Sonics

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would not comment on the fate of the Sonics at Microsoft's Mix conference here this afternoon.

After today's story by Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Ralph Thomas linked Ballmer to a group of investors looking to buy the team and pay for half of a Key Arena expansion, I asked Ballmer what he'd like to see happen with the Sonics and what he was prepared to do to make it happen.

"I'm not talking about that today," he said.


Check out our complete coverage of Ballmer's Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Miscellaneous , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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