Microsoft Exudes Optimism

VP Brian Valentine says company looks to expand, improve partnerships

The past year has been one of significant change for Microsoft Corp. A federal judge ordered the company split in two, the case was heard on appeal and a decision is pending. Microsoft also announced a new focus: its software-as-a-service .Net strategy. Through it all, the company remains positive about its future. In an interview to discuss these changes, Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Microsofts Windows Division, talked to eWeek Senior Editor Peter Galli.

eWeek: Did Microsoft learn any lessons from the trial?

Valentine: We have looked at expanding and making some of our partner relationships more formal and effective, building closer relationships so there is no confusion on anyones part about how these relationships work, what the goals are and what were trying to do together. It helped us become a better relationship company and build better relationships.

eWeek: Do you think Microsoft did anything wrong?

Valentine: I was never involved in any discussions or behavior that I would characterize as illegal or monopolistic. Yes, sure, we are aggressive competitors, and we like to win. But we would never sit around and have discussions about the types of things we were being accused of.

eWeek: Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of relaxation by Microsoft around licensing conditions for its OEM partners. Do you think your approach with your OEM partners early on may have been too heavy-handed?

Valentine: What we were trying to do in the early days was get the PC onto every desk and into every home. We were pretty aggressive. Our behavior with the OEMs was truly a desire to drive standardization in the infrastructure, as opposed to some heavy-handed way to get an illegal upside on anything. We wanted to make sure that the infrastructure on Windows was maintained so that we had an application framework that could provide the highest value to our customers. People wanted to change the fundamental plumbing of Windows, and we wanted to restrict that. We wanted to keep the middleware layer at a standard level and not let it fragment. From a browser perspective, weve always stood by the fact that the browser is an integral part of the operating system and provides an application framework just like the APIs in Windows do.

eWeek: How would you describe relationships with your OEM partners?

Valentine: I think theyre the best they have ever been. From a consumer standpoint, there hasnt been a big dose of excitement around the PC since Windows 95. With XP, were really focusing on the PC experience and providing much higher value and excitement and scenario solutions to that consumer around entertainment, gaming, home networking and wireless connectivity. This will drive excitement among customers and within the industry. Because of this excitement, relationships are very good with ISVs, IHVs [independent hardware vendors] and OEMs.

eWeek: Do you think customers are well-served now with multiple operating systems and browsers shipping on the same PC?

Valentine: I think competition is great. Its good for any industry, and Microsoft fully believes that.

eWeek: Is your .Net strategy an admission that the Internet has forever changed the traditional software sales and development model?

Valentine: Businesses will change around this new model. To be able to take a server and turn it into a service and then be able to federate that with other services within another application enables businesses to operate in dramatically different ways, using technology and the Net as the delivery mechanism for those services. To be able to achieve this, you have to have a standards-based environment. Were behind XML [Extensible Markup Language], SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] and we love the Internet protocols.

eWeek: Is the shrink-wrapped delivery of software set to be replaced by a subscription business model?

Valentine: If you can get infrastructure to support it, I mean high-speed connections to end-point devices, you can deliver software in different ways. Therell still be shrink-wrapped CDs but, if you had a high-speed connection to a PC, the relationship of how you deliver that software to the user could change.