VUNet Q and A with Steve Ballmer
Part 1: http://www.vnunet.com/analysis/1158568
Part 2: http://www.vnunet.com/analysis/1158567
Interesting view of Microsoft from Ballmer's eyes... Though I like the answers to these two questions. Basically, Microsoft still knows what you need and you better like it...
When Computing asks chief information officers about Microsoft, the most common response is to do with software quality problems, patching, security flaws and so on. Do you have an issue about trust with your customers?
We recognise that listening and responding to our customers is and will be a key quality that allows us to continue to see the kind of success we have had. In some very important ways in the past couple of years we have really taken that to heart. The heart of trust is responsiveness - do you listen, do you pay attention, do you learn?
Take security - big issue for our customers, no doubt about it. Starting about two-and-a-half years ago, we made security priority number one, the Trustworthy Computing initiative. There's a lot of hard problems there, the bad guys are out there and going to stay out there.
We've done a huge amount of beneficial work - we're not all the way to where our customers want us to be, but I think most people who look at it objectively will see the work we've done to improve our patch process or the work on management deployment tools, the work we've done to dramatically reduce the number of vulnerabilities in our product, the work we've done on firewalls and other isolation technologies, the work we did in the Windows roadmap.
People sometimes tease me and say you've not had a browser release - I say, we just had a significant browser release - it's called Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). If you want to safely browse the internet, if security matters to you, we just did a significant browser release. You can't have it both ways. This stuff is important. We changed our plans for Longhorn [the next version of Windows] in order to be able to prioritise some of the security needs that we delivered in SP2.
Are we everywhere our customers want us to be? I'm not going to say that. But I am going to say we have done the right stuff, we've taken the message to heart, and I think customers are now seeing that, seeing the outputs, seeing the results and the improvements. The data I see says we are making progress in terms of customers' perceptions. People want to know we are being responsive, that's what trust is based on.
Has the approach to innovation in Microsoft changed? Often now, customers say they don't want loads of new features, they want the existing product to work. They want quality first.
Customers need innovation. Nobody ever thinks they need innovation, they think they need improvement in what they've got. That's why I say there's twin pillars - they want both. The companies that succeed have to bring products to customers that they don't know they want. If you think you know everything you want, and you only listen to what your customers want - you will fail. No company in this industry can succeed by only giving customers what they ask for. You have to try things that surprise people. If you don't you will fail.
I don't buy into 'customers don't want more features.' All customers, someplace in their organisation, will use them. If we bring new features to Word, there are people that use those features. Nobody will ask for them, but plenty will use them.
When we bring innovative features to market we can't pretend they will take care of themselves. We have to explain them, we have to spread the word about them, get the users to show the value so others will accept them.
For some of our products, the corporate IT department is important but not the ultimate user of our products. The most sophisticated user of Excel is not corporate IT but maybe somebody in the finance department.