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Microsoft’s CEO has a message to Google: watch out.

In a wide-ranging phone meeting with analysts and business journalists this morning, Steve Balmer, Bill Gates’ right-hand man and the chief executive officer at Microsoft says that the company’s recently-announced deal with Yahoo would foster stronger competition with industry leader Google. The $44.6 billion deal is presently being reviewed by regulators and is widely expected to pass muster within six months.

But even if the deal doesn’t go through, Ballmer says Microsoft plans on strengthening its on-line ad business, currently the mainstay of the Google mothership.

"We have a chance to get further sooner through the acquisition of Yahoo," Ballmer said, adding that Microsoft is "on a path, and we'll stay on that path, regardless."

Ballmer also had something to say about the company’s Windows software operating system, especially with Apple chomping away at Microsoft’s market share in the operating system universe.

We're going to have to invest more than we ever have in consumer excitement," CEO Steve Ballmer told financial analysts Monday. "We are going to be doing more to highlight Windows, and that is going to require more investment." He added that the company’s next generation of Windows, called Windows 7, is already in the works although he offered no timetable for release.

Ballmer also cited Windows Mobile, noting that Microsoft is investing not only in the product’s operating system, but also in new mobile applications.

In addition, a new tabletop computer from the company called Surface is on track for widespread consumer release, Ballmer added. He said that that the company is trying to speed up that process after getting a lot of demand for a consumer version. Initial reports had Surface being held back until 2012, but Ballmer said that consumer demand for the product had sped up the process.

"We're just going to follow our nose," Ballmer said, indicating that Microsoft hopes to shorten the gap before a consumer version is available.

Reuters has reported that Microsoft has already earmarked delivery of the first machines to early customers; primarily in the hotel, casino and retail businesses. "The tech giant had hoped to start having models up and running for those customers by the end of last year, but now is aiming to do so by spring," Reuters reported.

Ironic that the normally media shy Ballmer pokes his nose out into the sunlight the day after Groundhog Day. But with lots to say, and a solid quarterly earnings report in his back pocket, spring has indeed come early for Microsoft this year.

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