ORLANDO, Fla.-At a talk before thousands of IT professionals at Gartner’s annual expo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer defended the company’s rollout of its Windows Vista operating system nearly two years after the OS was delivered to negative reviews.
Ballmer, speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here Oct. 16, Ballmer used a familiar Microsoft line in defending Vista. He told the audience that Vista was being adopted faster in both the consumer market and the enterprise than when the company rolled out the XP operating system. Just before the talk, Gartner analysts Neil MacDonald and David Smith told the audience that only 10 percent of enterprises have adopted Vista.
Those statistics did not deter Ballmer, who pushed a hard sales pitch and urged those enterprises not to wait for the release of Microsoft’s next operating system-Windows 7-but to adopt Vista now. He added that Vista will be compatible with the Windows 7 operating system. Ballmer said concerns about security meant that Vista would not work with certain applications and caused some compatibility problems.
“I think Vista was the right thing,” said Ballmer. “You can talk about some of the compatibility issues, but we have over 180 million users, and this has been the fastest accepted operating system that we have ever done. I know that it is not without controversy, but it has been extremely successful. [Internet Explorer] 7 is a major step forward, and IE 8 is going to be a major step forward, as well as Office 2007.”
Ballmer also brushed off concerns that Windows 7 will just be a ramp-up or slightly cleaned-up version of Vista. Ballmer said Microsoft engineers have worked to improve the user interface of the new operating system, allow for more use of touch and multitouch functionality, offer better tools for managing applications, and increase the overall performance of the OS.
Challenges from Google
Ballmer was also asked about the challenges that Microsoft faces from Google. The two companies have been clashing in recent months when it comes to search and consumer advertising, but Gartner analysts believe Microsoft and Google are on a collision course about the future of the cloud.
When asked about people adopting the free Google Apps, Ballmer bristled at the comparison between Microsoft’s Office suite and what Google offers.
“Let’s look at facts,” said Ballmer, his voice rising. “Nobody uses those things, and the usage data hasn’t grown in seven months. If you look at the ComScore, it’s just like this: It’s just a flat line. You can’t even put a footnote in a document.”
Ballmer also defended Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Yahoo earlier this year. While Ballmer said there are no current offers on the table, he still believes the offer made sense to both Yahoo and Microsoft. He added that Yahoo and Microsoft have talked about partnering on search.
“It’s clear that Yahoo did not want to sell the company,” said Ballmer. “I think what we learned through that is that they want to remain independent, and perhaps there will still be some opportunities to partner around search. We are not in any discussions now, but it’s an offer we made after the acquisition had fallen through. I still think it would make sense economically for their shareholders and ours.”