Ballmer talks business

Written by Brett Thomas

May 2, 2007 | 09:56

Tags: #ballmer #msn #steve-ballmer #today

Companies: #google #microsoft #usa

We all know him - whether he drives you nuts or is your cup of tea, Steve Ballmer definitely has....personality. And that personality always shows through when he talks to the press. Of course, that's what makes interviews like he gave to USA Today all the more entertaining.

Ballmer sat down with USA Today's David Lieberman in the paper's sixth CEO Forum. Discussion topics ranged from Ballmer's life at Microsoft to some of his company's recent decisions, with some great quotes and "insight" into the market.

For instance, in reference to Google's recent acquisition of DoubleClick, Lieberman asked Ballmer why he didn't pursue it further. After all, according to our information, Google won the bidding war to purchase the display ad company, which could have done a lot for MSN's lagging revenues.

"No, no," replied Ballmer. "You don't know that. You know that they signed a definitive agreement to buy DoubleClick. That is the one factoid that is known. That's the only factoid I'll confirm, what you know." The quote was followed up by Steve laughing, apparently content in knowledge that may well be beyond what we in the press are aware of in this deal.

In further discussion of MSN's third-place finish in the land of internet searches, Ballmer was again dismissive. " Well, in a way it is and in a way it isn't. Online activity is really quite fractured. Microsoft has the most visitors. Yahoo actually has people spending the most total time with them. And Google makes the most money. The real question is what's going on in the commerce and advertising side. That is not very fragmented. Most websites rely on DoubleClick or Google or Yahoo for our stuff to run."

At the end of the day, is MSN profitable? No - but by choice, according to Ballmer. "Well, we've been profitable. We decided to take the business to be less than zero profit because (we're) making the R&D investments and the sales and marketing investments that we think are necessary for the long term." Ballmer stands by MSN as a longer-term decision that's not meant to be a heavy addition to the profit margins right now. Whether we in the industry ever see it becoming profitable, one thing is for sure - he has turned water to wine before, so we can't totally dismiss his ideas now.

The article goes on to cover Vista and Microsoft's views of its next OS afterward. Though Ballmer wouldn't give a date, he did say it will be sooner than four to five years, making one have to wonder if we aren't really looking at another Windows ME out of Vista - short product life and tonnes of bugs as the company transitions from one design philosophy to another. Of course, only time will tell.

In amongst the serious questions were some great insights to Steve's real personality, including what it's like to be married to Bill Gates for "longer than his wife." Does their relationship have the same ups and downs? Absolutely...but Steve does admit that through all the years, pressures, and products, he's still having fun.

If you have a little while, the full article is well worth the read - there are further insights on MS Office, Google, and computer-centric media. When you're done, pop into our forums and leave your thoughts on what he has to say.
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