October 10, 2006 11:21 AM PDT

Ballmer on PC's role in Web services world

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Gartner: Prepare for consumer-led IT

October 9, 2006
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday that lines between on-premise software and Internet-delivered services are blurring, an industry shift the company is embracing.

Ballmer was interviewed Tuesday by Gartner analysts David Smith and Yvonne Genovese at the corporate technology research company's Symposium/ITxpo, under way in Orlando, Fla.

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Video: Ballmer says Microsoft is persistent
"The bone doesn't fall out of our mouth easily"

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Video: Ballmer: Software will be 'click to run'
Services will be delivered via the Web but run on a PC

During his talk, Ballmer said many Web sites can be described as "click to run," where a service is delivered via a Web site but runs on a PC.

"I do think that we're in a transition where software goes from something that's in its pre-Internet day to something we call Live (Microsoft's hosted services), where you have click-to-run capability on a Web site ... But software will still execute on a PC," Ballmer said in response to questions.

A powerhouse in desktop and server software, Microsoft has not embraced hosted services as extensively as other application providers such as Salesforce.com or search giant Google.

According to Ballmer, Microsoft intends to deliver software as a service to both consumer and business users, offering services over the Internet as well as servers behind company firewalls.

Services that reside in the Internet "cloud"--including commerce, community and search--will be have an "an analog that will affect our servers ... and this is driven by Ray Ozzie."

The company's chief software architect, Ozzie wrote a widely distributed memo describing what he called the"Internet services disruption," a major technology shift in the IT industry akin to the move to PCs.

Last year, Microsoft consolidated its Windows and developer tools divisions with the groups responsible for MSN Web properties in an effort to combine on-premise software with online services. It is currently building a line of Live-branded hosted services, some of which are meant to complement its on-premise software.

"The difference between software plus a service and software as a service is whether people will want to use the local intelligence in their phones, PCs," Ballmer said. "Even if you look at some Internet services today, they all use power from the client? AJAX uses the power of the client and the Instant Messenger clients from us and Yahoo and Google use the client."

In this services push and other efforts, Ballmer said that Microsoft is persistent, if not always first.

"The bone doesn't fall out of our mouth easily. We may not be first but we'll keep working and working ? and it's the same with search ? We are irrepressible on this," he said.

In addition to reiterating that security was Microsoft's top priority, Ballmer fielded questions regarding how long it has taken Vista to ship. Ballmer responded with a discussion of how reinventing Windows from the ground up required both innovation and integration, a situation that produced a bit of engineering chaos for Microsoft.

Regarding Microsoft digital music player Zune, Gartner's Smith noted that Microsoft had gone from running an ecosystem that encourages third-party participation to one that looks like it will mimic what Apple has done with its iTunes Music Store and its iPods -- a system which is entirely closed and controlled by a single vendor.

Ballmer responded by saying that a closed approach is a bad idea and that a very open experience is sometimes accompanied by a lot of chaos. He cited Microsoft's XBox game console as an example of the sort of ecosystem that Zune might follow, where third parties can create add-on products, but where Microsoft will do a great deal of monitoring and certification.

David Berlind of ZDNet reported from Orlando, Fla.

See more CNET content tagged:
Steve Ballmer, David Smith, Ray Ozzie, software-as-a-service, Gartner Inc.

9 comments

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Wow, who even listens to this guys anymore?
Doesn't he know that MS no longer leads the tech industry. You're a
has been Steve. You're irrelevant to all but the most die-hard MS
fanboyz.
Posted by CentrOS (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...said the guy who ISN'T worth $50 billion...
...
Posted by Neo Con (428 comments )
Link Flag
Sr. IT Managers in Corporate America
While they may not lead, they are the desktop, office productivity and collaboration platform for corporate america PCs, and a good amount of server side infrastructure with MS-Exchange, SQL Server, and Active Directory. While .NET is not much to really consider, it definitely has made a place on mobile systems.

Like or not, they've made managing and supporting PCs and Email very easy and at a lower cost (excluding the cost of the software, but it's about labor cost too).

That said, IT has to know where they are going with Vista, Office, etc.

In terms of SOA, application development and integration, I absolutely agree...they're not producing leading edge and scalable systems.

If your idea of tech, is just consumer electronics, then things like ZUNE may appear to be a yawner, but their presence in a given market is notable as well (whether they lead or not).
Posted by d_anders (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New era?
New era?....That's very wishful thinking...Hosted services have a long way to go to make serious inroads on simply running a program on your PC...The internet's reliability is also still in question...As it stands with these new "live" services...If the net goes down...you're locked out of work...These "live" services may mean more dollars and tighter control for the providers...But I see no advantage for the consumer.
Posted by dburr13 (117 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New era?...I don't think so
New era?....That's very wishful thinking...Hosted services have a long way to go to make serious inroads on simply running a program on your PC...The internet's reliability is also still in question...As it stands with these new "live" services...If the net goes down...you're locked out of work...These "live" services may mean more dollars and tighter control for the providers...But I see no advantage for the consumer...
Posted by dburr13 (117 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: New era?... I don't think so
I don't think so either.

The only thing I see is, as you mentioned, more dollars and
control for them. Incredible how they shamlessly blow smoke
over a "new era".

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Link Flag
Lousy Disinformation From the BORG...
...if Ballmer's desire is to obfuscate the truth to the point of being unintelligible as in the transparent lies he tells in this artcile, our GWB Admin could really use him NOW. Our Republican party more generally really is in desparate need of an urgent "quality disinformation" PR update & Ballmer is the gladhanding joker for the gig.

Think about it - with all that dough, he can well afford to serve his country bigtime now. A side benefit would be that we can get him the hell out of the tech industry once and for all.

CNET readers - shall we band together and throw a big chair at this guy now, cursing at him in unison?

One thing we can do without in the software industry is his evangelical bragging about things like MSFT's sea-change move into web-based
services in which MSFT "suddenly excels." His pronouncements are an insult to the intelligence of minor geeks right up thru senior internet security experts - I believe that would cover all forty versions of the VISTA o/s and the pathetic IE7 browser they intend on releasing "finally" within the coming 30 to 90 days.

A little honesty AND 7th Sigma quality control ~ even if only a teeny tiny bit ~ would greatly enhace MSFT's validity as an effective BORG.

Til then, resistance will NOT prove futile. At this rate, MSFT will certainly be replaced by GOOG within the coming five (not even ten) years in the Dow 30.

I for one will keep my g/d XP Prof SP2 with a dual boot Linux Ubuntu for the time being, and wait til Google releases its operating system once and for all.
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Click to run"?
That's awfully easy to confuse with Linspire's
trademarked "Click and Run". You would think
that Ballmer would be more careful to try an
avoid intentionally confusing their future
technology with someone-else's existing (and
competing) product.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows software as a service is already possible with OS21st.net
Posted by OS21st (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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