conversation got a little more interesting. Battelle asked Ballmer whether he
was glad he didn't buy Yahoo for $44 billion. Ballmer smiled and said:
know, times change. Times change. You ask any CEO who might have bought
something before the market crashed in 2008... Hallelujah. Putting everything
else aside, the market really kind of fell apart. If Yahoo accepted our bid, we
would have accepted it, we would have bought the price or whatever and then we
would have closed post-Lehman Brothers. Yeah, sometimes... you're lucky.
Battelle then pivoted the conversation to the cloud, asking
Ballmer how Microsoft's shift to the cloud from its position as the dominant
packaged software was going. Ballmer said it's going quite well and that when
it comes to enterprises moving to the cloud for productivity and communications,
Microsoft is "winning, winning winning, winning."
asked who Microsoft is beating, Ballmer replied immediately: "Google."
He added that 98 percent of the time Google Apps is the competitor Microsoft is
beating in competition with its Office 365 suite. He said customers are
much more ready to accept applications in the cloud rather than whole platforms
in the cloud.
so-called platform as a service (PaaS) arena, Ballmer credited Amazon Web
Services with getting a nice jump on the rest of the market. However, it will
take a lot of years for customers to move their line of business applications
to the cloud. Microsoft, with its virtualization technology and private
cloud/public cloud, is well-positioned to compete with Amazon, VMware and
others in the space, he added.
Turning to the
mobile market, Ballmer said Microsoft is working hard with hardware makers to
make phones, tablets, convertible computers and other devices based on Windows
8. Microsoft will support touch, natural user interface and speech on Nokia
devices. However, Microsoft has no plans to build its own phones or tablets,
preferring to "enable hardware innovation," he said.
conversation got livelier when Battelle asked Ballmer to sell him on why he
should buy a Windows Phone instead of an iPhone. Ballmer said this holiday
season there will be attractive Windows Phones and iPhones for consumers, but
that consumers may prefer the Windows Phone 7 experience of having Bing search
and social contacts front and center on the phone rather than seas of icons and
"blah, blah, blah" consumers have to wade through.
laughed. "Bing is there to help you get things done," Ballmer said,
adding that while Apple has done nice things with Siri in its new iPhone 4S, Microsoft
has been doing some of the speech-recognition and natural-language processing
stuff for years with TellMe. This is only partly true. No other company has
combined natural-language processing with context the way Siri has.
put the same question to Ballmer, but with an Android smartphone subbing for
the iPhone. Ballmer said: "You don't need to be a computer scientist to
use a Windows phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone."
It will be
interesting to see whether Google's social guru Vic Gundotra, who left
Microsoft to join Google because he believed Microsoft didn't grasp the
paradigm shifts to mobile and the cloud, responds during his time here
Ballmer clearly entertained the audience more than any other speaker at the Web
2.0 Summit through the first two days.