Steve Ballmer talks about what’s on his customer’s mind

At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference yesterday, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, gave a keynote, and after a preamble thanking everyone for coming and talking about products that had been rolled out, he talked about what the customer is thinking about:

So what is on our customer’s mind? These are the four big trends that I think in particular our IT customers, but businesses in general, want to speak with us about every day. They come to us and they say, what about the cloud? They say it to you. They say it to us. They say, hey, I hear about big data, or I understand big data, or I’m afraid I’m missing out on big data, how are you going to help me get there, they’ll say to the two of us.
Social, part of the consumerization theme of the day is how do we apply techniques and software services that people get to know in their personal lives, how do we apply those to enable business productivity? And we’re going to show you a lot today of what we’re doing with social so that people can come together in what I would call human ways to do superhuman tasks at their work.
And last, but certainly not least, is mobility. I get to do something that the rest of you don’t do, because I sit on the stage, I get to count the number of mobile devices that go up for pictures and various other things during my speech. We’re at about 25 percent would be my gauge this year. I’m sure everybody has got a mobile device with them, but what it says is that the range of applications of mobility just continues to increase. And I want you to really understand just how rich our mobile offering has become, both in terms of the Windows devices that you can use as part of your solution, and the work that we are doing to support some non-Windows devices. So let me dive into each of these in turn.

I will skip much of his talk, and pull only a few one-liners out, that show where Microsoft is headed, like this:

Through your good work our Office 365 service has literally exploded. For the last few years we were saying SharePoint was the No. 1 fastest growing product at Microsoft. Then it was Lync, the No. 1 fastest growing product at Microsoft. Through your good work it’s Office 365. And what all of that means is our mutual customers are ready for the cloud, and our product line is ready for the cloud. People want full, familiar, world-class productivity tools in the cloud.

And what about social? He continued,

Social. Some people think social is one product. I don’t. Social is a way of working. How do four of us come together and collaborate on a project? How do we collaborate if we work in the same company? How do we collaborate if we work in different companies? How do I reach you if you are in my customer base and I want to do a seminar for you? Or I want to put on and have an event where we communicate real time? All of these are social activities that are involved in business. So it’s people to people, it’s people to businesses, it’s employees to employees, it’s all of the constituents, consumers, employees, customers, and partners. How do you bring them together naturally? Sometimes you want to do that on a real-time basis, and sometimes you want to be able to do that in a way in which people can participate asynchronously.
I’m glad to have 15,000 people here today, but many more people will watch the video of this section in our partner community around the world. And it’s part of, if you will, the social infrastructure, letting people participate the way they want when they want. And we’ve woven this into the fabric of everything we do. Windows devices come from the get-go with integrated communications and social capabilities like Skype. Skype and Lync are being brought together to allow the consumer and the businessperson to interact together in real time.
We continue to push forward in Outlook, adding more social capabilities directly into the e-mail client that is the base station from which most of us would communicate with other people. We acquired Yammer over a year ago, and you’ll see the way we’re using Yammer both inside companies and now enabling it to stretch between companies and their partners to involve real-time communication that feels very much like what somebody would do on Twitter or Facebook, but in a productivity context. We continue to push SharePoint social capabilities forward, and even in our Dynamics product line, even when we’re talking about line of business process, it is very important to collect the information from the social realm, and to be able to let people in formal line of business processes actually connect to social environments.

The takeaways:

  1. Azure is the big bet in cloud, and they built it to support Office 365 and Bing, and now they’re opening it to others as they make the move to the cloud. Microsoft was late to this game, but they are working hard to catch up.
  2. Office 365 is the fastest growing product at Microsoft, at the present.
  3. Social is not a single product in Microsoft’s plans: it is a way of working.
  4. Outlook will become more of a social tool, and not just an email platform.
  5. Yammer used within and across companies, adopting social metaphors from Twitter and Facebook for the ‘productivity context’.

What went unsaid?

  1. The impending reorganization — scheduled for tomorrow, apparently — was not mentioned.
  2. Windows and windows devices were touched upon, but of course he didn’t focus on the poor sales of Microsoft’s phones and tablet. He did point out that Microsoft is now agnostic, and is rolling out apps on other devices.

Thursday we’ll see how what is on his customer’s mind is aligned with the new Microsoft organization. Will it have obvious analogs to Cloud, Big Data, Social, Mobility?