MIX08 - Conversation with Microsoft Chief Executive Office Steve Ballmer & venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki
Las Vegas, Nevada
March 6, 2008
GUY KAWASAKI: It's like Project Runway, you think?
STEVE BALLMER: A little bit.
GUY KAWASAKI: Yes.
STEVE BALLMER: Although neither one of us would really qualify, don't you think?
GUY KAWASAKI: Speak for yourself, Steve.
STEVE BALLMER: All right.
GUY KAWASAKI: So who would have thought that you and I would be well, who would have thought that I would ever be at a Microsoft event?
STEVE BALLMER: Not me.
GUY KAWASAKI: Why didn't you hire me back in '87 or so, I'd own the San Jose Sharks, you'd own the Sonics, life would be good.
STEVE BALLMER: Life would be good. Life would be good.
GUY KAWASAKI: Why didn't you hire me?
STEVE BALLMER: I don't know. I really don't.
GUY KAWASAKI: I think it's a racist. First of all, I can't tell you how I get this e-mail out of the blue saying, would you like to be the interviewer of Steve Ballmer at Mix 2008, and I really thought it was some kind of spoof. Surely somebody doesn't care about his career at Microsoft, they're inviting me to do you realize how career limiting that could be? Lo and behold, here I am. So, I'm really happy to be here. Steve never invites me, Steve Jobs, never invites me to do this at MacWorld Expo, or anything. So I appreciate it.
STEVE BALLMER: We'll see how it goes, and I can always give you a recommendation. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: Somehow coming from you, I don't think that would further it. But that's all right.
STEVE BALLMER: No, it would be career limiting.
GUY KAWASAKI: I'm supposed to be your shill and ask you all these softball questions, and stuff, make you look smart, and the Microsoft strategy look great. So let's just start off with, why do you want to buy Yahoo, what's the deal with that? (Laughter and applause.) How's that for an easy one?
STEVE BALLMER: I think we have worked really hard to make it clear that we have real commitment, real aspirations, and real tenacity about being a very serious player in the world of search and advertising. Advertising on the Internet is a big thing, and will be the next super big thing. There's no question about that. Search in some senses is, let's call it, the killer application of advertising, at least today and for the foreseeable future it is the killer application for online advertising. And despite the fact that you could say we are not where we'd like to be, and that we probably could have gotten a little bit going a little sooner, particularly on search and search-related advertising, we are very committed, we've got a great team, doing great things, driving forward really hard, and yet we've got a long way to go. And Yahoo seems to be a way to accelerate that because of the critical mass that's required to really compete.
GUY KAWASAKI: Well, what's the current status of the deal?
STEVE BALLMER: We've made an offer. (Laughter.) We've made an offer. It's out there, baby.
GUY KAWASAKI: Don't pick up any chairs and throw it at me.
STEVE BALLMER: That was 20 years ago, never today. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: Don't go monkey on me either. All right. (Laughter.) Okay, so now, inherent we haven't said the G-word yet. The Y-word is all about the G-word. So do you think it's a zero sum game? Do you have to like do Google in? I mean, what's the
STEVE BALLMER: Online advertising, like I said, is a big thing that's going to be super big. Search is a key application. And so in a sense, yes, we have to have a strong position in online search and online advertising if we're going to be a serious player in online advertising. And we're very committed to that, and in a sense it's a zero sum game. There are 100-whatever N searches per day, and I want a larger percentage of those searches made with our stuff, and our ads being served up than we have today by quite a measure.
GUY KAWASAKI: You can't even bring yourself to say the Google word, huh?
STEVE BALLMER: You couldn't bring yourself to say it until just then. I can say Google. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: So when you get up in the morning, when you think about who you are going to do battle with, is Google front and center? Do you have like little pictures of Larry and Sergei, and you throw darts at them? What's the
STEVE BALLMER: I'm not a good dart player.
GUY KAWASAKI: Throw chairs at them?
STEVE BALLMER: If you take a look, we have a broad footprint, we're trying to do four things in our business. We have a desktop business that's still fantastic and growing.
GUY KAWASAKI: I sense a bullshit PR answer coming.
STEVE BALLMER: No. No. A little bit, just a little bit.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay.
STEVE BALLMER: Just a little bit, because you have to ask where do we really compete. In our desktop business today, we don't see Google. We see Apple, we see Linux, we don't see Google. We have a server and enterprise business. We see IBM, we see Oracle, we see Linux, Google, you know, blip-blip-blip-blip. If that's a PR answer you let me know, but blip-blip-blip-blip.
GUY KAWASAKI: How do you spell blip-blip?
STEVE BALLMER: That's a good question. I have no clue. But, in our server and enterprise business we don't really see Google. They may have aspirations, but they're not present. We've got a real business in entertainment and devices, with Xbox, with Windows Mobile. Google, again, is really not present, although they're an aspirant with YouTube, and they're certainly an aspirant with Android, but we'll see.
Then we've got an aspiration about online. And in online, yes, it's Google, Google, Google, and we're in the game, and we're just the little engine that could. We're working away, we're working away, we're working away. It may be my last breath at Microsoft, but we're going to be there, and we're going to be working away building share.
GUY KAWASAKI: So what you're trying to tell me is, you're an underdog?
STEVE BALLMER: We are. We are, in this particular battle, that's a fair thing. The other guy, depending on the country, has anywhere between 50 percent market share and 90 percent market share. So, yes, I'd say we're the underdog. You want governments to sue people for antitrust, that's the it's not our deal.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. And when you wake up in the morning, what do you think about Apple, it's this little Chihuahua you just kick away every time? (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: Look, Apple does a pretty good job. I'm not going to take anything away from what Apple does. We also do a pretty good job, and we're going to drive hard. Apple has taken a little bit of share, we drive share. At the end of the day, of course, we have a much bigger footprint than Apple does, certainly in the PC business. Apple has done a nice job in music players. We're, again, the underdog, perhaps we should say. In phones we outsell Apple, but Apple has got a very prominent product. And I'd take nothing away from the fact that they're going to continue to do good work, and we're going to continue to compete with all vigor and energy.
GUY KAWASAKI: I know that it will never leave this room, but I
STEVE BALLMER: I believe you.
GUY KAWASAKI: Seriously, you'd be proud to know that I use a Motorola Q, which is running Windows Mobile 6.
STEVE BALLMER: Great.
GUY KAWASAKI: Because we can debate about Windows as a desktop OS, but I'll tell you, I need Exchange Server for my phone. It works very well. So I'm just putting that drawing that little line in the sand, because if I ever need tech support
STEVE BALLMER: I'm right here, baby, right here.
GUY KAWASAKI: So now let's talk about your little ashtray-sized bit, and partnership with Facebook. What's that about?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, again, I said we're real serious about online advertisers, absolutely critical. We do believe that what will happen is you'll get a few big online ad platforms that serve as engines of customer information, advertiser information, advertising and search and intelligence for many, many sites on the Web. So for us not only having small partners, but big P partners that are advertising-oriented partners is very important. We're pleased to have that kind of a partnership with Facebook. We cemented it late last year, by extending our operating agreement, and buying a small piece of the company, and we're happy to be both an owners, but even more happy to b a partner.
GUY KAWASAKI: And who negotiated the deal? Was it you against Rutherford? How did that work?
STEVE BALLMER: No, on the deal itself neither one of us was involved in the specifics. Mark does tend to focus in on the big picture, and getting the technology right, and the product essence. He does a fantastic job. I'm well known not to be the world's greatest negotiator. On both sides people put together a very good deal.
GUY KAWASAKI: Well, is a few billion like that for Microsoft so below the radar that you didn't even sign the purchase order?
STEVE BALLMER: We didn't spend a few billion. Remember, we only put in a few hundred million as an investment into Facebook.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. A few hundred million, so it was like in the ashtray of your Lexus?
STEVE BALLMER: I'm a Ford guy, and I'm slightly offended by that. My father who worked for Ford would be offended, but nonetheless, putting that aside, a few hundred million is not a small amount of money, but for a company that's making $60 billion a year in revenue it's not a huge amount of money either.
GUY KAWASAKI: That's true. Okay. Like I said, you should have hired me. So now you've been at this game for a long time, you're arguably one of the richest people in the world, what drives you?
STEVE BALLMER: Three things, number one, I love what we do. I don't know what people thought about Silverlight 2, but I'm pretty jazzed up about Silverlight 2, IE 8. We get a chance every day, all of us at Microsoft, and frankly, people in this room, to really be at the forefront of changing the world. And for me that's exciting. Number two, I get a chance to work with, both as customers as well as the folks at Microsoft, some of the smartest, most energetic, fun folks in the world. Our industry is not the same as all other industries. I think there's a lot more energy and enthusiasm, and vibrancy, and I love that. That's the kind of people I like to spend my time with. And number three, I enjoy challenge, and certainly with the scale and magnitude of what's going on in our industry, and what we're trying to do, and the guys we have to compete with, I couldn't just sort of like sit at home and work on my golf game or something. I like good challenges, and we've got them.
GUY KAWASAKI: So you have such a humongous organization of the quantity of people, the market valuation, just everything. Can you just describe your day? I mean, what does Steve Ballmer do, from in the morning to night?
STEVE BALLMER: There's three kinds of days I have. One day, I'm out of Redmond, and I'm with customers, and I'm with customers generally from some place around 7:30 in the morning, to something like 8:00 at night, then you get on a plane, fly to the next city, brief with our people for the next day, and spend another 11 hours with customers. And I get excited about that. That for me is energizing.
GUY KAWASAKI: Is this Southwest Airlines, or is it a Gulfstream?
STEVE BALLMER: It's not Southwest Airlines, there's no doubt it's not Southwest Airlines. It's sometimes British Air, but it is definitely not Southwest, not where I not from Seattle, anyway.
GUY KAWASAKI: So Microsoft didn't buy you a G3?
STEVE BALLMER: No, Microsoft doesn't buy people airplanes, that's that other company.
GUY KAWASAKI: The Chihuahua?
STEVE BALLMER: The Chihuahua, that's the Chihuahua's approach.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. So that's one kind of day.
STEVE BALLMER: That's one kind of day. The second kind of day is what I'd call the doctor is in his office. Every hour on the hour I have a meeting, one-on-one, group review, just boom, boom, boom, boom. And those are energizing, but a little exhausting, usually. And then the third kind of day is what I'd call days when I can really think, write, and research, where I might have one meeting, or two meetings in the day, but most of the time is mine, mine to dig into things, mine to call people I'm interested in talking to, and really get a chance to put together a view of what we should be doing.
GUY KAWASAKI: How much e-mail do you get in a day?
STEVE BALLMER: I used to get a lot, now I get maybe 60-70 pieces of e-mail a day.
GUY KAWASAKI: How can that be, how can you only get 60 pieces of e-mail a day?
STEVE BALLMER: I don't know.
GUY KAWASAKI: How many virtual assistants do you have filtering your email?
STEVE BALLMER: Zero.
GUY KAWASAKI: You're telling me if somebody just wrote what's your e-mail address?
STEVE BALLMER: I'm SteveB@Microsoft.com
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. So now we have 2,000 of our closest friends.
STEVE BALLMER: And the guys at the end of the video link, iVideo link.
GUY KAWASAKI: So you're telling me tomorrow you're only going to have 60 e-mails?
STEVE BALLMER: Not tomorrow, but on average. What will happen, why do people get a lot of mail? They get a lot of mail, because they sign up to get a lot of mail, because they get spammed by a lot of mail, but people don't waste other people's time, generally.
GUY KAWASAKI: Who is this?
STEVE BALLMER: I have now found that people who send me e-mail, I'll probably get as a result of this 10 or 15 pieces of e-mail, and most of them will be thoughtful suggestions, improvements, things we should be doing differently. I have actually not found that human beings are abusive. Distribution lists are abusive. Spam is abusive. I find human beings are actually usually very constructive with the e-mail that they send.
GUY KAWASAKI: So just to make sure that I've got this right. You have no secretary, virtual assistant, admin screening your mail, making sure
STEVE BALLMER: Not for my e-mail, no.
GUY KAWASAKI: Not at all?
STEVE BALLMER: No.
GUY KAWASAKI: Just SteveB@ (laughter) wow, you are a better man than me. Wow.
STEVE BALLMER: I had it on CNN one time, and I got you know, the first couple of days after you do something like this, I'm not going to be dealing with 60 tomorrow, I'm pretty sure.
GUY KAWASAKI: And do you really answer them yourself?
STEVE BALLMER: Yes. Well, I mean, either I answer them, or I decide who should answer them, and I forward them to somebody who answers them.
GUY KAWASAKI: I can imagine if I were a Microsoft employee and you forwarded me an e-mail, I would probably take care of it, right.
STEVE BALLMER: I always hope so. I always hope so. I always hope so. It is career limiting not to take care of those kinds of e-mails. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: Can you describe where Bill is at? He's announced some changes and all that, where is his mind, and what's he and also I would like to know what is Microsoft post-Bill?
STEVE BALLMER: Bill will transition end of June out of full-time work. We don't know exactly what that means being part-time, but he and I and Ray Ozzie were all excited to have a chance to figure it out. You know, he, as he likes to describe, he's fortunate. He's had something unbelievable to build, to contribute to, to love professionally, and he's got a second thing which is unbelievable. Most people are lucky to get one such thing. Through his Foundation, Bill has something else he's really passionate about. He's going to be full-time at the Foundation, he'll stay our chairman, and work on some special projects on a part-time basis after some time off, well-deserved time off this summer. So that's kind of what happens to Bill.
The company obviously has evolved in many ways that I don't think is generally appreciated anyway. I mean, it's not, despite popular opinion, most of the great innovations at Microsoft don't come from Bill, they come from people in the company, things like the work that Scott showed you on Silverlight, and a variety of other things. There's a lot of great talented people doing amazing things. And so despite the fact Bill is as smart, and bright, and talented a guy as we've ever seen, as I've ever met at least in my life, we have such amazing people who will continue to propel the place, and in some senses the notion of having one all knowing, all seeing we need a different kind of way to get harmony, and synergy, and the whole to be bigger than the sum of the parts, and that will be through the combined work of perhaps five or six key leaders in addition to Ray Ozzie, Craig Mundie, and myself.
GUY KAWASAKI: And how do you find recruiting, particularly young employees to a Microsoft? Before you go to work for an Apple or a Microsoft because the stock is at 20 and you think it's going to go to 200. But everybody is at 200 or has been at 200, and it's a 20-25-year-old company. They could go to Google, but even Google is a huge valuation. So, I guess you could go to private Facebooks, but what's the marketing pitch now to a young person to work at Microsoft?
STEVE BALLMER: Ironically, the marketing pitch today is not all that different from the marketing pitch 25 years ago. We try to recruit, at least on the technical side, and I'll focus on the technical side, we're recruiting kind of the best and the brightest, the hardest core technical people who really want to work on things that can change the world. That's what we did 25 years ago, that's what we do today. Now the truth is, people made a bunch of money, but almost always people thought they wouldn't. I was talking to somebody who just recently retired from Microsoft. He came in 1990, and reminded me that when he joined in 1990 people said, the stock is never going to go up again. So it hasn't really been sort of the notion that says, there's a get rich quick scheme out there that has ever been a primary source of recruiting value, because you really only have that for a short period of time from when you're private and hot to when you go public. I mean, Google with a 400, 500, 600, 700 dollar stock price, it doesn't have any kind of double or triple, let alone a factor of 10 in front of it. We don't have any factor of 10. You've got to go to sort of a private company that's going to succeed. And of course, as we all know, most startups don't succeed. Most do fail.
GUY KAWASAKI: Believe me, I know. (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: That wasn't really a shot.
GUY KAWASAKI: You're the host. I have an observation for you. We were discussing our families back there, and I have four children, the two oldest are 12 and 14. As a side to this aside, when Halo 3 introduced, we went to the rollout party, introductory party at the Mountain View Campus. And I want you to know that there was a tournament there, and my sons won the tournament. (Applause.)
STEVE BALLMER: If your wife is like my wife, I'm not sure she's happy, but I'd say, way to go, boy.
GUY KAWASAKI: I was going to say, my wife is very ticked off about that. So, believe me, it's not on his high school application, if you know what I mean. So anyway, I'm kind of driving to a point here, so my kids are 12 and 14, they don't know about the OS wars, they don't know about antitrust, they don't know about all this kind of stuff. They think Microsoft is this cool company that makes Xbox and Halo. And it's so different a perspective, they have no history of OSes and productivity software. And it just seems to me that I don't think enough people know, especially if you're going to go after the young people, these 14 year olds, they should understand that Microsoft makes such cool stuff as Xbox and Halo, and I don't think they do. I think there's a marketing opportunity for you there.
STEVE BALLMER: Look, at the end of the day the opportunity is really always the same for every company, which is to keep making great products. And I'll bet your kids use our products, our productivity products, my guess would be it's for homework, a little bit of Word, a little bit of PowerPiont, maybe even a little bit of Excel gets used, even in a Mac house.
GUY KAWASAKI: Well
STEVE BALLMER: At least the way it worked at our kid's school, and when it comes time to learn about interest rates there's a lot of use of Excel, geometric things. So kids I think today grow up, they learn about they don't learn about the OS wars. Kids grow up today, as you know, using PCs, using productivity tools, using communications tools, having fun with games, and we have to continue to drive forward with exciting new products. What you did 10, 15, or 20 years ago was good 10, 15 to 20 years ago, but come on, 13, 14, 15-year-old, what have you done for me lately?
GUY KAWASAKI: So how does Guitar Hero, and Halo 3, and Xbox fit in this worldview of Microsoft, and how do you
STEVE BALLMER: Well, there's no question that for the 17 million people who own Xbox 360, for the roughly 11 million Xbox Live subscribers, these are things that people have a lot of they're products that people generate a lot of passion for, and that's certainly good for Microsoft. Now, continuing to reach more and more people, you stop and think about it, we've got about 20-25 million total Xbox users in the world, and we've got about 1 billion Windows users. So we've got to make sure all our users are fired up, and excited, and like our work.
GUY KAWASAKI: I think Xbox 360 and Halo is I love the technology, I love the interface, and I especially love how many Live subscribers did you say you had?
STEVE BALLMER: Between 10 and 11 million.
GUY KAWASAKI: So 10 or 11 million people are paying you $10 a month?
STEVE BALLMER: No, not everybody has to subscribe as users, because we have the entry level where you don't actually have to pay a monthly fee. Then we've got some significant percentage who choose to.
GUY KAWASAKI: So it's a lovely business, isn't it?
STEVE BALLMER: It's a very nice business. I'm very excited about that business.
GUY KAWASAKI: Let's jump back a little bit, tell the audience I mean, they've heard it from Ray and all that, but tell the audience about Silverlight, what the big plan is, what's the long-term goal, what you're trying to do with it, give them an update. It's time for them to hear from the head of Microsoft about Silverlight.
STEVE BALLMER: Let me give this kind of perspective. I think as the PC, the Internet, a variety of things have grown up what we have found is in some senses we force people who develop applications, who design applications, design user interface, there's kind of been this big fork in the road. Either I do something that is broadly available, and easy to deploy through the browser, or I do something that is a rich application, with rich interaction, rich presentation, rich local processing, perhaps rich local storage.
Over time what we're really trying to do is bring those two things together. So you see us interject .NET and the presentation and media capabilities of Silverlight, you see what we're doing with the Windows Presentation Foundation. What we're trying to do is make sure there's no compromises, that you can get the best of the Internet, and the best of the rich PC, all in kind of one easy form, at least as an application developer, or designer. And that's at the heart and soul of what we're trying to do with .NET Silverlight, .NET Windows Presentation Foundation, et cetera.
GUY KAWASAKI: Can you give us some numbers, I mean, how is it being received, and what's
STEVE BALLMER: Yes, I would say, we launched Silverlight a year ago at the MIX show. We have we shipped during, of course, that last year, and today I think we have about 1.5 million, something like that, downloads a day, which is good, and yet we still see a lot of opportunity to really span out, and broaden the number of desktops on which we see Silverlight. We certainly already have Windows Presentation Foundation on a very, very high number of desktops, since that gets regularly updated as part of our Windows Update program for Windows customers.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. Another not so softball, what's the deal with Vista? Seriously, I mean
STEVE BALLMER: Seriously?
GUY KAWASAKI: Yes, I mean seriously. Shall I say I read a very funny blog
STEVE BALLMER: Vista, the second most popular operating system in history?
GUY KAWASAKI: The one that you get no choice in getting. (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: Let me see that thing, have you got Vista on that thing?
GUY KAWASAKI: No, why would I do that?
STEVE BALLMER: See, you have a choice.
GUY KAWASAKI: What if you like to use a computer like this, you can just take out of a little envelope and
STEVE BALLMER: This is heavier than my PC. (Laughter.) It's true. That thing is heavier than the Toshiba I carry.
GUY KAWASAKI: But, this is more powerful than the Toshiba.
STEVE BALLMER: No, that thing is missing half the features of a PC. Where is your DVD drive, let me look for that. (Laughter and applause.) I'll have a bake-off with my Tosh versus that thing backstage.
GUY KAWASAKI: Yes, but DVDs are passe.
STEVE BALLMER: Tell that to your kids on a long flight, pal.
GUY KAWASAKI: I can't help it if you don't sell any movies. What do you want from us. Where were we, you kind of threw me here. I thought I was
STEVE BALLMER: It's a two-way street.
GUY KAWASAKI: I thought I was controlling this.
STEVE BALLMER: You are.
GUY KAWASAKI: I'm never going to invite you back to MIX. (Laughter and applause.) So what if somebody says, Steve, Microsoft has lost its focus, before it was OSes, and then all right, so you got into apps, and now you have Xboxes, and Live, and phones, and all this, how can you possibly do all this tuff well. What do you say to that person, besides up yours?
STEVE BALLMER: I would say a couple of things. Number one, in this industry, I actually think the great company either moves forward or they become less relevant. I actually don't really think there's an option called do one thing, do the same thing for 100 years, never broaden your footprint. Software is a funny thing. Everybody here knows it actually never wears out. You know, you have to constantly be moving forward, pushing, pushing, pushing. The things we've done, which a lot of companies in our industry don't, is I would say we've already built two different skill sets, a desktop skill set, and an enterprise skill set. And now the question is, are we going to build two new, because we're trying, a strong kind of consumer devices skill set, and an online skill set. Most companies only really build one skill set, even if they have multiple products. I told you, I think Apple does some pretty good work, but Apple's skill set is really in devices, kind of consumer devices. They don't do much of the rest of the stuff. They're not really in the enterprise. They've punted, which is okay, on online. (Laughter.) Okay by me. But that's a particular perspective. And
GUY KAWASAKI: Apple might say you punted on OSes.
STEVE BALLMER: They'd be wrong. Every day, statistically, they'd be wrong. But at the end of the day (laughter) and the last time I checked, there were still a lot of people, and a lot of governments who think we have a very high market share. But, anyway
GUY KAWASAKI: Especially in the EU.
STEVE BALLMER: No comment. (Laughter.) At the end of the day, is that actually a weakness or a strength? I think it's a strength. We built two different capabilities, most guys only build one. Will we build a third and a fourth? We'll see. And we have to push ourselves every day, because in this business, again, if you don't continuously improve what you're doing, you do become less relevant, and you do get guys in Hawaiian shirts who will tease you about anything that's not perfect. And that's fair.
GUY KAWASAKI: You noticeably skipped the Vista question because of that great deflection. But, anyway.
STEVE BALLMER: I will take the Vista, give me the Vista question again, I like Vista.
GUY KAWASAKI: What's the status of Vista, what's happening?
STEVE BALLMER: Vista has been very, very popular in the consumer world. I'm not saying that there aren't things that customers choose to comment on. (Laughter.) Come on, the number one issue we've had customers have issues on were application compatibility and driver compatibility. We made a very concrete set of choices in order to enhance the security, Vista is a very secure system. We've had very little issue of that kind. It's the most secure client operating system out there. But we did have it we did make the choice to kind of hurt compatibility and our customers have let us know that that has been very painful. A couple of things have happened, a lot of the apps have now been upgraded to be compatible, and the drivers have been upgraded. We've shipped our first service pack, Service Pack 1, which allows us to factor in a lot of the quality and other suggestions that people have made, and I think we're starting to see more uptake now in the business market, and Vista continues to sell quite strongly in the consumer market.
GUY KAWASAKI: I'm in your house, I'm not going to
STEVE BALLMER: So, you're not a user, so we won't know what you think.
GUY KAWASAKI: You know, honestly --
STEVE BALLMER: You want to tell me what somebody else thinks? C'mon on! We'll get rid of this, we'll get you a real machine, and then -- (laughter) -- you could e-mail me your feedback.
GUY KAWASAKI: You mean one with Ethernet built-in? What a --
STEVE BALLMER: For example.
GUY KAWASAKI: Yeah, what a concept, huh.
So, let's talk about Firefox and IE. What's happening there?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, I would say, you know, Firefox has certainly built presence and position over the course of the last couple of years. You see us now really investing as heavily as we ever had in the browser, which is very important to us. We still have the lion's share of all users use IE. But we are investing, IE7, we talked a little bit about IE8. There's a lot more of the IE8 story still to be told as we really start commenting about end user features, in addition to developer features. We've got a great team driving hard. I think you should expect to see a lot of browser innovation from us, and certainly we feel like browser innovation is core for us, and the ultimate measure of that is how well we do versus Firefox and Safari and the other browsers out there.
GUY KAWASAKI: How about some IE Macintosh development? I mean, that's an oxymoron right now, right?
STEVE BALLMER: How do I say this in the right way? Of all of the key innovations to be driven, porting to that lower volume machine is not the top on our list. No, I'm giving you a hard time; a lot of the folks in this room I know will use Macs for various things, but I think at this stage in the game we feel like it's smarter for us to apply our innovation energy to doing new things as opposed to bringing yet another browser to the Mac.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. Let's talk about -- let's go back a little bit to social networking. So, what's the Microsoft perspective on social networking? Is it a fad, is it -- what is it? I mean --
STEVE BALLMER: The notion that people are going to use the Internet more and more richly and more and more deeply to stay in touch with their friends, to make new friends, that's not a fad. There's no question that's not a fad. I mean, the fundamental nature of how people socialize is changed forever, and whether that expresses itself in things like MySpace and Facebook or Xbox Live, which is a different kind of social network, if you will, or through instant messaging and e-mail and videoconferencing, and everything that comes, there's no question the notion of the Internet, of social networking is not a fad.
Now, whether any one company and any one business model and any one modality has it right forever, I think you've got to keep investing. Obviously Zuckerberg and Facebook have done a great job. If they keep pushing, they're going to continue to have users active and interested and with them; same thing with the guys at Fox, with MySpace, et cetera.
GUY KAWASAKI: Don't you have tens of millions of people who are very close to social networking with Microsoft already, MSN and those kinds of things? Can't you just take that --
STEVE BALLMER: Actually hundreds of millions of people using our MSN Instant Messenger, Office Communicator software, et cetera.
GUY KAWASAKI: Is there any thought of sort of opening up the APIs so that you could have MSN apps and repeat the Facebook app phenomenon?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, most of the things that we do have open interfaces to them. So, for example, with our SharePoint technology, with what we've done with Active Directory, we for business customers have that kind of open platform. Getting the business model, the openness all to work and to make sense, you know, we're continually evaluating where we are and pushing forward. We have some extensibility that I think makes a lot of sense, and certainly a lot of guys have written applications on top of the MSN Windows Live Messenger.
GUY KAWASAKI: Now, I'm going to be very honest and kind to you for a second. I will tell you that for the past few years I've been working with Microsoft a lot, probably unbeknownst to you, and I will tell you that it's a different Microsoft today. There's not the arrogance, there's not the sort of bullying aspect. These people are really smart, they're really hard working, they answer e-mail faster than other companies, shall I say, and I just want to give you a little bit of a praise here that the new Microsoft employee is very different. It's really very easy to work with your company.
STEVE BALLMER: Well, thanks, appreciate that, you're kind.
GUY KAWASAKI: I mean, I don't have any reason to bullshit you. (Applause.)
I will tell you I noticed --
STEVE BALLMER: But if I get 150 to 1,000 e-mails from this group tomorrow, don't expect an answer by the end of the day. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: I will tell you, you know, Dan'l Lewin and his crew down in Mountain View, I think they've done wonders for your image in Silicon Valley. Just having that facility and basically anybody can rent that facility and use it, so now where Microsoft was this Evil Empire up in Washington, now it's in Mountain View, and you use their facilities, and it's got great food, cheap, fast, great A/V. It's a really nice facility. I just hope you have more of those facilities around, because I really think that just letting people use the Microsoft facility and seeing Microsoft employees touching them, has done wonders for you in Silicon Valley. (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: We won't do the "touch" thing right now. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: Right, right, right.
You know, we have about 20 more minutes, and I think we should -- I'm sure we have lots of questions in the audience. I'd like to open up for questions from the audience, too, because it's only fair.
QUESTION: (Off mike).
GUY KAWASAKI: So, somebody wants you to talk about Adobe, so here's your chance.
STEVE BALLMER: What about Adobe, to repeat the question, with a little different body English.
Obviously Adobe is a big competitor of ours. I'm not sure if that was the context of the particular question.
In a sense they're a big competitor of ours, and certainly Silverlight and what we're trying to do with Silverlight and .NET, and what they're trying to do with Flex and Flash, we're going to try to give you exciting choices, we're going to try to encourage you in ways that make sense to pick the Microsoft alternative, and at the same time we know that Adobe is going to remain a very important company in this industry for a long time, and we're going to make sure that we support Adobe very well as an ISV and in many, many other regards.
We appreciate the fact that Adobe has pioneered some important standards like PDF. We have very good support, for example, now for our Office applications to save documents in PDF format. We're going to continue to drive both interoperability where it makes sense with Adobe, as well as competing with Adobe.
GUY KAWASAKI: That was a PR answer if I ever heard one.
Okay, so we have all these like dressed up people, so we'll ask the t-shirt to go first here.
QUESTION: Hello. Right, so .NET, a few years ago, .NET came out and gave us these pretty good tools to develop applications and such. We got on this path and the tools got better and better and .NET 2 and 3.5 were wicked.
I'm just curious how did Internet Explorer -- because it's obviously an Internet Web development thing -- how did Internet Explorer get kind of left out of that development path, instead of -- do you know what I mean?
STEVE BALLMER: Oh, yes, I do. (Laughter.)
I think we made a set of decisions for a variety of reasons historically that I won't go back through, and what we were really trying to accomplish with the version of Windows now known as Vista but then known as Longhorn, the version after Windows XP, and we got a whole lot of our innovation all coordinated and tied to the release of the next operating system after Windows XP.
The browser was one of those technologies. .NET was not. .NET had a separate path, a separate ship stream. Obviously we can ship browsers separate from the operating system, but we really were thinking through that next generation design.
There's a whole bunch of things that I think we have, let me just say, learned from that we did during that design process. It's important to integrate things, but it's probably important to incubate new technologies before you integrate them together. Because we had the long gap, we had -- particularly in the browser that was a painfully long gap between releases of browser innovation. You won't see those kinds of gaps on Windows. And I think we now understand how we get things enough decoupled to incubate new innovations in the browser separate from the operating system and then roll them back into the operating system.
So, some mistakes, some good learning, and certainly we're now having to really hustle as hard as we've had to hustle in the marketplace to really drive browser innovation.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. Here.
QUESTION: Tim Anderson, ITWriting.com.
If Microsoft takes over Yahoo!, what are you going to do with all those PHP applications, especially the ones that overlap with what Microsoft already has running on ASP.NET? Will they be converted or do you have other plans for that?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, there are two different -- there's really sort of two different questions. In most -- in a number of areas, and I won't go through specifics, but we will have to make some kind of final integration plans after presumably we reach a deal, and it would be appropriate to talk to the Yahoo! guys, we shouldn't have two of everything. It won't make sense to have two search services, two advertising services, two mail services, and we'll have to sort some of that through.
Some of that technology undoubtedly will come from the Microsoft side, some will undoubtedly come from the Yahoo! side.
Whatever technology comes, it also comes with an infrastructure that runs it. So, I'm quite sure that when all is said and done, we'll be -- you ask, what are you going to do with those PHP applications. I'm sure a bunch of them will be running at high scale and in production for a long time to come.
I think there's going to be a lot of innovation in the core infrastructure, beyond what we have in Windows today, and ASP.NET, beyond what you see in Linux and PHP today, and over time probably most of the big applications on the Internet will wind up being rebuilt and redone, whether those are ours or Yahoo!'s or any of the other competitors. But for thy foreseeable future we will be a PHP shop I guess if we own Yahoo!, as well as being an ASP.NET shop.
One of the interesting things that I really love that we've done in the new Windows Server is we've put a lot of attention into making sure PHP applications run well on Windows Server. That's not the current Yahoo! environment, and I'm not suggesting that we would transition that way. But for those of you who do have PHP skills, we're going to try to make Windows Server the best place to land PHP applications in the future as well.
GUY KAWASAKI: All right, thank you.
QUESTION: Yes. What do you see as the major synergies between Microsoft and Yahoo!, and what kind of adaptations do you think might have to be made to get it through the antitrust process?
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, I think I'll pass on the second question. (Laughter.) Otherwise Guy will say I'm giving a PR answer, so I'll just pass and save us all the pain.
QUESTION: Save some time, yeah.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, yeah.
In terms of synergy, look, the number one -- people have to understand that scale, which is a form of synergy, is really an advantage in the search game. The more searches you have, the more advertisers you have. The more advertisers you have, the more bidding you get on keywords. The more revenue you make, the more you have to reinvest.
But also the more advertisers you have, the more -- the larger the corpus of relevant ads you have to insert on pages. In the case of search, ads are part of the content, and right now Google has a larger body of ads to insert on any keyword than either we or Yahoo! has. So, getting that scale is perhaps the most obvious of synergies.
In addition, I think they've got a bunch of very talented engineers, and so do we. We should be able to have one plus one be at least two and a half in terms of not duplicating things that shouldn't be duplicated, and moving out and doing additional innovative work.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. Over here.
QUESTION: Hi. (Charles Suzell ?) from Round Arch.
A lot of people are focusing on the whole Yahoo! acquisition. I've got to congratulate you on making an acquisition of Fast Search. That is an absolutely brilliant move.
Having just got back from their corporate headquarters in Oslo, I was looking at how Rich Internet Applications can actually be empowered and power the user experience by this whole notion of query-less search.
So, I was just wondering if we could like maybe step away from Yahoo! for a moment, and chat about Fast Search, and how you see that shaping, because it is one of the largest acquisitions in your company's history? So, I was wondering if you could chat about that most recent search.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, I'm very excited about the acquisition that we are in process -- we're in regulatory review. Fast is a company that used to have both an Internet search product, as well as a Web site and corporate search product. They sold off their Windows search a number of years ago, actually to Yahoo!, and really focused in on two things: providing great search technology for very high-end searches against enterprise data; and number two, providing search engines that can power Web sites, which seems to be the context in which you know them the best.
Their technology is fantastic, the team is great, and we're very anxious in both working with folks building Web sites for the public facing Internet, as well as people building better and better search technologies in corporations.
We love the company, we love the people. We've got a great integration plan. As soon as we get through regulatory review, we'll have a lot more to say.
GUY KAWASAKI: All right. Let's go back over here.
QUESTION: Hi. I've got a question regarding your upcoming virtualization platform. Will you create a licensing scheme to compete with something like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, and like true elastic computing where if I need 100 Windows Server for an hour, I can actually do it very easily?
STEVE BALLMER: There are two concepts. Let me just tease them apart and then say yes to both.
With the announcement we've made of HyperV and our Windows Server technology, we actually have the components so that anybody who wants to can actually set up a Web farm or a set of servers that are virtualized and run applications. That's not the service element that you described, but that's the technology that we announced and are putting in the market over the next few months.
Number two, will we offer that capability of essentially compute and storage in the cloud? I think Ray all but said that we would yesterday. I'm not sure I'll give any more details today. But you should look forward as we have things to say we'll certainly say them, but it's an area of great interest for us.
QUESTION: Benjamin Romano, Seattle Times.
With apologies to this audience, I wondered if you could tell us what you'd like to see happen with the Seattle Sonics, and what you're prepared to do to make it happen? (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: No. With respect to you and the Seattle Times, I'm not talking about that today. (Laughter.)
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. That's a PR answer.
QUESTION: Hi. Eric (Bonhardt ?) with CT Magazine from Germany.
Now that Silverlight has gone mobile, I was wondering if there is a Silverlight for the iPhone in the cards? I think Apple had an interesting announcement today that you may or may not be aware of.
And also I would like to learn a little more what your plans are with the Danger acquisition.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, Silverlight for iPhone is, of course, interesting. We want to get Silverlight everywhere. Now, I can't say there's been some extensive discussion with Guy's old boss on this topic, and I notice they just announced a new runtime today, yesterday, and it sure seems they're trying to charge a whole lot more money for it than anybody else on the face of the planet. I think they want 30 percent of every bit of revenue that you collect on their runtime. It's a good business if you can make it. I'm not sure a lot of the software developers that I know are going to be very interested in that. But it may mean that Apple is not welcoming open, royalty free runtimes on its platform. We'll have to wait and see.
STEVE BALLMER: Oh, Danger, yeah. The Danger acquisition is really about essentially building up an application and service asset on top of our Windows Mobile platform. Windows Mobile today is a horizontal operating system. We run on devices from over 50 manufacturers. I think there's 165 different hardware configurations in market. But on top of that, we see an opportunity to build unique applications with service components.
Danger really is part of a strategy to do consumer oriented applications and services on top of Windows Mobile, just like some of the things that we've done with our enterprise software, builds out kind of the business and enterprise footprint for Windows Mobile.
QUESTION: So, there is a stack going to be sitting on Windows Mobile?
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah. We will have Windows Mobile as sort of a core platform, and Danger is really a kind of service application experience, and we want to make sure we get that in market on a great set of phones, hosted on Windows Mobile.
GUY KAWASAKI: What kind of phone do you use, by the way?
STEVE BALLMER: Me? I'm always switching between Windows Mobile devices. I've used the Q, I've used the Blackjack, I've used the Dash from HTC. I'm switching now -- I'm having a hard time as I get a little older, I'm going back to a 10-key phone from a bigger keyboard so I can dial numbers, if you will, by Braille instead of dialing them by looking. So, I'm always rotating around looking at the latest phones.
GUY KAWASAKI: You want to give everybody your phone number, too? (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: No. No, I'll pass on that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thanks. I'm (Robert Zelt ?), just a Silverlight developer. I'm very happy to see the innovation you guys are doing, but wondering when are we going to see it become the default for Microsoft properties and some of the innovation like AOL is doing with their mail? Is that something coming for Hotmail?
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, you'll see us introduce Silverlight into a variety of our application experiences over the course of the next months, and years in some cases. The truth of the matter is we have all of the same install base issues that everybody else does, and it's only on a new release of one of the products that it makes sense to really go back and change the delivery platform.
Some of our applications get delivered today on rich Windows applications, like the Live Messenger, for example. No real reason to move that to Silverlight. Some of the other experiences you'll see, you know, over time all of them should move to -- all of the relevant ones will move to Silverlight.
GUY KAWASAKI: We're going to let you speak, answer a question, you, second person. No, not you, you. See, we want a woman. We want to show that we're open and -- you know. (Laughter, applause.)
QUESTION: I love that there's no bathroom line, and I get to skip. (Laughter.)
(Tina Chang ?) from (SysLogic ?). We are currently working with Amalga. So, I would love to hear your vision for Amalga, HealthVault, and in general Microsoft's play in the health solutions space.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah, health is the only vertical that we've chosen to really dig in deeply, and primarily because A) it's the largest vertical in the world; and B) in some senses I still think the healthcare industry is perhaps the last well-served by IT.
We've made a big investment in applications really focused in on healthcare providers: doctors, hospitals, et cetera; and I think we know what we're doing in that area very well. It's going to be a hard row to hoe. We'll see whether we can really make a difference.
On the consumer health side what we're really doing is I'll call it experimentation. It's serious, we're in market, but we have to figure out as a society and as an industry what is it really going to take to bootstrap consumer health, the notion of my personal medical record and how I collect it and manage it, and how that serves me as a consumer. It's actually a fairly complicated thing to see that bootstrapped. How does your doctor give you information, does your doctor do all of these little Polar and personal health devices? Do they feed that sort of thing? I think it's very important for us to be on the edge of trying to stimulate and make a difference, and that's what we're trying to do with HealthVault.
But as our new ads say, we don't think we have anywhere close to all the ideas, and we're going to encourage a lot of third parties to innovate around HealthVault.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay, back here.
QUESTION: Hi. We all know that the format wars ended recently with Blu-ray being the winner. I wanted to know what were your thoughts on that, and do you have any plans with the Blu-ray technology maybe with the Xbox and stuff like that?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, you know, we don't make drives, so in a sense we -- we thought there was a lot of merit to HD-DVD. It was in the market sooner, it had certain cost advantages. We worked to provide an HD-DVD peripheral for the Xbox 360. But at the end of the day, as the industry moves forward, obviously we're going to support Blu-ray in ways that are important. I want to make sure there's the right support. We've already been working on, for example, in Windows device driver support for Blu-ray drives and the like.
I think the world moves on. Toshiba has moved on. We've moved on. We'll support Blu-ray in ways that make sense.
I mean, at the end of the day one of the interesting things about that whole format war is over time will more HD content get delivered over a physical disk or over the Internet. It's kind of the point Guy was making earlier about why it's okay that his machine doesn't have a DVD drive. Today, I think it is actually pretty important to have some kind of drive. Five years from now, it may not make a bit of difference.
QUESTION: Hey, Steve, we know how much you love developers, right? But I was going to ask if you could stand up and show some love for Web developers. (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: You mean just sort of like an impromptu? (Laughter.) You mean he said no monkey boy, and you want it? You want some love right here, right now? (Cheers, applause.) You want me to stand up and do that on the MIX stage? (Cheers, applause.)
QUESTION: Right now, Steve. (Cheers, applause.)
STEVE BALLMER: I've been in PR mode the whole time, and you want to hear "Web developers, Web developers, Web developers!" (Cheers, applause.)
QUESTION: Thanks, Steve.
STEVE BALLMER: If your buddy behind you just gave you a buck, I want 50 cents for it. (Laughter, applause.)
QUESTION: (You're scaring me, Steve ?). (Laughter.)
STEVE BALLMER: You offered.
QUESTION: Hi, Steve. Michael (Higgins ?) from eWeek.
I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the potential that you see or the adoption right now in the enterprise for social networking, and how you see that playing into Microsoft's future.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah. Just as it's happening on the consumer side, the ways in which people want to interact with each other inside corporations is also changing. We see more use of IM -- well, at one time e-mail was exotic for the corporation, but we see more use now of IM. We're certainly doing a lot of work around SharePoint, our collaboration product, and Active Directory.
It turns out we know already a lot about people and how they relate to each other inside the enterprise. And the ability to sort of let that infrastructure find -- help you find colleagues, colleagues with shared interests much the way social networking sites help you find friends, people with similar interests on the broad Internet, that's a big area of investment for us. We've done a little bit in the version of SharePoint that's in the market today, and you'll see more of that in future release of Office and SharePoint.
QUESTION: Do you see that being adopted heavily in the enterprise now, or is that still --
STEVE BALLMER: I'd say in a sense it's early stage. I'd say early stage today still.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. Over here.
QUESTION: (Nick Yum ?). I'm a student, and I'm also an MVP, and I'd like to thank you for providing us with Dream Spark, things such as Channel 8, and the Microsoft Student Partner Program. I'd like to really applaud you guys for helping us out. (Applause.)
The question is, so now that we have the tools, what are you doing to help us out with possibly the infrastructure, maybe moving forward with what are you doing maybe with some grid computing or shared -- flex computing power, so we could actually go and deploy those applications somewhere, because as students we don't have the budgets to go and buy servers? We have the tools, we're ready; so, can you help us out more? And what are the plans for continuing helping us out in education and moving into academia?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, there's certainly a lot of folks today who provide hosting services and who would be happy to host -- without forcing you to buy -- would be happy to host your application.
If your question is similar to the one that the gentleman asked at the other mic, will we have some kind of service-based facility to which you can deploy applications that provide sort of general purpose computing and storage, I'll say see the answer I gave earlier. Would it have student discounts? Who knows? We'll see.
QUESTION: Well, the question was, what else are you doing in academia? Because I go back now and talk to some of my peers on campus, and how do we take something as good as MIX, and if you see -- how many students are here? Yeah. So, how do we deliver this kind of concept of Rich Internet Applications, and how do you share that with students, and support that from the academia?
STEVE BALLMER: I know all of this is being streamed. It will be available on whatever session of MIX, Microsoft.com. Look it up online, search. I'd love you to do that. (Laughter.) There are many ways to find this event and certainly students who can't afford to be here -- yeah, at the end of the day this is not the world of conferences from 15 years ago or 10 years ago, when guys like Guy and I got started out. The conference really mattered in the sense of the only way to get the content was to come to the conference. Today, the conference has a lot of community and relationship aspects that are unique, but all of the content will propagate and make available, including videos and everything else up on the Web. Point your friends to it.
QUESTION: On Channel 8 we're doing it.
STEVE BALLMER: All right.
QUESTION: Steve, Todd Bishop from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
To Guy's point earlier, Apple today announced that it's licensing ActiveSync to implement Exchange in the iPhone. Can you comment on that from both perspectives, the Exchange business, and also the competitive implications for Windows Mobile?
STEVE BALLMER: Well, obviously we made a strategic decision to do two things. Number one, we've licensed ActiveSync for a while, and that's been an option that's been available to Apple. We also made clear, whatever it was, last week or two weeks ago, when we announced our interoperability principles, that we would have licensing packages for patented protocols that live between high volume Microsoft products. So, it was certainly an option that we knew Apple might take advantage of. Obviously by policy we've decided that that's kind of in our business interest. We'll be glad to see iPhone participate and be available, and help make Exchange more valuable, and we're quite comfortable that we can do a great job in Windows Mobile in many ways, including e-mail support, we can do a great job that will help us differentiate and compete very well with the iPhone.
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay, so we're getting instructions to take one last question, and we're going to take it from that woman over there. All the rest of you, you know, SteveB@microsoft.com. (Laughter.) But you get to ask the last question.
QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. My name is (Tracy Arsenell ?) with Avenue A : Razorfish in Atlanta.
I just have a question. What are your plans for Avenue A : Razorfish? We hear a lot of rumors, and I'm just curious to see how we're going to interact.
STEVE BALLMER: Yeah. We bought aQuantive now about six, nine months ago, and aQuantive was in a sense three businesses in one. It was a very sophisticated company in terms of software tools for helping to manage advertising, fit very well with Microsoft, and was one of the important assets.
Number two, there was a set of advertising networks so that people who want to sell ads could pool up ads, and we'd sell those as a group. The DRIVEpm platform was critical to us in the acquisition.
The biggest piece though of aQuantive actually is Avenue A : Razorfish, which is a great Web development, advertising agency. In a sense you could say it doesn't fit per se with the rest of Microsoft, because we generally try to support third parties in that regard, but there's been a lot of benefit to aQuantive to owning the agency. We run it very hands-off. That is, Avenue A : Razorfish is free to use Silverlight, but also free to use competitive technologies.
If Avenue A : Razorfish is not an honest broker, it won't continue to acquire customers, and at the same time we need to be able to continue to work with other Web development houses, with other advertising agencies. So, I think of it as a pretty -- as owned by Microsoft, but pretty independent, as long as it's continuing to make financial progress, as it's done in the past.
GUY KAWASAKI: All right. Well, I think our time is up, and, you know, Steve, I know that deep down inside you really want to use an Air. So, if you ever want a discount, I have friends, and I'm sure I could help you. (Laughter.) But it's been fun, and I hope the audience enjoyed it, and we'll do this again some time, okay?
STEVE BALLMER: Thank you all very much for coming to MIX. Thank you.
Thanks, Guy. (Applause.)