Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used a talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco to make the case for Bing and Windows Phone, two company platforms struggling to carve out some market share against Google.
In the case of Bing, Ballmer painted the search engine's progress over the past few years in a positive light, highlighting its increased market share and partnerships with companies such as Facebook and Yahoo.
Bing's progress was good "not just for share but for having enough data to continue to improve the product," he said, according to a video of the talk posted on YouTube, "to make search more than just 10 blue links." He sidestepped a moderator question about whether Microsoft would create its own social platform along the lines of Google Plus, noting instead: "We're adding what we would call connectivity to our products."
Ballmer insisted that Microsoft was making more progress against Google in terms of cloud-productivity applications. Indeed, over the past year or so, Redmond has pushed aggressively into the cloud space with platforms such as Office 365, with the aim of locking businesses onto a subscription-based model. "Our ramp rate of sold seats, it's got a nice trajectory," he said, "We've got a highly functional product that's highly available."
When it came to Windows Phone, however, Ballmer shifted to the standard Microsoft line with regard to its newish smartphone platform: We have a good product; it's capable of battling toe-to-toe against any other platform on the market, but maybe the sales don't quite bear that out yet, okay?
Ballmer compared Windows Phone with Apple's iPhone: "You're going to have two phones sitting there; they're going to feel good in your hand." But he suggested that Windows Phone's interface, based on a system of highly customizable tiles, would beat out the Apple iPhone's grids of individual applications. Windows Phone is "not seas of icons" he said, but puts "information front-and-center."
He reserved more ire for Google's smartphone offering. "It is very hard to be excited, for me, about the Android phones," he said, which is exactly what you'd expect from the CEO of Microsoft.
Microsoft hopes its new Windows Phone Mango update, which offers some 500 tweaks and new features, will give the platform the momentum it needs to combat both Apple's iOS and Google Android, which reign as the twin titans of the mobility market. Although Microsoft has poured millions of marketing dollars into its Windows Phone effort, and done its best to highlight the product as an important part of its overall ecosystem, the company's smartphone share has continued to dip in recent quarters.