Microsoft Ushers In the ''Software Decade''11:55 AM EST Fri. Jan. 14, 2000
In a surprise announcement late yesterday afternoon, Steve Ballmer was named to the position of CEO of Microsoft Corp. where he has been president since July 1998. Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder and chairman, made the announcement and discussed Microsoft's future direction.
The move could prove to be extremely beneficial for the company. Ballmer is widely regarded as an aggressive champion of both the company and its channel partners. And by removing himself from daily operations and stepping out of the spotlight, Gates will be able to better concentrate on strategy. The move may also take some of the heat from the Department of Justice (DoJ) off of Microsoft. Gates has often been the lightning rod of the DoJ's wrath during its antitrust trial against Microsoft.
"During the past 18 months, Steve Ballmer and I have made a number of changes," said Gates. Ballmer's taking on the role of president allowed him to focus more on technology. In naming Ballmer CEO, Gates also named an additional role for himself, that of chief software architect. "I'll take on a new role that will allow me to spend almost 100 percent of my time on new technologies... It's a very exciting evolution for me and I see it as a very good transition for the company."
Gates was buoyant about his new role and Microsoft's direction as he discussed the changes that he sees facing the industry.
"Today there's more opportunity for software than there's ever been," said Gates. Sounding more like a 60's rebel than chairman of the world's largest software maker, Gates said that "the revolution ahead is one where software will very much be at the center of it." Gates said that when people think about the decade to come, "they might even call it the software decade."
"It's during this decade that the way business is done will be defined by software. The way that you share information, find information will be defined by software," said Gates. "Even the way that we think of entertainment, the way we think of music and photos. We're bold enough to believe that even reading--electronic books--will be very much a part of this decade."
But he predicted, as other have, that software "will be delivered as a service across the Internet, instead of a packaged product."
"Five years ago we had an Internet Strategy Day and talked about the Internet becoming the top priority for things we were doing. We see ourselves today at that same type of inflection point, where the nature of the platform, the way that it works, the way that people develop these applications--all of those we need to bring some breakthrough technologies to," said Gates.
Not surprisingly, Gates touted Windows 2000 as the platform for this development.
Steve Ballmer, on hand for the announcement, reiterated Gates predictions and pointed to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for Microsoft. Interestingly, Linux, made his list of top competitors.
"I think we have an opportunity to repeat in the 21st century, the kind of progress that we helped make on behalf of customers during the last quarter of a century," said Ballmer. "We certainly face big challenges, that's for sure. If you look at the tough competitors we have out there: Sun, IBM, Oracle, Linux, and now AOL and Time Warner, in addition to the hundreds of Internet startups who are competing with the various aspects of what we do, it's a challenging time."
"Software is our heritage and it's the key, we think, to the future. In the years ahead it's software that'll be the driver for new opportunities," said Ballmer. "Not only in hardware, but in wireless, e-commerce and broadband and other things. And we are dedicated to our roots and capabilities in software."
In outlining Microsoft's plans for future platform development, Ballmer discussed services versus product as a changing role for the company.
"Our plan is to create a new software services platform that will ignite opportunities for literally thousands of partners and customers around the world," said Ballmer. "It's going to take an incredible amount of work to deliver on the promise of enhancing the Internet user experience and delivering a platform that I might call the next generation Windows services platform. And delivering that platform is the top priority of our company."