COO Kevin Turner's swashbuckling keynotes at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference have become a tradition over the years, with lots of trash-talking to get the channel fired up for the coming fiscal year.
This year was different. Instead of talking about how Microsoft is stealing share from rivals, Turner acknowledged that Microsoft is now an underdog in the computing market, at least when software running on tablets and smartphones is factored in.
Windows still has more than 90 percent share of the PC market, but Microsoft has a 14 percent share of the overall global device market, Turner told a crowd of more than 15,000 partners in his Monday keynote at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Turner also said Microsoft has had to make "hard decisions" in response to marketplace realities. Offering Windows to OEMs free of charge for devices with screens less than 9 inches was one example, and releasing Office For iPad was another, Turner said.
Microsoft has also formed third party partnerships it wouldn't have considered just a few years ago, Turner said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said he wants employees thinking with a "challenger mindset" and not resting on the laurels of past achievements. Turner's toned-down keynote seemed to reflect this.
At the same time, Turner turned the 14 percent worldwide device share figure into a rallying cry for the channel.
"We have to think like a disruptor," Turner said in the keynote. "The opportunity is much bigger than anything we've had in the past."
Turner also said Windows Phone sales have grown 91 percent year-over-year and now occupies the number two spot in 14 global smartphone markets.
Later, he described Nokia's smartphone and tablet lineup as "incredible" and talked about how Microsoft would continue making its own hardware and partnering with other mobile OEMs, despite the political difficulties this arrangement creates.
Though Turner didn't mention Google -- a well-worn target -- he did show off Stream, a $199 Hewlett-Packard laptop that's slated to hit store shelves this holiday season and which is seen as a potential Chromebook killer.
In the end, Turner wasn't able to resist taking an overt shot at one familiar foe. He said Microsoft Hyper-V is gaining ground on VMware in the server virtualization space, and offered to "baptize" any VMware partners in the audience.