Microsoft 'Hell-Bent' on Major Mobile Push
He made this enthusiastic claim shortly after admitting that Microsoft missed a "whole generation of users," something he hopes it can recapture with its upcoming Windows Phone 7.
As part of its recovery strategy, the so-far ineffectual handset maker, which recently shut down its under-performing, social networking-oriented Kin handset after weak sales, is returning to its roots in the enterprise. Ballmer promised attendees at its Worldwide Partner Conference today that workers would soon be asking their IT departments for Microsoft phones. (See Motorola Sticks With Microsoft for Biz Phone and Microsoft Has Two New Kin.)
He also said that businesses are asking Microsoft what it plans to do with future handsets, and his response is that Microsoft is “hell-bent and determined to drive [phone] volume with IT and with the end consumer."
Microsoft is betting the farm on Windows Phone 7 to help it compete against increasing competition from the iPhone and Android, but it has yet to release any devices to prove its worthiness. That will change within the year, Ballmer assured its partners.
The company had made significant updates to its operating system and improved its developer policies to make Windows Phone 7 more attractive, and today’s message was that its hardware partners are ready to deliver as well. (See Microsoft Muted, Not Maimed, by Apple .)
Ballmer promised a broad range of devices from Microsoft's hardware partners, including AsusTek Computer Inc. , Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), in the "next few months." These will include a consumer-oriented device that also "fits and is managed with today’s enterprise solutions," as well as a range of form factors and price points. The common thread will be Windows 7, its accompanying suite of apps, and Microsoft Office.
"We are hardcore about this," Ballmer said. "I've heard from a lot of partners [that] this is an area where you really want to know what's coming. A lot is coming in the next several months, and we need to prepare to get after it together."
Ballmer's head in the cloud
Reviving the mobile platform may have been at the top of a lot of Microsoft’s partners’ minds, but Ballmer’s leading message of the day was actually all about the cloud. In true Ballmer fashion, he ran on stage, aburst with energy, and yelled “Oh Cloud!” first thing.
The cloud will create new opportunities in interactions, he told attendees, but also create new responsibilities around privacy. Microsoft is pushing its Windows Azure platform, which provides the infrastructure for any kind of app that the organization wants to build and lets it run across millions of computers. It’s been on the market for five months and has signed up 10,000 customers.
"When we first started talking about the move to the cloud, many of you said 'just don't do it,' " Ballmer said. "It was a scary move. The cloud does change and makes us reinvent our business models, yours and ours -- but it's a change that's inevitable, and we will continue to tweak and tune and support you and drive this move to the cloud together. There's nobody better to bet on than Microsoft."
For more on Microsoft’s cloud craze, see Carol Wilson’s story: Microsoft Courting SPs as Cloudmates.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile