Windows 8 Glimpses, WPC, Strategy Talk Dominated Microsoft's Week

Microsoft's week centered on its Worldwide Partner Conference, with glimpses of new and upcoming products, such as Windows 8.

Microsoft's week focused on its Worldwide Partner Conference, in Los Angeles, as well as offering some new insight into the company's upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

As with past WPCs, the multiday event opened July 11 with a wide-ranging keynote speech from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who gave a comprehensive view of the company's strategy moving forward. He also hinted at current and future projects, such as Kinect and Windows 8, while remaining short on actual details.

"We're moving forward to the cloud, public and private," he told the audience assembled in the Staples Center. "We're all in and we want partners who are all in with us."

As in previous speeches, Ballmer emphasized what he termed successes, including Bing's growth in overall market share and number of user queries served. Microsoft has been leveraging its minority stake in Facebook to make Bing more "social," integrating data from the social network (such as suggesting which Web sites your friends liked) into the search engine's results. He also called out the 100 million Office 2010 licenses shipped since last year, and Xbox Kinect's sales run.

He defended Microsoft's recent acquisition of Skype for $8.5 billion, suggesting the communications company's assets will act as a force multiplier for existing Microsoft products, such as Lync. "One of the great motivations in acquiring Skype is to allow the enterprise all the control it wants," he said. "Skype [is] a strategy that will allow the consumerization of IT to proceed with full...vigor."

Yet Ballmer seemed somewhat reluctant to delve too deeply into some of Microsoft's trouble areas. He glossed over Windows Phone's sales and market share. "We know we've got a lot to do," he said. "We're all in when it comes to mobile devices."

He referred to Microsoft's deal with Nokia, which will see Windows Phone ported onto the latter's devices. "Nokia could have bet on themselves, bet on Android or bet on Windows Phone," he said, suggesting that the Finnish manufacturer went with Microsoft after "they saw our roadmaps and saw what we did."

Over the course of WPC, Microsoft unveiled upcoming Windows Phones from the likes of Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE, and Samsung-all of which embrace a thin-and-light design style, and all of which will presumably run the wide-ranging "Mango" update due in the fall. If that wasn't enough, the company is also leveraging the rest of its technology stack to build out the capabilities of Windows Phone: the version of Internet Explorer 9 running on Microsoft's smartphones, for example, has the same software underpinnings as the browser that runs on PCs.

It remains to be seen, though, whether such moves can help Microsoft regain momentum in smartphones. For the three-month period between the end of February and the end of May, research firm comScore estimated that Microsoft's U.S. share dipped from 7.7 percent to 5.8 percent. During the same period, adoption of Google's Android platform rose from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple enjoyed a slight uptick, from 25.2 percent to 26.6 percent. Research In Motion continued its market slide, declining from 28.9 percent to 24.7 percent.