If at times Microsoft has seemed vague in describing its software plus services initiative and the Live application strategy, its because the company simply hasnt completely figured them out yet.
So says Kevin Turner, Microsofts chief operating officer, who is helping lead the charge to get partners, developers and customers excited about this new direction for the Redmond, Wash., software maker.
"We are starting to talk a lot more deeply about our software plus services strategy than we have before. Steve [Ballmer, Microsofts CEO] will continue to do more of the deep dive explanations, and I will do more of the talking about strategy and where we are going, as an attempt to bring that to the marketplace," Turner told eWEEK in a recent interview.
But, in what is a relatively rare admission for the company, Turner said that Microsoft simply has not completely worked out all the details of its software plus services and Live strategies. "We did not, and still do not, have those completely figured out," he said.
Read more here about how Steve Ballmer is urging partners to embrace software plus services.
Competitive fears are largely behind the lack of information coming out of the company with regard to those parts that have already been figured out, especially around its Live strategy, Turner said.
"Yes, we do have some of the things figured out, but why would we want to tip our hand and allow people to go and pick those off and terrorize us with that?" he questioned.
Microsoft officials have decided to share only "what we know when we know it, and when the time is right," he said.
Asked if companies such as Google are a threat on the software plus services front, Turner answered by pointing to Microsofts partner base.
"We are the company with the partner ecosystem," he said. "Those companies dont really have a partner ecosystem, not like the one we have. That ecosystem, sincerely, is how this company was built."
Partners want a lot more information about this initiative, such as how Microsoft will roll it out and what the monetization models are going to look like.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is shifting his focus to his charitable foundation, but is Microsoft ready for the transition? Read more here.
"We teed this software plus services initiative up at last years Worldwide Partner Conference, but unfortunately there was very little information, which led people to believe that we were holding back. The fact of the matter is, the truth of the matter is, we were figuring it out," Turner said.
Microsoft is, by all accounts, still trying to figure it out. "Im not here today to tell you that we have that completely figured out. Im here to tell you that were a lot smarter than we were a year ago, and next year we are going to be a lot smarter than we are today," he said.
Turner fielded a lot of questions from partners about whether they should be looking at the notion of software plus services in their businesses today, acknowledging that they are mostly adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
"We are trying to push them a little bit off the fence to get involved in it with us and help us figure it out," he said. "We dont have it all figured out, but together we know we can figure something out that works for everybody. And so, in its sincerest form, thats what we are trying to do."
Microsoft recently showcased its new on-demand Dynamics Live CRM service. Click here to read more.
Microsoft would like to see more partners getting behind the strategy and joining forces with the company to figure it out together, rather than having them wait on the sidelines to see how it plays out. "If they do that, we think they run the risk of getting left behind," Turner said.
These initiatives are also likely to top the agenda at the annual financial analysts meeting on the Redmond campus July 26, where the leading financial analysts get updates from the executives in charge of the software makers various product groups as well as from Ballmer and Chairman Bill Gates.
Microsoft, which brings out all its big guns for what has become an annual pilgrimage to its campus for many, has a lot to talk to about this year: from its software plus services and Live strategies to the ever-growing field of competitors in that space.
The upcoming mega-launch on Feb. 27, 2008, of SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 will also get some attention.
In addition, a deep drilldown into the companys finances is always on the cards, and there will likely be a lot of questions about the impact of the more than $1 billion Microsoft is spending to cover repairs on customer Xboxes.
Read more here about Microsoft taking a charge of more than $1 billion for Xbox repairs.
Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.