Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered the keynote speech at his company’s London conference “Technologies to Change Your Business: How Customers Are Implementing Tomorrow’s Strategies Today”.
CIO editor, Martin Veitch interviewed Ballmer directly after his keynote.

Veitch: Given the massive investment that corporates are considering, what are the key factors you believe are   now going to drive us into Cloud Computing? Why would we entrust Microsoft with its cloud provision, over other competitors such as Google?

Ballmer: Well, let me take it in a variety of ways. First of all, anytime there is a major disruption you want to make sure you take advantage of it. The book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ says “You can’t as a company that’s established miss the next major revolution”.

So we are embracing Software + Services, Cloud Computing as hard as anybody. By the time we finish our Professional Developers Conference this month, I think you’ll have to say that there is nobody out there with as wide a range of Cloud Computing services as Microsoft, including, dare I say it, Google – which has a great search product but, at the end of the day, doesn’t really have much for Enterprise email, productivity, collaboration. They are trying. They are coming to the game. But they are not really there yet.
Even though we are driving disruption, our job has got to be to also give you a clean and straightforward path forward. So you are going to want the PCs that you own, you are going to want to to be able to apply the licences that your already own.

I think we have, and our prices reflect an ability to let you get to the disruptive point easily, from the place you are now financially.

Veitch: Steve, I guess the $64,000 question from a lot of people’s point of view is, is there going to be an Office for the Web, something that really competes head on with Google Docs, Google Apps?
Ballmer: Well, those are not very popular products! I hope that we are not competing head on with those! I hope we actually compete head on with Microsoft Office. If you take a look at it, Google Docs and Spreadsheets have relatively low usage and have not grown over the last six months or so.
There’s a reason. I think what people want is something as rich as Microsoft Office, something that you can ‘click and run’, if you are not at your own desk. Something that is compatible, document-wise with Microsoft Office and something that offers the kind of joint editing capabilities that is nice in Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Will Microsoft Office offer that? Yes! Standby for details in the next month.

Veitch: So, in the backend of Microsoft R&D, are there people beavering away at versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc, that are purely web based? Or, is it always going to be this hybrid?
Ballmer: What does it mean to be purely Web based? Do we want them to be as only as powerful as ‘runs in a browser’? No. We want software that is more powerful than runs in a browser. Does that mean we will not have some neat stuff that does run in the browser? No.

We think you’ll actually want the full power of Word, Excel and PowerPoint – and you’ll want to be able to get that simply. But, if you just happen to be in an Internet cafe kiosk and you want to do some light editing, perhaps we need to have a way to support you in that as well, inside the browser. And for today, that’s going to have to be all the detail I share. Otherwise, we have no drum roll announcement coming up here in a month!

Veitch: There’s a lot of different views on what the ‘cloud’ is going to look like? Will it be a data centre that you have and you own it yourself? Will it belong to Amazon or some other organisation? Maybe you could even franchise it and work with rivals or peers and operate a data centre in that way. What do you think it will look like? Which slice of the pie will be the biggest?

Ballmer: I think before we are done, the answer is ‘Yes’. No, all of those models will need to flourish. I think it would be nuts for me to say that we are going to run all of the world’s data centres. I don’t think that’s practical.
But what we need to do is a build a service that we start running and we have a model for how it can also be implemented and hosted by corporations for themselves, or by other partners.
The service must be a service. If it’s not in our data centre, if it’s in somebody’s else’s, you’ll still want it updated in real time, dynamically. You don’t want it to be like today’s outsourced model – where the outsourcer winds up locked in, and has to embrace the past more than the future.

So, we need to design ‘a service for services’, if you will. That’s kind of the way we are attacking the challenge.
Now, Version 1 that we will announce this month, you’ll think about it as running a Microsoft data centre, sort of like the Amazon model. And yet we know and we’ve talked already with corporations and partners about going beyond it.

That’s why the symmetry between the server and the cloud is important. Because if we bring back the cloud features into the server platform, it’s also possible for any corporation then to go into instance of its own similar services.

Veitch: Now, is this going to be the Microsoft data centre that we’ll be talking to?

Ballmer: On V1 that will be the only alternative, that’s right

Veitch: Are you going to build here [UK] as well?

Ballmer: In V1, our data centre will be the only alternative, where we build data centres up in the air. By, V2 or V3 whether its our data centre or somebody else’s we know we have to have data centres in many, many countries around the globe. Certainly, in this big country we know we need a data centre – whether we run it, or a partner runs it.

Veitch: Why has Microsoft developed Zune?

Ballmer: At the end of the day, one of the big trends is that all content is going digital. And if we don’t have the software and services that are useful, helpful and valuable for the consumption of music and video, we are sort of not really a player.

Now, we built the Zune hardware with the Zune software – and what you’ll see more and more over time is that the Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices, etc.

Veitch: It seems to me to be a tricky one because Apple is out there, and they have a pretty good product – but also they have this kind of cult following of people who are just going to buy, because it’s Apple. That must be a frustrating thing to compete against.

Ballmer: They may have a cult following in the music business, and we got about 97 percent of PC users using our stuff. 97 percent may not constitute a cult! But I wouldn’t trade that for a cult!

 

[Update] This interview has been picked up by CIO Magazine.

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The second instalment of the Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld video, promoting Windows Vista has just been released. The series of videos are designed to help counteract Apple’s Mac bashing PC videos, which have received much praise in recent times. Microsoft has remained fairly silent in response to Apple’s video campaign, until now that is.

Microsoft have enlisted the help of the American comedian, Jerry Seinfeld for their videos. There’s something in common with the humour of the Microsoft ad campaign and with the American comedy, Arrested Development. I wasn’t sure about the first video release, but the second one above is fantastic.  See below for the first ad.

 

So where’s the relevance?  Well, Microsoft are doing something both interesting and exciting with these videos. The ‘Bill and Jerry’ effect is causing a lot of discussion within the blogosphere. There’s almost a Marmite like quality to the discussion – You either love the videos, or you you hate them. They have created, what Seth Godin describes as a ‘Meatball Sundae’

"A meatball sundae is the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas. The meatballs are the foundation, the things we need (and sometimes want). These are the commodities that so many businesses are built on.  The sundae toppings (hot fudge and the like) are the New Marketing, the social networks, Google, blogs and fancy stuff that make people all excited".

If Bill and Jerry are the foundation ‘Meatballs’. The ‘Sundae’ surely is how the videos are going viral. Microsoft has aided this by creating a YouTube page to help the masses watch the videos and more importantly, to help bloggers embed them!  The point here is that the videos are memorable, people are talking about them whether they like them or not.  The videos provoke a discussion.  So far, there’s been no mention of  Windows Vista which I feel is deliberate.

It is too early to tell whether these series of videos will be successful in changing  the public feeling of Windows Vista. But, used as a tool to start a conversation about Microsoft and to continue that conversation, these ads are creating the perfect meatball sundae.

[UPDATE] – Mary Jo-Foley posts her view on the second ad

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Indeed, Microsoft UK are selling Office 2007 for the bargain price of £38.95 in their Ultimate Steal Promotion.  What’s the catch?  You have to be in academia and have a registered .ac.uk email address.  I made use of this offer last year and I am very glad I did! 

Terms and Conditions apply

This post is dedicated to all those in UK Universities. I think I’m missing my days stressing over essays!

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As has been widely reported in the press last week. Bill Gates has formerly stepped down from his official duties at Microsoft to concentrate on humanitarian efforts. I salute his efforts and raise my glass in admiration.

Bill Gates, though lacking the charisma of other pioneers such as Steve Jobs has always inspired me. Bill’s passion and dedication to software, (as can be felt in the video above) is amazing. From small and humble beginnings, he created an amazing company. But what now for the company, as its former Chief Software Architect looks to save the world?

Steve asks, “Whether bloggers can fill the void after Gates?”.  This is a great question.  Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many Microsofties both in the UK and at various European conferences. Predominantly, most of them blog and you can feel their passion about their chosen field.  However, can all these individual bloggers replace the voice of Gates?

Steve, is a great blogger and engaging presenter. But I ask myself, where are the other ‘hidden gems’ at Microsoft and particularly in the UK? I have so far attended two Web technology focused events recently. Both of which Microsoft had sponsored. I saw some great demos, but where are the passionate people at Reading hiding?  I want to see, hear and engage with you. Believe me, I’m not the only one.

Microsoft may have lost a key asset as in Gates. But, as the world becomes ever smaller and our connections and relationships become more important. I hope that the company increases its efforts with the on going dialogue with its customers and especially, its consumer communities.

The big voice may have gone. But I think now might be the time, to “Pump up the Volume” on many of the other quality voices within the company.

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Like many people today, I use multiple computers and use multiple mobile devices (Mobile Phone, iPod etc).  I have a designated ‘work’ PC, a Dell laptop and an Apple Macbook laptop (which I think of as a ‘lifestyle computer’). My lifestyle computer carries all of my digital media – music, pictures and video. My Windows Mobile phone carries all of my Outlook contacts and syncs my content from my Dell Laptop.  My iPod connects to my Macbook. As you can see, I spend time in the content management space. But I’m not alone.

One of the biggest issues I have, is keeping my digital life synced. The above scenario, is just one consumer’s perspective. What about a small business? Today, more people are working from a greater number of computer devices. There soon comes a need to backup. Sharing and syncing content is a headache.  Of course, there are options. Copy data to memory sticks or email data to yourself. Functional solutions but hardly elegant Microsoft’s Live Mesh platform can help consumers and businesses in data management – Best of all it is free.

I dream of a day when my data is stored in the cloud. No matter, which device I pick up, it recognises who I am and securely logs me on to the Internet.  My files are copied over to my device and are available wherever I go. Live Mesh, is a first step to that dream.

Live Mesh is currently invite only :-((  But signup over at www.mesh.com or www.sharemesh.com for chances to signup to the technical beta

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Major hat tip to Steve Clayton

Live Mesh is an ambitious initiative — it combines a software platform and a service. Live Mesh follows on from Ray Ozzie’s mission on Software + Services. Ozzie has been setting the stage for Live Mesh since October 2005, when he outlined his thoughts, in his “Internet Services Disruption” memo to the Microsoft troops.

Steve notes that the design goals for Live Mesh are to have:

  1. Your devices work together
  2. Your data and applications available from anywhere
  3. The people you need to connect with just a few clicks away for sharing and collaborating
  4. The information you need to stay up-to-date and always be available
  5. The Live Mesh blog captures it nicely with their tagline – Here, There, Everywhere.

I’m truly excited about Live Mesh and look forward to using it soon!

The blogosphere is going mental at the moment regarding Live Mesh. Here are some notable blog posts:

Steve Clayton – Steve’s Mesh Coverage

Mary Jo-Foley – Ten things to know about Microsoft’s Live Mesh

Scoble – Ray Ozzie delivers with Live Mesh

Ray Ozzie on Channel 9

Amit Mital’s blog post

Channel 10

Live Mesh blog

Live Mesh architecture

 

Ray Ozzie delivered a memo to Microsoft employees on Live Mesh. You can read the excerpt.  (The full version is also available below)

Excerpt:

Central to this strategy is our embrace of both a world of the web and a world of devices. Over the past ten years, the PC era has given way to an era in which the web is at the center of our experiences – experiences delivered not just through the browser but also through many different devices including PCs, phones, media players, game consoles, set-top boxes and televisions, cars, and more.

Guiding Principles
There are three overarching principles guiding our services strategy – principles informing the design and development of products being implemented across all parts of Microsoft, for both individuals and business.

1. The Web is the Hub of our social mesh and our device mesh.

The web is first and foremost a mesh of people. . . . All applications will grow to recognize and utilize the inherent group-forming aspects of their connection to the web, in ways that will become fundamental to our experiences. In scenarios ranging from productivity to media and entertainment, social mesh notions of linking, sharing, ranking and tagging will become as familiar as File, Edit and View. . . . To individuals, the concept of “My Computer” will give way to the concept of a personal mesh of devices – a means by which all of your devices are brought together, managed through the web, as a seamless whole.

2. The Power of “Choice” as business moves to embrace the cloud.

Most major enterprises are in the early stages of a significant infrastructural transition – from the use of dedicated and sometimes very expensive application servers, to the use of virtualization and commodity hardware to consolidate those enterprise applications on computing and storage grids constructed within their data center. . . . Driven in large part by the high-scale requirements of consumer services, the value of this utility computing model is most clearly evident in cloud-based internet services.

Software built explicitly to provide a significant level of server/service symmetry will afford choice and flexibility in developing, operating, migrating and managing such systems in highly varied enterprise deployment environments that are distributed and federated between the enterprise data center and the internet cloud.

3.Small Pieces Loosely Joined for developers, within the cloud and across a world of devices.

Application design patterns at both the front- and back-end are transitioning toward being compositions and in some cases loose federations of cooperating systems, where standards and interoperability are essential. . . . At a higher level, myriad options exist for delivering applications to the user: The web browser, unique in its ubiquity; the PC, unique in how it brings together interactivity/experience, mobility and storage; the phone, unique in its extreme mobility. Developers will need to build applications that can be delivered seamlessly across a loosely coupled device mesh by utilizing a common set of tools, languages, runtimes and frameworks – a common toolset that spans from the service in the cloud to enterprise server, and from the PC to the browser to the phone.

 

Here is the full memo (Via TechCrunch):

 

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Microsoft has announced a new partnership with five of the six most popular social networking sites. The partnership will allow users to more safely and easily share contacts with various Windows Live services.
Microsoft’s new partnership includes Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, LinkedIn, and Tagged. A notable absentee is MySpace. MySpace currently uses an older version of Microsoft’s Windows Live Contacts interoperability and will therefore likely be compatible at some point in the future.

Users of Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger service can visit, www.invite2messenger.net, where they can invite contacts from Facebook to join Windows Live Messenger. (NB. Support for Hotmail, Bebo, LinkedIn, Hi5, and Tagged will be added in the weeks ahead).

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Hugh and Steve, get a well deserved mention in Business Week!  Excerpt follows the break.  Rock on Guys!

In the fall of 2006, a group of senior European executives at Microsoft (MSFT) entered a meeting expecting to see a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, Steve Clayton—then the chief technology officer for Microsoft’s U.K. Partner Group—showed them a hand-drawn image of an impish blue creature bearing gnarled fangs and sporting the provocative caption “Microsoft: Change the world or go home.” After a few initial gasps, recalls Clayton, the attendees engaged in a lively discussion around the current direction of the company and the brand. “People liked the way it changed the angle of conversation,” Clayton says.

The image was not the product of Microsoft’s marketing department or an ad agency, but of cartoonist, writer, and marketing strategist Hugh MacLeod—a friend of Clayton. Ever since MacLeod sent the cartoon to Clayton and posted it on his blog, gapingvoid (www.gapingvoid.com) more than a year ago, the “blue monster” character has become an unofficial corporate mascot among many Microsoft employees, posted in cubicles, printed on business cards and T-shirts, and added to e-mail signatures. “I’m told it always leads to an interesting, atypical Microsoft conversation,” says MacLeod—the result he had hoped for.

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This is great news!! Windows Live SkyDrive has increased its online storage to 5 GB. Earlier today it was 1 GB.

The “Beta” tag is also removed.  Well Done Skydrive Team

Rock On!

http://skydriveteam.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!977F793E846B3C96!1697.entry

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Microsoft is now offering its Office Live Small Business product for free to SME’s! 

Office Live Small Business is aimed at companies with ten or fewer employees and to date has pulled in over 600,000 subscribers, which is somewhat modest by Microsoft standards.

New features include Store Manager, a $39.95 per month ecommerce tool for small and medium-sized business to sell their wares online either through their own website or on eBay; and a beta email marketing add-on for newsletter production.

Customers can expect to stump up $14.95 for each subsequent year that they have a domain name registered on the service. Anyone who subscribes to Office Live Small Business will be able to keep their personal information out of the public Whois database, Microsoft says.

Microsoft is also supporting the Firefox 2.0 web browser – which means Office Live will be accessible on non-Windows-based systems.

The service is currently available in the US, UK, Germany, France and Japan.

Microsoft’s press release is here.

I’m surprised the Office Rocker hasn’t blogged about it ;-)

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