Microsoft’s Ballmer talks innovation at Churchill event

Days after his Windows chief officer resigned at a critical point for the company, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made it clear Wednesday evening that he wasn’t looking back.

Ballmer’s message, often punctuated with shouts and fist pumps during an on-stage discussion in Santa Clara, was one of continued innovation. He touted the approachability and superiority of Windows 8 and the new Surface, Microsoft’s foray into the tablet world, and talked of innovation in hardware and software that would help the world’s largest software developer reinvent itself amid mounting pressures from competitors — namely Apple.

“We’ve had some success, but you either move forward or you go away,” he said at the event, which was sponsored by the San Jose-based Churchill Club.

Ballmer continued down the list of recent Microsoft acquisitions — such as enterprise social network Yammer — and talked excitedly about plans for a product overhaul in the post-PC era. Left mostly unaddressed, however, was the departure of Windows division chief Steven Sinofsky, responsible for the Window 7 and Windows 8 releases. His resignation comes amid mixed reviews of Windows 8, questions about the company’s ability to keep pace with shifting trends and speculation over internal discord. Sinofsky was widely expected to be tapped as the next chief executive.

Ballmer got the Sinofsky question out the way quickly with an early softball from Reid Hoffman, chairman and co-founder of the online business network LinkedIn Corp., who led the on-stage discussion. Ballmer said Sinofsky was leaving on a high note and he wished him well

Ballmer made a strong pitch for Windows 8, the most dramatic upgrade of the company’s flagship product in more than a decade, and said the touch-based system was a playground for app developers to create new JavaScript and HTML products.

Ballmer said the Surface tablet, which runs on Windows 8 and features attachable keyboards that double as covers, gives consumers the versatility of mobile and PC in a single piece of hardware.

“The distinction between a PC and a tablet, in our ecosystem, I think, completely goes away,” he said.

Ballmer also wants to increase Microsoft’s smartphone penetration from a single-digit percentage of the market, aiming first for a 10 percent share of the market and gradually ratcheting up the Windows phone presence.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company officially launched the Windows Phone 8 around Halloween.

“If anybody thinks we’re at the end of the hardware innovation in pocket-sized devices, I think that’s nuts,” he said.





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  • crankypupster

    The rousing success of Apple is almost entirely due to one man–Ballmer.

  • Mathew

    Microsoft Surface, an utter failure, disaster and disappointment. Terribly frustrated.

  • robert larrance

    I am sure there are many that will post and just hate on the Steveroo. That is the way of the world. But, I think he might be right. Surface is pretty good, phone8 is pretty good, server 2012 is really good, and office 2013 is fantastic. IN addition new lync, exhange and other server based is just about perfecto. My filter works this way: i ignore fanboys and girls from either stripe and look for a little truth in comments. My life is spent supporting mission critical on the server side.

  • Peggy S

    I think Microsoft needs to slow down. The best operating system they had was the XP. Since then, all they have done is mess up a good thing.

  • Steve Ballmer

    And for the sake of innovation, I fired Steven Sinofsky too. Sorry guys, deal with it all this time around. We would soon have another release of windows in few years. I would personally look into each stage of development before it goes RTM. And I promise to bring old windows days back with lot of innovation inbuilt. We would all crash into innovation every minute. That should make all of us smile.

  • As much as I admire Steve Ballmer’s tenacity, he’s wrong about the need to focus innovation on hardware and product innovation. That may work for other companies, but Microsoft’s Surface and Windows 8 are really products that are too late and not innovative. The innovations that Microsoft should develop and stress are in service, not product. They have a chance to leap all other companies by focusing on service rather than hardware.