Mix: Steve Ballmer intends to catch up with Google
Yahoo is still struggling but, for Microsoft's top man, the future of the internet pioneer - as part of Microsoft's web infrastructure - has already been settled. Ballmer hinted that his integration plans were all set.
In the second key-note speech at Microsoft's Mix web-developer conference , Steve Ballmer did not make his normal solo presentation, but took part in a witty on-stage discussion with the former Mac evangelist and current venture businessman, Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki touched on many highly charged topics, making humorous side-swipes that Ballmer for the most part parried good-naturedly.
The former Apple man started off right away by asking how the Yahoo takeover was going. Ballmer's answer initially sounded like a quote from a press release: with many years of work, he said, Microsoft had "worked really hard to make it clear we have real commitment" to the web. "We've made an offer and it's out there, baby." Then he became more specific: in the internet business, he explained, everything hinged on the advertising market, and online searches were the key to that. Online advertising was a big market now, but measured against the future, it was just peanuts. "It's going to be the next super-big thing."
Asked about Google's leadership position, Ballmer countered that, "In a sense, it's a zero-sum game. There's a fixed number of searches per day, and I want a larger number of those searches." Google was well ahead at the moment, he said, but when he left Microsoft he wanted to have caught up with them.
In response to a hypothetical question from the audience regarding what would happen to Yahoo's PHP infrastructure, based on open source software, when Microsoft took control, Ballmer had clear plans ready. He said that Microsoft would keep important infrastructure components, whether PHP or something else, "because you can't change everything at once". Some Yahoo software would keep on running for years, "but we shouldn't have two of everything". Areas of overlap, whether email, instant messaging or advertising services, would be consolidated very quickly: The better and more successful things from both companies would remain.
When asked by heise online sister publication c't magazine about the future of the smartphone software from Danger, the company recently taken over by Microsoft, Ballmer said that Danger's strengths were in applications and services for user groups and within social networks. Microsoft would be mounting these programs and services on Windows Mobile. So Danger's Java-based operating system for the Sidekick devices has had it.
Ballmer also let slip that there would not be a Silverlight version for Apple's iPhone in the foreseeable period. On the same day, Apple had published interface descriptions and a developer kit for the iPhone, but Ballmer said no discussions were currently being held with Steve Jobs about it. Apple's licensing conditions for iPhone developers certainly did not suit Ballmer. Thirty per cent licence fees for transactions with iPhone-applications might be nice business for Apple – but not with Microsoft.
On Mix 08, see also: