REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft's annual culture clash takes place Thursday as the software maker tries to dazzle and delight with technology and long-term plans, while a crowd of financial analysts presses the company for profits they can take to the bank.
Although Microsoft has continued to return solid profit and earnings, the company has also been spending more than some analysts would like, particularly in its online services area. There were already grumblings over the company's plans on last week's earnings conference call and I'd expect that to be an area of discussion on Thursday, especially in the wake of the departure of Kevin Johnson, the president of the division that houses both Windows and the online business.
I'll be covering the event and blogging frequently, but here's a preview of what to expect.
CEO Steve Ballmer kicks things off, followed by Entertainment and Devices boss Robbie Bach. Expect Microsoft to point to its Entertainment and Devices unit as an area where long-term bets are paying off. The unit turned its first annual profit for the fiscal year that ended in June, amid strong Xbox 360 sales as well as had the beginnings of returns on other investments such as in-car computing and IP television.
After a talk from Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, Bill Veghte will take center stage for a discussion of Vista. Expect him to point to evidence that Vista is both selling better and is better accepted than everyone thinks. Also look for detail on how Microsoft plans to use marketing to try and change some minds. I'll be keeping an ear out for a mention of Project Mojave, first reported in this space earlier Thursday.
New business division head Stephen Elop follows to discuss Office, unified communications, and Microsoft's Dynamics line, followed by server and tools boss Bob Muglia.
After lunch it's research head Craig Mundie, followed by oft-talked-about-but-rarely-seen Ray Ozzie, who will talk about how services are important across the company as well as where efforts like Live Mesh fit in.
Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell wraps things up, followed by a Q and A with Ballmer and Liddell.