There were nearly 800 people jammed into a ballroom at the Santa Clara, Calif., Marriott, and I'll bet that most were expecting, or at least hoping, to get the skinny on why Windows chief Steven Sinofsky was shown the door just days before the event. They didn't get it. All Ballmer had to offer was the obligatory kiss on the cheek: "He's made one of the most amazing contributions anyone will make to any company. I wish him well. He's always recommended if you make a change, you make it on a product boundary."
Another bit of non-news was his offhand remark that the Surface Pro, the version of the Microsoft Surface tablet that runs on an Intel x86 processor instead of an ARM chip, will ship on schedule. Asked if Surface is a tablet or PC, Ballmer answered "yes."
Actually, that last answer isn't quite as annoying as it sounds out of context. Ballmer made a good (though hardly original) point, saying that the distinction between digital devices is blurring. "If it has a processor and memory and runs software, it is a computer to me."
We love you, Acer -- and we love carriers, too
Will Microsoft ship a PC? "I don't know what to call this," Ballmer said, holding up a Surface. "We have shipped the Surface RT, we have announced a product called Surface Pro with an Intel chip. We are shipping these things. We are not shipping a clamshell. We think our OEMs [PC makers] do a very good job." He also took care to praise Acer, a company whose feathers were seriously ruffled by Microsoft's decision to build its own hardware. Pulling out a touchscreen laptop from Acer, he called it "a great piece of work. Our OEMs are doing great work."
Although Microsoft is obviously very late to the smartphone market, Ballmer figures his company has a major opportunity because the carriers want a third alternative to Samsung and Apple. His initial goals in that market are modest. "Our challenge right now is not getting 60 percent of the smartphone market; our challenge is to get 10, then 15, and then 20 percent" via its third version of Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8.
I got stuck in traffic and missed the event's chicken dinner, but I did get a bellyful of the World According to Ballmer -- fun, but not the most nourishing meal I've had lately.
This article, "Ballmer's folly: Businesses will love Windows 8 touchscreens," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.