Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer on Surface, Phones—and No More Yelling

9/17/12Follow @curtwoodward

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Microsoft and Nokia are currently battling for an OK third-place, particularly if they can replace the disappearing Reserch in Motion for business users.

To make even that happen, the two companies will have to market the living daylights out of their phones. And despite what some people thought, I didn’t read the recent comments by carrier execs at the Mobile Future Forward summit as a sign the networks were going to champion Windows Phone.

Especially if they want to win over businesses, the real key will be integration with other Microsoft services. Enterprise is the core of Microsoft’s business, and making that software shift over to an always-on, connected online service that people can access remotely is the tie that will bring Windows Phone along for the ride—or not.

Ballmer has this one down cold.

“We’re a very small player, but we have a different point of view in terms of user experience. We’ve got great cloud integration with the rest of the Microsoft world, which a lot of people participate in.

“So I think our point of view on user interface, the great work that our hardware vendors are doing and the integration with Windows should help ratchet us up.”

— The combination of connected services and devices that saved Apple and revolutionized the technology industry is also the future for Microsoft.

It has to be, right? But it’s a big deal nonetheless for the CEO of this company to admit that Steve Jobs’ vision won, and that Microsoft’s old “we just do software” view of the world is over.

Ballmer tells Times reporter Janet Tu that, in the future, “you’ll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company.”

But no, they won’t be doing the full Apple in controlling every aspect. So that element of the Microsoft DNA lives on—as former Microsoft executive and startup founder Charlie Kindel likes to say, Microsoft is not going to become a hardware company.

“Doesn’t mean we have to make every device. I don’t want you to leap to that conclusion,” Ballmer says. “We’ll have partners who make devices with our software in it and our services built in. … We’re going to be a leader at that.”

— Monkey Boy doesn’t think yelling and screaming works well in marketing.

I was honestly shocked to read this assertion from Ballmer—twice!—considering his classic antics at company meetings and developer conferences in years past.

“Screaming loudly doesn’t work very well in our industry,” he told the Times, adding later that “Just yelling loudly in any business is never going to help. It’s a combination of product, romance, volume.”

I suppose we all mellow with age. Because I can’t imagine those words coming from the guy in these videos.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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