Steve Balmer on stage in London Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Microsoft's CEO gave a talk in London today entitled "Driving Innovation Forward", with about 1000 people present.
Surprisingly, there were very few laptops out amongst the audience - even Balmer was shocked. Likewise, if the audience wanted to ask questions, they were invited to send a text message rather than use twitter.
Steve is a high energy speaker and very engaging, but who actually said surprisingly little in a 30 minute slot. He was also accomplished in the Q&A, robustly dealing with the moderator's attempts to goad him a little.
His emphasis upfront was about combining software with the internet across many devices - Live Mesh.
Software + Services was his response to those advocating SAAS ie that somethings will run in the cloud & others will locally. Was he being realistic or defensive?
He outlined how MS is building a parallel infrastructure to support the cloud but will endeavour to do the heavy lifting to allow software to run in either environment.
Virtualisation is something new to MS only having been a focus for 2 years. MS recently released of Hyper-V into a market where he stated only 5% of worldwide servers virtualised and where VMware is the dominant player.
He acknowledged issues with Vista but insisted they were being addressed and SP1 will clear up many issues. In response to an audience question, he agreed they had taken a lot of heat over Vista in the short term, but strongly felt the trade-off of security improvements over backward compatability of drivers etc was worthwhile.
He highlighted the following themes as being key to Microsoft over the next couple of years
- Unified communication
- Enterprise search
- Business intelligence
- Cloud services
- Social computing
He was very dismissive of Google's efforts in enterprise and cloud computing. He cited the low usage levels and limited functionality of Google Docs as evidence. He was similarly very robust in dismissing the ability of browser apps to meet user needs and compete with Office. However, a big announcement in this area will be made in a month's time.
Re Vista and Windows 7, he emphasised that operating systems will need to continue to evolve to take advantage of hardware improvements.
And then he was gone......
Inspiring, impressive and thought-provoking......sadly not. It was safe, high level and blah, where neither the audience nor the speaker needed to engage brain.