Q&A: Steve Ballmer On Windows 7 Enterprise Deployment - InformationWeek

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Q&A: Steve Ballmer On Windows 7 Enterprise Deployment

In a one-on-one interview, Microsoft's CEO encouraged CIOs to carve out money for Windows 7, saying end users are going to demand it.

InformationWeek: Another hurdle to Windows 7 deployment is lack of a business driver. How do you answer IT pros who are looking to find a business driver to move forward?

Ballmer: We also have Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010, and in a sense they are driven together and in a sense they have their own drivers. Voicemail is a powerful driver; you can justify the Exchange 2010 implementation just on voicemail system takeout. It's a huge amount of money people spend on voicemail systems. Boom, pull them out. I'm not saying that will be every case. The way in which we utilize storage is a lot more efficient with Exchange Server 2010. You can justify an upgrade in the sense that it saves a lot in storage costs. So, there's a lot; each one of these has its own set of dynamics. There's still a whole set of issues that are causing people to spend a lot of money on security. Windows Server 2008 R2--there's a set of advances; application development, there's a set of advances.

But let me stay on Windows 7. We've done some analysis, based on Gartner research, with a few customers. It's our estimate -- I'll say that -- but based upon working with a few customers, it's our view that people will be able to save between $90 and $160 per year [per PC] in direct labor with Windows 7 versus having XP or Vista deployed. Now, people are going to have to vet that, look at that, but that's a pretty powerful driver. Independent of any innovation and productivity advances for the end user, that's a pretty powerful driver on the IT side.

At the same time, to some degree I think you're going to find a slew of people buying Windows 7 on computers at home, and they're going to come in and say, hey, I need this for my productivity. Now, that won't carry the day in this climate, but it sure will on the refresh cycle. Jeez, they'll say, you're going to buy me a new PC in 2010, and you're not going to put Windows 7 on it? That's nuts.

So, I think we've got some pretty powerful, quote, business drivers. They're not the classic business drivers, you know, here's the ROI, the return; they all will have to be morphed and mapped a little bit. I mean, why does somebody get a Smart Phone at work? Where's the business driver? Well, the user wanted one is really the business driver. And I think we'll see that also with Windows 7.

InformationWeek: One of your customers, Baker Tilly, actually tied revenue growth to Windows 7 adoption. How many companies can expect to see that?

Ballmer: I think that's more the exception than the rule. The reason most companies embrace these end user oriented technologies has to do with enabling productivity, collaboration, output from the workforce. Now, whether people can directly tie that to revenue is always a good question, but indirectly people kind of viscerally understand, if I make my people better able to analyze things, to create and to collaborate amongst themselves and with their customers, that's good. The Baker Tilly case of being able to directly tie it to revenue numbers, that's going to be much more the exception.

InformationWeek: Let's talk about new capabilities. What would be Steve Ballmer's top things driving users to Windows 7?

Ballmer: I think the number one thing the end user will seize on is the clean, new look -- a simple and clean UI. At the end of the day, everybody is going to find their own features to fall in love with. But everybody is going to say, wow, we're not in Kansas anymore. The color, the simplicity, just the way the user interface works people will see as a jump-up. Some people will like touch.

When somebody asks, what's your personal favorite feature, I'm almost embarrassed but it really has changed my life, is wireless networking is simple, really simple. It turns out I spend a lot of my time connecting and disconnecting to various wireless networks, whether 3G or Wi-Fi or whatever. At our house, at home, it's Home Group for my kids so they can get the music and the pictures well organized, and that happens to be the thing that my oldest son has fallen in love with. It will depend on the user scenario.

So, from an end user perspective, overall user interface and let me say not only the way it looks but the pop, snappy, the feel of the system, the way it looks and the way it feels, that will affect absolutely everybody. Beyond that, people will find their own features that I think they'll fall in love with.

On the IT side, these things always come back to three things. It comes back to manageability, security, cost. That's where the IT manager lives. If you take a look at the numbers, the numbers kind of make the point on manageability. If you take a look at the security stuff, whether it's DirectConnect or some of the other things that we've done from a security perspective, it's a real step forward. At the end of the day, it's mostly translated into cost; you're supposed to be able to do better with the same amount of money, and hopefully you can do better with less money, and I think that's really the story of this business value.

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