SOFT SPOKEN SHOWMAN Steven Anthony Ballmer entertained a gathering of Wall Street analysts by delivering some choice quotes to describe Microsoft and its competition.
Presumably Ballmer was trying to further impress the analysts who had been sufficiently impressed with Microsoft's recent financial results but were concerned about whether the firm could sustain its performance in the coming years. The big man was repeatedly questioned about tablets and slates, with one analyst asking what the difference was between the two. Judging from Ballmer's reply, he didn't have a clue either.
"Now, we've got some other competitive actions coming back, and we'll talk about slates and tablets and blah, blah, blah, blah," said Ballmer. Perhaps it was he who wrote Microsoft's Open Source initiative FAQ that included the question "La la la la la I'm not listening. Most open source projects can't afford a code signing certificate!" Time to grab the popcorn lads.
Apparently Ballmer shares our view of Apple's Ipad, that is to say the Iphone without a phone is no laptop substitute. "I've been to too many meetings with journalists who'd spend the first 10 minutes of the meeting setting up their Ipad to look like a laptop," he said.
On the subject of sales of the Ipad, the runaway leader in useless gadgetry, Ballmer said, "They sold certainly more than I'd like them to sell." Well, if there's no alternatives out on the market, is that particularly surprising? We didn't have to wait long for our question to be answered.
Ballmer's retort was brilliant, at least from a comical viewpoint. "Some of you will say, well, when? When? And I say, As soon as they're ready." In a bid to emphasise how seriously Microsoft is taking this issue, Ballmer said, "It is job one urgency around here. Nobody is sleeping at the switch." Would that be the kill switch?
One Goldman Sachs analyst, presumably needing the laughs after surviving the financial carnage her firm was deeply involved in creating, gave Ballmer another chance to convey his message. Ballmer happily obliged, all but thanking the analyst for the opportunity.
"We're coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows. No - there's - let me be unambiguous. A new Windows Phone for screen sizes that, let me just say, are, you know, sort of bigger than three or four inches - the answer is Windows Phone. We are in the game."
What can you say to that apart from, 'wow'. I'm sure your investors will love to hear you treat their cash like Monopoly money. We're not sure if Ballmer rehearses these responses but you have to give it to Microsoft's top salesman, he's certainly got the gift of the gab. A gift to churn out pointless, meandering gibberish, which caused him at one point to say, "Pardon my English." That's okay Steve, pardon our laughter at your expense.
Interspersed between the spurious comments, Ballmer alluded to the fact that Microsoft is working on an Ipad-esque device which will apparently have a tuned - or crippled, depending on your point of view - version of Windows 7. Again all Ballmer would say about when such a device will land was "It ain't a long time from now". We'll pencil that in on our Iphones then.
Only Ballmer knows what he was trying to do when he decided to promote the virtues of Windows 7 by saying "When you get your Windows 7 machine, it will print. Some people actually like to print every now and then." Ah yes, that killer app, who needs developers when you have printing.
From several hours of Ballmerisms, we ended up with the nugget of information that Microsoft is a firm with a "job one urgency" - to produce a tablet device that can print, perhaps.
Frankly no one cares how Microsoft decides to slide into obscurity, just as long as Ballmer keeps on giving the speeches. µ