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11/22/2006
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Q&A: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer On The Imminent Vista, Office, Exchange Product Blast

Ballmer talks to InformationWeek about next week's major product launches, incentives to upgrade, Vista security, "software and service" vs. "software as a service," and competing with Apple, Linux, and purpose-built appliances.

Ballmer: Yeah, I don't understand the question.

IW: I'm trying to understand, moving forward, this difference between on-premises software and software as a service. SharePoint seems to be one of those examples where it's able to do both.

Ballmer: That's right. We have hosted SharePoint as part of the Office Live offering today. There will [also] be a level of customization and self-management and security that people want to do; I think that will be very common where people want to manage their own SharePoint. You can say, "Do most companies want to send all of their important company information outside the firewall for somebody else to host, or to index for searching purposes?" Some people do, but most people do not.

IW: Microsoft is aggressive in what it tries to get into its new products, but not everything makes it in. Would you identify something that didn't make it into this product launch that you wish were in there? That you'll make a priority to get to market quickly?

Ballmer: Nope. We have other things we're happy to talk about. I don't choose to go down that path, sorry.

IW: What about the biggest challenge to Windows going forward? It once again gets to my question about the scope of what it is that this operating system does.

Ballmer: There are a lot of requirements for any operating system. Hardware continues to evolve. We have new connectivity types, new chip architectures, new storage paradigms and storage types, we have the move to embrace software and service and what does that mean for the operating system. We've got new development models, richer graphics interfaces, new ways for users to integrate data across applications down at the client level, new form factors, mobility, Tablets. We've got new application types that people want to run. And whether it's Windows or anything else, there will be a piece of software that manages the hardware and supports applications and end users. We don't live in a static environment, so we're going to have to continue to move Windows along with the times and we're going to have to continue to innovate, particularly in terms of the new application models and new end-user scenarios. You have other guys out there like Apple who are pushing on the end-user scenarios, in the case of Linux, on different application models. There are special-purpose devices which are trying to unseat the PC by just doing one thing and supporting the hardware for that really well.

So we've got a lot of competition and things to focus on, but at the end of the day, most people who make PCs, most people who use PCs, want one piece of software that brings it all together for them - the full value of the experience: Enabling the hardware, third-party applications, services, and putting the user in control. Windows does the best job of that; Vista takes it to a whole new level with its new UI, built in services, hardware support. We just need to continue to run fast.

IW: If you track Windows over its history, it started out under 10 million lines of code, worked its way up to 50 million lines of code, Vista may be somewhere between 50 and 100 million lines of code. Going forward, will the next release of Windows be on par with Vista in terms of the sheer size of the operating system?

Ballmer: It's sort of an unusual question. My sense is that the next version of Vista will be compatible, it will support 99% of the hardware that Vista supports; it will support a high percentage of the applications that Vista supports; it will support all the end-user scenarios and more that Vista supports; it will be more capable than Vista is, have to do more than Vista does. That's a user statement, and if that means we have to add more lines of code, we add lines of code, but we certainly are going to add capability.

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