As he enters his second five-year stint as CEO of the worlds largest software company, Microsoft Corp.s Steve Ballmer is looking firmly forward and focusing more than ever on innovation, execution and growth. With the dot-com bust just a memory and the Department of Justice battles behind him, Ballmer says he now has more time to concentrate on playing in the new IT economy. During Microsofts Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis earlier this month, Ballmer sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli to talk about how the Redmond, Wash., company interacts with its stable of partners.
Talk a little more about your decision to become more "solution-" or vertically focused and how this affects partners.
Any time you talk about anything that you did not talk about before, people worry that you will forget about all the things you talked about before. We dont. We have found ... in the enterprise and the midmarket some places where we think it behooves us to also be able to be better to meet our customers vertical needs.
In large enterprises, we have a better chance of working with them to help them build out the IP [intellectual property] or get the partners or ISVs that will let them have solutions that target specific areas. In the midmarket, it goes a step further because we are a significant player with business solutions themselves, and when people buy a business solution, they actually want it to solve their vertical need, not just their horizontal need.
There is concern among partners that Microsoft is going to encroach more into their space, especially as you grow your sales and consulting staff. What do you tell them?consultants, not our salespeople. I think the partners tend to embrace our salespeople as another resource driving demand. To partners, every dime a consultant bills is a dime they cant bill. But we dont have that many consultants anyway. I understand its an imperfect world, and that has been a nagging issue for 13 years and hasnt changed much. It wont go away, yet it doesnt get worse, so maybe its in the appropriate balance.
What I always hear concerns about from partners are our
There is also a concern that Microsoft will become more of a services player. Is that worry justified?
It will be an evolving relationship, but services in any traditional sense—where you meet customer needs and requests—our partners do a very good job of that, and were excited about them.