Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer opened the 2011 WPC in Los Angeles with a broad-based discussion of everything from Windows 8 to the Skype acquisition.
Steve Ballmer opened this year's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles
with a rundown of his company's various operations, including its forays into
cloud computing and mobility.
offering a broad-based summation of current and future projects such as Kinect
and Windows 8, he seemed reluctant to share many new details beyond what's
already public knowledge. For example, any sales numbers related to Windows
Phone went unmentioned; although considered innovative by many, the smartphone
platform is widely rumored to suffer from poor sales.
In any case,
Ballmer also used his July 11 keynote speech to highlight Microsoft's continued
dedication to the cloud. "We're moving forward to the cloud public and
private," he told the audience assembled in the Staples Center. "We're all in
and we want partners who are all in with us."
On the cloud
front, Ballmer emphasized the evolution of Bing, the company's search engine
that he described as first and foremost a "cloud application." Bing helps users
"decide and take action," he said, and has seen growth both in its overall
market share and in the number of user queries served. Microsoft has been
leveraging its minority stake in Facebook to make Bing more "social,"
integrating data from the social network (such as denoting which Websites your
friends liked) into the search engine's results.
defended Microsoft's recent acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion, suggesting
the communications company's assets will act as a force multiplier for existing
Microsoft products such as Lync. "One of the great motivations in acquiring
Skype is to allow the enterprise all the control it wants," he said. "Skype
[is] a strategy that will allow the consumerization of IT to proceed with full
As anxious as
he was to tout Microsoft's successes-including the 100 million Office 2010
licenses shipped since last year, and Xbox Kinect's impressive sales
run-Ballmer did his best to sidestep some trouble areas for the company,
including sales of Windows Phone. "We know we've got a lot to do," he said.
"We're all in when it comes to mobile devices."
After that, he
retreated back to an area of comparable safety: Windows, which he described as
"the backbone product of Microsoft." Windows 8, the company's next operating
system, is apparently a "true imagining" of the two-decade-old franchise.
He then ceded
the stage to Microsoft Corporate Vice President and CFO Tami Reller, who
offered a brief run-though of Windows 8's user interface, emphasizing the whole
time that nothing on the enormous screens above her head was different from the
first glance provided in June. The next true Windows 8 update will apparently
come at the Build event in September.
Windows 8 from the ground up to be excellent for touch-only tablets, and for
keyboard and mouse," she said. App stores are apparently an important factor in
the operating system's construction, as is ensuring it'll run on a wide variety
In place of
the "traditional" Windows desktop and Start button, Windows 8 will offer a
variety of color tiles designed to be equally tablet- and PC-friendly. In many
ways, the system takes cues from Windows Phone, which also embraces a
re-took the stage to conclude the keynote, sending the attendees off to the
conference with visions of Microsoft's roadmap in their heads.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.