Ballmer Talks Up Software and Snack Food

In a memo to customers, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talks about everything from blueberry muffins to software bugs.

Microsoft Corp. will soon commit to a new policy to give customers "greater clarity and confidence about its support for products through their lifecycles," CEO Steve Ballmer told customers in a broad memo e-mailed out on Wednesday afternoon.

But Ballmer would not elaborate on the initiative, and a Microsoft spokesman also declined further comment.

The upcoming new policy initiative was mentioned in what is an ongoing series of e-mails to customers from Microsoft executives, including chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, Ballmer and, from time to time, others.

The memos are designed to address those issues that these executives feel are important to consumers, business, the industry and Microsoft itself. In this latest e-mail, Ballmer focuses on what Microsoft is doing to maintain and deepen customer connections with the Redmond, Wash., software firm.

Error reporting is one of the ways Microsoft is trying to create broader customer connections, he said. Another is through its software update and management services which, according to Ballmer, have "made it easy for customers to keep their software current."

But this was not the case for many Windows XP users, who complained that the update system caused them problems.

Ballmer also said Microsoft is making changes in its product service and support to enhance value and to speed resolution of customer problems, but again he offered no additional details.

Microsoft has also found that, among all the software bugs involved in reports, a relatively small proportion caused most of the errors. "About 20 percent of the bugs cause 80 percent of all errors, and—this is stunning to me—one percent of bugs cause half of all errors," Ballmer said.

In Windows XP Service Pack 1, error reporting enabled Microsoft to address 29 percent of errors involving the operating system and applications running on it, including a large number of third-party applications, he said.

Error reporting further helped eliminate more than half of all Office XP errors with Office XP Service Pack 2. Work continues to find and fix remaining bugs in these and other existing products, he said, adding that error reporting is also helping Microsoft "resolve more problems before new products are released."