MICROSOFT CEO Steve Ballmer claimed the firm is entering a new era with Windows to become the operating system that covers PCs, tablets, phones and servers.
Ballmer's annual letter to investors played up the firm's financial record, which is impressive in its steady if unspectacular growth. However he said the firm is entering a new era in which technology has to be more intuitive, incorporate new input methods and push the Windows operating system into everything from PCs to the cloud.
That was nothing new, since that vision has been Ballmer's mantra and Microsoft's obsession for the last 20 years.
Yet, as Microsoft gets ready to launch Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Ballmer said shareholders need to "recognise a fundamental shift" and that building devices such as the Surface RT tablet is not just a one-off marketing exercise. Ballmer went to great lengths to say the company will work with its partners to "deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones".
However, we've heard from industry sources that many of those same Microsoft OEM partners are very unhappy with its decision to design and flog devices under its own brand.
Ballmer claimed that he was "excited and optimistic" after seeing how far the company has come in the past few years, but the truth might be somewhat different. In the past few years Microsoft has fallen further behind in web search and advertising, has gotten absolutely nowhere in mobile devices and is facing an onslaught from cloud software providers such as Google and Salesforce, while seeing the market share of its Internet Explorer web browser erode away like a cliff face battered by waves whipped up by gale force winds.
For Microsoft the two week period starting at the end of October will see its big hopes for the holiday shopping seasong and 2013 hit the stores. While the firm's Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system doesn't look like it has much chance to win significant market share against Apple's IOS and Google's Android, Windows 8 is not guaranteed to win adoption from Windows XP and Windows 7 users. µ