Ballmer: Microsoft Not Above Learning from Others

Q&A: The Redmond CEO speaks with eWEEK at the Professional Developers Conference about Microsoft's innovations and upcoming products.

Microsoft Corp.s Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last week was perhaps the Redmond, Wash., companys most important event of the year, as officials try to sell developers on the value of creating new applications for the companys next generation of products. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at the show about these upcoming products.

A lot of enterprises are unconvinced or unaware of the benefits Windows Vista will bring them. What do you tell them is compelling for them in Vista?

Ballmer: I always talk about the security, reliability and performance benefits, which are the underlying benefits to IT. Performance and management benefits are harder to sell as you are managing, changing something that as an overhead. I also talk to them about the new kinds of applications they can do with things like the Windows Presentation Foundation, Internet Explorer 7 and Atlas. I also talk to them about the user benefits: the user interface, the information, storage, search and query capabilities.

When you talk to enterprises about addressing security issues and making your products as secure as possible, do you talk about the fact that there is no ceiling on the security front?

The IT people understand that, but they want you to be able to attest that it is perfect, and I dont think you can actually ever attest that something is perfect. People understand that we have made a lot of progress and are world-class in understanding these types of issues.

You talked recently about extra value-added high-end versions for Windows Vista and Office 12. Customers are questioning how you can differentiate and add value to these products even more. Can you explain your thinking in that regard?

I got a little ahead of the troops in talking about the Enterprise Edition of Vista. There are features and capabilities that enterprises want that are really not that interesting outside of the enterprise. There are capabilities I know that our enterprise customers want that make a lot less sense anywhere else, and we will introduce those in the Enterprise Edition. But there are concerns about down-level applications and compatibility and the way you image and build and distribute this stuff, which are very unique to the enterprise.

Do you think enterprises will be willing to pay more for that specific technology?

Well, we havent said what the packaging and pricing is. I have just said that it is additional value, and we will figure out a way to let the enterprise get that value. You dont think about this in the context of some big pricing change to Windows for enterprises. Its more complex and nuanced than that.

Is your goal to increase the number of Windows and Office SKUs or rather to look at shifting around the value in those that already exist?

Mostly shifting, but I think there may be one or two new SKUs by the time we are done that we will have in the marketplace. I think that is fine, but it wont be a dramatic expansion as we already have a number of versions of Windows in the market, all of which are well targeted and focused, which makes life simpler.

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