Ballmer Memo Details Microsofts New Tack

In a memo to customers, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talks about the company's changing role in the tech industry.

Microsoft Corp. has learned a great deal from its antitrust lawsuit and realized that it needs to take a different perspective on its position as an industry leader, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told customers on Wednesday in the latest of an ongoing series of e-mails to customers from Microsoft executives.

Ballmer was addressing the Redmond, Wash., software makers changing role in the technology industry, now that the antitrust matter between it and the government was settled.

"Frankly, part of the problem was that, even five years ago, we still tended to think of ourselves as the small startup company that we were not so long ago. Today we recognize that our decisions have an impact on many other technology companies. We have an important leadership role to play in our industry, and we must play by new rules—both legally and as determined by industry trends," he conceded.

An example Ballmer cited of the "new Microsoft" is its support of industry cooperation, such as the development of XML-based standards. "The entire industry has embraced XML as the universal way for computers to talk to each other in a much richer way across the Web.

"Today companies like Microsoft and IBM collaborate on enhancing XML-based standards while at the same time competing to make innovative, easy-to-use software that helps customers take advantage of the power of XML," he said.

Microsofts work with IBM, VeriSign and other companies in developing security solutions based on industry standards is another such example, Ballmer said, claiming that this cooperation has helped enhance security for the technology industry and its customers as a whole.

"I think we are also on the verge of a new era of partnership with government—not just for our company, but for the broader industry. Were actively cooperating with governments at all levels to fight identity theft, cyber-crime and attacks on the Internet," Ballmer said.

Sticking to Microsofts mantra about the final settlement, Ballmer reiterated that he felt it was "tough but fair. It puts new obligations and responsibilities on our company, and we fully embrace them.

"We have already made many of the necessary changes, and we are dedicated—from the top down—to living up to these obligations," which include providing a transparent and uniform price list for the Windows operating systems and design changes in the Windows user interface so that access to certain Microsoft features can be removed to give prominence to competitor products instead, he said.

Last week, Microsoft announced it had created a Compliance Committee and was in the process of appointing members to a Technical Committee with the Department of Justice. "As CEO, I can personally assure you that Microsoft will commit all the time, energy and resources necessary to follow through on our responsibilities," Ballmer said.

Microsoft has also affirmed a set of basic values that are now part of every employees performance review. Foremost among these are integrity and honesty, as the company is committed to being upfront about what it is doing and whom it affects, said Ballmer.

"Were passionate in our belief that technology can change the world and improve peoples lives," he said, admitting that while Microsoft did not always succeed at this, "if one of our products falls short, we dont sugarcoat the problems. We are accountable for our actions, and we always dig in and make it better.

"As a company, we have changed and grown over the past few years. We are committed to being a great partner and a responsible industry leader, and, above all, we remain unceasingly optimistic about the future," Ballmer concluded.