Ballmer Upbeat on Microsofts Prospects

As the company adds value to its own products and ventures into emerging businesses, it should always strive to "be the first to make a lot of money," CEO Steve Ballmer says at the annual analyst meeting.

REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bounced onto the stage here Thursday in his usual jovial, uber-salesman style, telling the media and analysts in attendance that he was more psyched up to address this analyst meeting than he had been since he became CEO in 2000.

"Today is a very different day for me. We had a blowout, stunningly great fiscal year 2004, and Im pretty excited about that," he said. "Man, Ill tell you, this pipe is full, and I get to talk to you about the incredible outlook, and risks, for our company."

Saying that Microsoft Corp. continues to recruit the top talent within the United States and globally, Ballmer said, "I am very proud of the people we are able to bring in. We have just finished a major retooling of the way we work. People come here to work for a dynamic company like us."

The company has less than 3 percent unwanted attrition, he said, adding that Microsoft has embarked on a major drive to improve customer satisfaction. While that plan started in 1998, Ballmer acknowledged that it had fallen short the first few years, but had been very successful recently.

While Microsoft will be a responsible leader, it also will remain a ruthless competitor, especially against companies such as Oracle Corp., SAP AG, Sun Microsystems Inc., Sony and against open-source products and companies, he said.

Its also interesting to see which businesses will be making big bets versus those that wont, Ballmer said. "We need to be looking for the next emerging business, and you guys should be pushing us along this path, not discouraging us, as thats where future growth will come from."

/zimages/5/28571.gifAlso at the analyst meeting, Microsoft previewed its all-in-one search. Click here to read more.

"We will continue to invest in and add value to our existing products, but will also be pushing into new ones," Ballmer said, adding that "all I think about, all Bill [Gates] thinks about is whether we are being agile enough, innovating enough, looking at how we reduce the time, complexity and processes to get more interoperability," Ballmer said.

"We need to be first: first to market and first to be cool. We also better be the first to make a lot of money, and if we arent first to do so, we better be making the most at the end of the day," he said.

Microsoft will outgrow others in the business of adding value to software, Ballmer said, adding that if it innovates in the right way, the work that software companies have done will be a source of revenue, profits and jobs for a long time.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts plans to continue its campaign against open source.

Over the next four years, fiscal growth is likely to be balanced and is likely to be broken down to 40 percent from the desktop, 30 percent from the server, 40 percent from emerging businesses and a 10 percent decline in new businesses.

"Over the next four years, we can do a very good job and might be able to grow by as much as a whole Nokia, a whole Siemens and maybe even a whole Intel.

"I was temped to write IBM as well," Ballmer said jokingly, "but thats out of our reach in the next few years unless their profits fall. I am optimistic about the future."

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