Ballmer: Microsoft will provide the "platform for the next technology revolution"
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is convinced that Office Web, Windows Azure and Windows 7 – the successor to Vista – presented at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, represent a "platform for the next technology revolution." Over the last ten years there has been a dramatic transformation in the IT world, he says in an executive email, in that people are communicating in completely novel ways. Ballmer's view of the current situation is that some components, such as "cloud computing", social networks, large computer monitors, mobile phones and navigation systems, already exist as a result of this transformation process, but it is not yet possible to connect all these components seamlessly.
Microsoft's goal is, according to Ballmer, to redefine "personal computing". The combination of PCs, mobile devices and the web should become more than the sum of its parts. Some things that look simple still remain difficult, if not impossible, he notes. One example, according to Ballmer, is gaining easy access to documents on your work computer from your home computer or collecting different information in a single application.
With Windows Azure, developers will be able to create applications which will extend the "computing cloud" so that it encompasses data centres, PCs, the web and mobile phones. Windows 7 will utilise the modern advantages of software and hardware and break down the barriers between information, people and devices. Office Web will enable users to view and edit their documents on the desktop, on their mobiles and in a web browser and share them with other users.
Ballmer had already given some signs of the course his company was plotting at a conference of analysts in the summer. However, he rejected the Google Apps-style model in which office programs are completely server-based. Microsoft wants to market its Office Web product in combination with the paid-for, locally-installed versions of its Office software, as parts of an advertising-financed Office Live product, via paid subscriptions and for installation on web servers of volume licence customers.
Office Live Workspace is currently being used by around one million people, Ballmer notes in his email. Microsoft Online Services are used by major customers such as Coca Cola, Blockbuster and Energizer. Ballmer thinks that software as a service will be taken up differently by different businesses – such as by companies providing financial services, for example, which manage important customer data in their own computing centres, but outsource e-mail processing. This balance between internal and external services may, however, also change – in response to demand, for example. Microsoft would like to offer customers the option of variable take-up of software as a service.
Microsoft thinks it has this year laid the foundations for achieving its goal of seamless exchange of information between devices, networks and people in the form of its Live Mesh service. According to Ballmer, with its Live Mesh service, consisting of online storage with a web desktop, the company has begun to build a bridge between PC, mobile phone and the web. With the help of Azure services, information should be available to users anywhere, he writes – although Azure is currently only available as a preview release. As developers start to use this platform, he says, it will bring people nearer to the goal of making all their information and communication options available whenever they want it.
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