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.

 

 

 

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (151 Posts)

Heather Somerville reports on consumer affairs, retail and technology for the Bay Area News Group. She lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys rock climbing, yoga and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.