Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft

The New York Times writes:

Running a storied enterprise like Microsoft software heavyweight, geyser of cash, corporate icon is about much more than energy and commitment, says Steven A. Ballmer, the companys chief executive. It is all but a calling, an article of faith.

Youve got to be very realistic about where you are, but very optimistic about where you can be, he said during interviews this month. And the day you cant be both of those things, you shouldnt be a leader of a company like Microsoft. You have to believe; you have to believe; you have to believe.

In the Ballmerian world view, failure is not an option. If we dont get it right at first, well just keep coming and coming and coming and coming, he says.

Microsoft’s Robbie Bach

WSJ writes about the ‘Xbox whiz’:

Now, with all of Microsoft’s key entertainment groups reporting to him, Mr. Bach says his mission is to devise ways for them to work together without creating an unwieldy mix of technologies. Examples might include easier ways to use an Xbox or future Zune player to watch online videos, or a mobile phone to access wirelessly music stored on a PC, say Microsoft insiders.

At a five-hour annual strategy meeting on Dec. 14, Mr. Gates pushed Mr. Bach’s team to speed up its connected-entertainment plans, Mr. Bach’s lieutenants say. “They want us to move as quickly as we possibly can,” Mr. Bach says. “Apple has a lot of market share — we need to move quickly. Our share in the cellphone space is improving and growing but we need to move quicker there. Even in videogames, there’s still plenty of unfinished business there.”

Office 2007

Guardian has an interview with Jeff Raikes of Microsoft:

If you poll Office users, there’s a couple of things that really stand out. One is that they really see that Office is very important to what they do in their jobs, so they care a lot about it. The second thing is that they’d like to be able to do even more. They recognise there’s a lot of capability in the product that they’re not getting to today. So the research that we put into designing the user experience was to address that issue: to help folks get to more capability and get things done faster and easier. Our research shows they can use 65% fewer keystrokes and less mouse-travel.

People want a results-oriented interface: they want to get things done. So that’s the most notable step with Office 2007.

Microsoft and Vista

Robert Cringely writes why Microsoft will win:

Those who are trying to figure out if Vista will be successful haven’t yet grasped the concept that Vista will be forced on the market, and in time it will be the only operating system you can buy from Microsoft. Of course it will be successful. Will people upgrade their existing systems? Of course not. Microsoft operating systems are always designed for future PC’s, not for the installed base. Part of the plan is to make Vista work poorly on current computers so we’ll all have to buy new ones. This strategy has been around for years and there is no reason to believe we won’t fall for it again. Sure, some percentage of people and firms will upgrade, but most of the upgrades will come with whole new computers.

Think back to the Windows 95 introduction, where one of the selling points was that the new OS would work fine on a 66 MHz 486 computer. The truth was that it would RUN on a 486, but not well, so after a try of Win95 on our old hardware, rather than go to some other operating system we all bought new machines. And we’ll do that again with Vista.

The New Microsoft

Business Week writes in a cover story:

Maybe the point is that Microsoft needs to find its un-Vista. Several of them, in fact. The software giant is entering perhaps the greatest upheaval in its 30-year history. New business models are emerging–from low-cost “open-source” software to advertising-supported Web services–that threaten Microsoft’s core business like never before. For investors to care about the company, it needs to find new growth markets. Its $44.3 billion in annual sales are puttering along at an 11% growth pace. Its shares, which soared 9,560% throughout the 1990s, sunk 63% in 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, and they have yet to fully recover.

Reigniting growth will require a cultural shift at a company that has long shaped its strategy around maintaining its Windows operating system and Office word-processing and spreadsheet monopolies. That calls for a new breed of leaders who can push the company in directions it hasn’t gone before. “Things are different from the desktop world that most of the Microsoft guys grew up in,” says Michael A. Cusumano, a management professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has written extensively about the company.

Microsoft and Online Advertising

WSJ writes:

Today, Microsoft is making up for lost time. It now has a fully staffed sales force on par with the rest of the Internet industry. It’s investing in a broad range of services for placing ads on the Web, in videogames, on mobile phones and alongside Internet search results.

Online advertising has emerged as the foundation stone of a whole host of new Web businesses. Research eMarketer forecasts that the market will balloon to $25 billion in 2010 from $15.9 billion today. As a result, Microsoft has started to learn what makes advertisers tick as a way to get deep into a business that’s as much Madison Avenue salesmanship as Silicon Valley genius.

Microsoft’s Entertainment Plans

Techcrunch writes:

Earlier this week, Microsofts Xbox 360 division announced partnerships with CBS, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Turner Broadcasting, UFC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment to Digitally Deliver TV Shows and Movies to Gamers. This is Microsofts first move into digital movie and TV show sales and is also another move towards turning their Xbox gaming system into a full-fledged digital entertainment system.
Microsoft has a serious strategy to dominate digital entertainment. Microsoft already has a very successful gaming console (Xbox 360) that allows users to play games, watch movies, buy movies, buy TV shows, stream video from their computer, stream music from their computer, and Im sure buying music from URGE is in the gameplan not to mention the social networking features that allow Xbox 360 users (and maybe Zune users, considering the wi-fi built-in?) to chat with each other in games, send messages to each other, add users to their friends list, etc.

Zune vs iPod

Walter Mossberg writes:

This first Zune has too many compromises and missing features to be as good a choice as the iPod for most users. The hardware feels rushed and incomplete. It is 60% larger and 17% heavier than the comparable iPod. It has much worse battery life for music than the iPod or than Microsoft claims — at least two hours less than the iPod’s, in my tests. Despite the larger screen, many album covers look worse than they do on the iPod. And you can’t share music libraries between computers like you can with iTunes.

Zune’s online store offers far fewer songs, just over two million, compared with 3.5 million for the iTunes store.

Microsoft’s Spaceland

O’Reilly Radar writes about Microsoft’s new 3-D services as part of Virtual Earth:

Microsoft released an amazing, computer-generated 3-D mapping site via the Virtual Earth team. Spaceland, as it’s called, is quite beautiful and available in 15 cities. It can be used for driving directions, searching, and real-time traffic monitoring.

Spaceland utilizes technology from the GeoTango and Vexcel acquisitions. Vexcel is a GIS data collection asset for MS. They use their advanced UltraCam to gather the data used in the models. This was the data collection part of the equation. That’s right, MS is now gathering their own GIS data.

As has been widely reported, Microsoft is experimenting with ads in its new 3-D GIS playground. These are supplied by Massive, a company that was originally serving ads in games and from Microsoft’s homegrown ad platform.