Ballmer’s big moment

Steve Jobs won’t be center stage this week. Chuq von Rospach, who used to work at Apple, wraps up what that means from an inside-the-Apple sphere.

But there’s another first coming up next week: it’ll be the first CES without Bill Gates on stage.

It is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. The lights will be all on him thanks to Steve Jobs’ decision to not show up on stage.

Now, look at the enterprise videos I’ve been doing this week (I just did another one with Jive Software’s CMO this morning). Do you sense it? This is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. Everyone in the industry is gunning for Microsoft. It’s Ballmer’s big moment to tell them all to “stay off our lawn.”

What must he do?

1. Introduce Windows 7 to us and make it seem a LOT cooler than Vista. Not a hard job, for sure, but he needs to nail it. This is job #1 for him this year.
2. Assure its partners that people will buy computers and its mobile phones in 2009. Next week I’ll be walking around with executives from Best Buy to find out if what Steve said resonated. BestBuy and other retailers are feeling tons of pain right now due to the economic downturn. Can Ballmer offer them any hope?
3. Demonstrate how Microsoft is pushing into new markets. It’s rumored to be bringing out a new version of Sync for automobiles at CES, for instance.
4. Explain why Microsoft Office is still the tool for workers to use, even going into 2010. In a year where entire ecosystems and Google and Salesforce and other companies are gunning for Microsoft (Adobe and Cisco are expected to make announcements for office workers in the next few years). Microsoft is being pressured for both price and functionality. Will Office 14 resonate? A lot will have to do with Ballmer’s big moment.
5. Explain how Microsoft will remain relevant to the living room. At the IFA show (Europe’s Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin) last year I was at the Panasonic press conference where they showed off Google’s YouTube running on one of their 50-inch screens. That is not a good trend for Microsoft who hopes to be able to bring its services into the living room.
6. Show how Microsoft will stay on the mobile leader’s table. Right now they are threatened with being kicked off by Apple, RIM, and Nokia to make room for upstart Google. What Ballmer says and shows next week will determine whether Microsoft has a decent position in 2010 or is seen as a has been.
7. Excite developers. Not just the ones who were using Visual Basic back in 1993, either. They need to get developers to switch their attention from Facebook and iPhone and the web and back to its stuff. Can Ballmer do it? It’ll take a lot more than dancing around on the stage screaming “developers, developers, developers.”

Can Ballmer do it? I won’t bet against the guy.

43 thoughts on “Ballmer’s big moment

  1. Nothing is so invisible as the obvious, you need not even be a CEO. It’s simple, yes, but no one ever knows ALL details, get the big picture right and “make not according to plan”, part of a plan. If you get bogged down in the administrative make-work infinitesimally logistically complex “details”, you better have some dramatic results to show for it.

    how come you’re not CEO of a successful multinational corporation?

    Patience.

  2. Nothing is so invisible as the obvious, you need not even be a CEO. It’s simple, yes, but no one ever knows ALL details, get the big picture right and “make not according to plan”, part of a plan. If you get bogged down in the administrative make-work infinitesimally logistically complex “details”, you better have some dramatic results to show for it.

    how come you’re not CEO of a successful multinational corporation?

    Patience.

  3. @Christopher – if it’s so simple, and you seem to know all the details – how come you’re not CEO of a successful multinational corporation?

    Not trolling. Just curious.

  4. @Christopher – if it’s so simple, and you seem to know all the details – how come you’re not CEO of a successful multinational corporation?

    Not trolling. Just curious.

  5. This is a very large challenge for Ballmer. Just yelling and dancing around will not get everyone excited. His message has to have actual substance for the skeptics to really listen. MSFT is in a situation where people are not believing any of their hype. Ballmer must deliver soon or they will fall farther behind.

  6. This is a very large challenge for Ballmer. Just yelling and dancing around will not get everyone excited. His message has to have actual substance for the skeptics to really listen. MSFT is in a situation where people are not believing any of their hype. Ballmer must deliver soon or they will fall farther behind.

  7. not exactly a division of the company that’s on life support!

    Yes it is. It’s called billions and billions in subsidy, one reason why the shareholders are in revolt, Microsoft ratholes these things for some R&D future sprinkle dust, other companies try and etch out a profit. Beating Sony for ego’s sake, is a heavy price to pay. And then add warranty costs, another price to the rush.

    Nothing new to announce that people don’t already know or can even be fluffed up enough to care, Ballmer’s first at bat will be a sleep-inducing aid, unless he goes unprofessional crazy-like, and then it will be just laughingstock part thrice or more. Snooze. Gates was all hot air too, but he was so so sincere, really believing his pipe dreams, that you wanted to root for him (heck I really really wanted the Tablet dreams to come true, alas)…Ballmer’s just a CEO hack, will say whatever makes people buy.

  8. not exactly a division of the company that’s on life support!

    Yes it is. It’s called billions and billions in subsidy, one reason why the shareholders are in revolt, Microsoft ratholes these things for some R&D future sprinkle dust, other companies try and etch out a profit. Beating Sony for ego’s sake, is a heavy price to pay. And then add warranty costs, another price to the rush.

    Nothing new to announce that people don’t already know or can even be fluffed up enough to care, Ballmer’s first at bat will be a sleep-inducing aid, unless he goes unprofessional crazy-like, and then it will be just laughingstock part thrice or more. Snooze. Gates was all hot air too, but he was so so sincere, really believing his pipe dreams, that you wanted to root for him (heck I really really wanted the Tablet dreams to come true, alas)…Ballmer’s just a CEO hack, will say whatever makes people buy.

  9. Sure, the initial Xbox 360 hardware was unreliable and they’ve paid for it, but it served the objective of beating the Playstation to market and they’ve got a very good market share because of it. It’s not exactly a division of the company that’s on life support!

    The best way to get a high performance computing machine into homes next to their TVs is with games consoles. Look how the PS3 won Blu-ray the format war! Saying Microsoft should abandon it now is lunacy.

  10. Sure, the initial Xbox 360 hardware was unreliable and they’ve paid for it, but it served the objective of beating the Playstation to market and they’ve got a very good market share because of it. It’s not exactly a division of the company that’s on life support!

    The best way to get a high performance computing machine into homes next to their TVs is with games consoles. Look how the PS3 won Blu-ray the format war! Saying Microsoft should abandon it now is lunacy.

  11. You know a company is really bricking it when what they ‘have to do’ is use a big moment to justify their relevance and try and reassure the scared little ones.

    People will still buy computers, whether they will be running any MS junk will be another story.

    Why don’t MS and the like just call it what it is, Vista with a big fat service patch and clean up. Do they really expect us to believe after taking the thick end of a decade to produce Vista, that they are gonna churn out a brand spanking new OS in a year?

  12. You know a company is really bricking it when what they ‘have to do’ is use a big moment to justify their relevance and try and reassure the scared little ones.

    People will still buy computers, whether they will be running any MS junk will be another story.

    Why don’t MS and the like just call it what it is, Vista with a big fat service patch and clean up. Do they really expect us to believe after taking the thick end of a decade to produce Vista, that they are gonna churn out a brand spanking new OS in a year?

  13. 1. Windows 7? Given that it’s just a much-needed refresh, and that they blew it so tremendously per Longhornization over-promise and under-deliver , the low-key Enterprise-reliable-mode is the best approach. Microsoft can’t do consumer, so stop doing it. Lead the Enterprise and everything else will follow, they won’t have a choice. In other words, stop the cringe-worthy Mojave and never employ Seinfeld ever again.

    2. Retailers are feeling pain, because of retail prices and general economy, so diversify. Best Buy betting on all tables, Mac included. The PC market is a commodity, people will buy, on their own terms, not on account of some OS upgrade.

    3. No. Any push into “new markets” for Microsoft is sure failure, double so on first try.

    4. The Office story is so bright almost need not even gloat, billions served. Just point to the development meltdown per OpenOffice. The OS doesn’t make Microsoft, Office does. Just go next version show and tell serious.

    5. Living room? No. No. No. Consumer failure assured. And a small market to boot, and warranty billions lost, 360 test case.

    6. Mobile? Again, no. Largely just Symbol scanners, Smartphone and PDA, lost causes. And anything Zune, will remain a laughingstock (esp after that consumer electronic history-making one-day suicide event), even though I think the Zune platform is actually quite well done. Market doesn’t agree.

    7. Exciting developers, will only happen if you excite buyers. Exciting developers is backwards, if a market, the developers will excite themselves. Microsoft plays the developer card as a cop-out.

    So low-key Enterprise on 7, and talk up Office non-stop and stay away from anything Consumer and focus on purchasers, simple really.

  14. 1. Windows 7? Given that it’s just a much-needed refresh, and that they blew it so tremendously per Longhornization over-promise and under-deliver , the low-key Enterprise-reliable-mode is the best approach. Microsoft can’t do consumer, so stop doing it. Lead the Enterprise and everything else will follow, they won’t have a choice. In other words, stop the cringe-worthy Mojave and never employ Seinfeld ever again.

    2. Retailers are feeling pain, because of retail prices and general economy, so diversify. Best Buy betting on all tables, Mac included. The PC market is a commodity, people will buy, on their own terms, not on account of some OS upgrade.

    3. No. Any push into “new markets” for Microsoft is sure failure, double so on first try.

    4. The Office story is so bright almost need not even gloat, billions served. Just point to the development meltdown per OpenOffice. The OS doesn’t make Microsoft, Office does. Just go next version show and tell serious.

    5. Living room? No. No. No. Consumer failure assured. And a small market to boot, and warranty billions lost, 360 test case.

    6. Mobile? Again, no. Largely just Symbol scanners, Smartphone and PDA, lost causes. And anything Zune, will remain a laughingstock (esp after that consumer electronic history-making one-day suicide event), even though I think the Zune platform is actually quite well done. Market doesn’t agree.

    7. Exciting developers, will only happen if you excite buyers. Exciting developers is backwards, if a market, the developers will excite themselves. Microsoft plays the developer card as a cop-out.

    So low-key Enterprise on 7, and talk up Office non-stop and stay away from anything Consumer and focus on purchasers, simple really.

  15. Good job – I think TechCrunch was way too pessimistic though I do like that I now have an excuse to watch this from the HP lounge, comfortably sipping a beer and munching some food rather than live like last year for Gates.

  16. Good job – I think TechCrunch was way too pessimistic though I do like that I now have an excuse to watch this from the HP lounge, comfortably sipping a beer and munching some food rather than live like last year for Gates.

  17. Nobody’s relevant to the living room yet. The first service to deliver 1080p movies over IP for a flat subscription fee to generic hardware has not been created yet.

    Hulu and Pandora are paving the path to “cloud media,” and if they succeed, it won’t matter what hardware or OS you’ve got. If a box can run Flash Player and decode h.264, it’s good enough. A year from now we’ll see set-tops the size of an iPhone built around the nVidia Tegra, doing everything the Xbox can do except play physical discs.

    The rumored Mac Mini revamp is only a big deal because Apple might create an App Store for the HDTV. Music is moving rapidly to the cellphone (flat rate service included in voice plan) and video is anyone’s game until the studios unlock recent movies for IP delivery. Ultimately, media will be delivered as an embed with revenue sharing on the ads or subscription, or with the content provider inserting ads in the stream while the portal inserts ads in the frame. Sling is already starting to build a portal to host embeds and it’s inevitable that they’ll make a box to bring it to the TV once there’s enough content.

  18. Nobody’s relevant to the living room yet. The first service to deliver 1080p movies over IP for a flat subscription fee to generic hardware has not been created yet.

    Hulu and Pandora are paving the path to “cloud media,” and if they succeed, it won’t matter what hardware or OS you’ve got. If a box can run Flash Player and decode h.264, it’s good enough. A year from now we’ll see set-tops the size of an iPhone built around the nVidia Tegra, doing everything the Xbox can do except play physical discs.

    The rumored Mac Mini revamp is only a big deal because Apple might create an App Store for the HDTV. Music is moving rapidly to the cellphone (flat rate service included in voice plan) and video is anyone’s game until the studios unlock recent movies for IP delivery. Ultimately, media will be delivered as an embed with revenue sharing on the ads or subscription, or with the content provider inserting ads in the stream while the portal inserts ads in the frame. Sling is already starting to build a portal to host embeds and it’s inevitable that they’ll make a box to bring it to the TV once there’s enough content.

  19. The biggest shift right now is mobile. The phone-as-computer is going to ramp up hugely in 2009. The is tectonic-plate-level change.

    Microsoft must make a move here, quickly. Windows Mobile is suddenly the Windows 3.1 of mobile OSes.

    I think Ballmer is going to introduce a new mobile OS, a hybrid of Zune’s interesting interface and the Sidekick OS that it acquired when it bought Danger. So far, that acquisition has been fallow, but I think that’s Microsoft’s ace in the hole for a mobile resurgence.

    Windows 7 is a given. A new Microsoft mobile OS, though . . . THAT would be interesting.

  20. The biggest shift right now is mobile. The phone-as-computer is going to ramp up hugely in 2009. The is tectonic-plate-level change.

    Microsoft must make a move here, quickly. Windows Mobile is suddenly the Windows 3.1 of mobile OSes.

    I think Ballmer is going to introduce a new mobile OS, a hybrid of Zune’s interesting interface and the Sidekick OS that it acquired when it bought Danger. So far, that acquisition has been fallow, but I think that’s Microsoft’s ace in the hole for a mobile resurgence.

    Windows 7 is a given. A new Microsoft mobile OS, though . . . THAT would be interesting.

  21. mikewoodhouse: developers get hot and bothered by what’s selling at retail. iPhone is doing very well. that gets the developers to come on board. So, I guess you are right. Make BestBuy hot and bothered first. The developers will come later.

  22. mikewoodhouse: developers get hot and bothered by what’s selling at retail. iPhone is doing very well. that gets the developers to come on board. So, I guess you are right. Make BestBuy hot and bothered first. The developers will come later.

  23. I’d like to see a vision of the Microsoft lifestyle in action.

    In the 90′s, it was the office dude or dudette that got stuff done. Knowledge workers made things happen. In today’s world, it’s all about the mobile Web warrior making stuff happen around the globe from wherever, whenever. What’s that look like?

  24. I’d like to see a vision of the Microsoft lifestyle in action.

    In the 90′s, it was the office dude or dudette that got stuff done. Knowledge workers made things happen. In today’s world, it’s all about the mobile Web warrior making stuff happen around the globe from wherever, whenever. What’s that look like?

  25. Tricky one – what the retailers will go for won’t resonate with the developers. As a MSFT tools developer for 15 years, I haven’t seen much lately that interests or excites me. A replacement for VBA, which is so tired these days, would be nice, especially if it were DLR-based: Excel macros in IronRuby, now that would be cool. But that won’t make the Best Buy guy moist.

    I suppose the developers were really catered for at PDC, so they shouldn’t be looking for much this time around.

  26. Tricky one – what the retailers will go for won’t resonate with the developers. As a MSFT tools developer for 15 years, I haven’t seen much lately that interests or excites me. A replacement for VBA, which is so tired these days, would be nice, especially if it were DLR-based: Excel macros in IronRuby, now that would be cool. But that won’t make the Best Buy guy moist.

    I suppose the developers were really catered for at PDC, so they shouldn’t be looking for much this time around.

  27. Ballmer and MSFT are irrelevant to current trends. They know it. They are just trying to hang onto the franchise as long as they can. The franchise will remain profitable longer than Silicon Valley thinkers would guess.

  28. Ballmer and MSFT are irrelevant to current trends. They know it. They are just trying to hang onto the franchise as long as they can. The franchise will remain profitable longer than Silicon Valley thinkers would guess.

  29. I’m not going to bet against Balmer, but I do think that he is becoming increasingly irrelevant (much like MSFT). I don’t think that the frat-boy, screaming and yelling bit is going to go over all that well.

    And I agree — let Ozzie do it!

  30. I’m not going to bet against Balmer, but I do think that he is becoming increasingly irrelevant (much like MSFT). I don’t think that the frat-boy, screaming and yelling bit is going to go over all that well.

    And I agree — let Ozzie do it!

  31. All he needs to say is one thing:

    DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS

  32. All he needs to say is one thing:

    DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS

  33. And as if we thought CES was going to be any more exciting, Steve Balmer arrives on the scene pumped full of excitment! Good replacement for Gates, no way! Why couldn’t Ray Ozzie do it this year!

  34. And as if we thought CES was going to be any more exciting, Steve Balmer arrives on the scene pumped full of excitment! Good replacement for Gates, no way! Why couldn’t Ray Ozzie do it this year!

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