Ballmer Head-Butts Yahoo

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-10-18 Print this article Print

Then the 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:

You 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."  

When Battelle 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.

In the 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.

The 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.

The audience 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.

Battelle then 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 tomorrow.

Until then, Ballmer clearly entertained the audience more than any other speaker at the Web 2.0 Summit through the first two days. 


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