Ballmer was interviewed Tuesday by Gartner
analysts David Smith and Yvonne Genovese at the corporate
technology research company's Symposium/ITxpo, under way in
During his talk, Ballmer said many Web sites can be
described as "click to run," where a service is delivered
via a Web site but runs on a PC.
"I do think that we're in a transition where software goes
from something that's in its pre-Internet day to something
we call Live (Microsoft's hosted services), where you have
click-to-run capability on a Web site... But software will
still execute on a PC," Ballmer said in response to
A powerhouse in desktop and server software, Microsoft has
not embraced hosted services as extensively as other
application providers such as Salesforce.com or search giant
According to Ballmer, Microsoft intends to deliver software
as a service to both consumer and business users, offering
services over the Internet as well as servers behind company
Services that reside in the Internet "cloud"--including
commerce, community and search--will be have an "an analog
that will affect our servers… and this is driven by Ray
The company's chief software architect, Ozzie wrote a widely
distributed memo describing what he called the"Internet
services disruption," a major technology shift in the IT
industry akin to the move to PCs.
Last year, Microsoft consolidated its Windows and developer
tools divisions with the groups responsible for MSN Web
properties in an effort to combine on-premise software with
online services. It is currently building a line of
Live-branded hosted services, some of which are meant to
complement its on-premise software.
"The difference between software plus a service and software
as a service is whether people will want to use the local
intelligence in their phones, PCs," Ballmer said. "Even if
you look at some Internet services today, they all use power
from the client… AJAX uses the power of the client and the
Instant Messenger clients from us and Yahoo and Google use
In this services push and other efforts, Ballmer said that
Microsoft is persistent, if not always first.
"The bone doesn't fall out of our mouth easily. We may not
be first but we'll keep working and working … and it's the
same with search … We are irrepressible on this," he said.
In addition to reiterating that security was Microsoft's top
priority, Ballmer fielded questions regarding how long it
has taken Vista to ship. Ballmer responded with a discussion
of how reinventing Windows from the ground up required both
innovation and integration, a situation that produced a bit
of engineering chaos for Microsoft.
Regarding Microsoft digital music player Zune, Gartner's
Smith noted that Microsoft had gone from running an
ecosystem that encourages third-party participation to one
that looks like it will mimic what Apple has done with its
iTunes Music Store and its iPods -- a system which is
entirely closed and controlled by a single vendor.
Ballmer responded by saying that a closed approach is a bad
idea and that a very open experience is sometimes
accompanied by a lot of chaos. He cited Microsoft's XBox
game console as an example of the sort of ecosystem that
Zune might follow, where third parties can create add-on
products, but where Microsoft will do a great deal of
monitoring and certification.