Steve Ballmer at UW: Is This Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Strategy, or Just Internet Software?

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didn’t say exactly who he was talking about.)

5. “The cloud drives server devices that in turn drive the cloud.”

This one was a little nebulous, but it directly concerns Azure. Ballmer said there are 2 million servers sold around the planet just to power the cloud. But “everything about server software and hardware has to change because of the cloud,” because of the amount of data that gets stored, the number of users, and so forth. Ballmer positioned Microsoft’s cloud approach as being more advanced than current virtualization software, which he characterized as “yesterday’s ideas.” He said that the whole premise of Windows Azure is to “change how you write software…and how to migrate software” and manage servers without having to manually fix ones that break.

Lastly, Ballmer shared some thoughts on how Microsoft needs to innovate in the current era of cloud software and services. “Whenever you get a big shift in our industry—every five, 10 years—those are interesting times,” he said. “They are times that people say, big companies like ours—can they focus and embrace new opportunities? The field of endeavor keeps moving forward.”

Addressing an audience question about Microsoft being late to Web software, he said, “Nobody wants to have to react to anyone else. I’m certainly keen on increasing our hit rate in terms of ‘early and often.’” And he emphasized the importance of Azure and Bing in terms of driving cloud-based software forward. Amazon, he said, took the programming model of yesterday and brought it into the cloud with its Web services. By contrast, Azure will let developers write entirely new kinds of applications, he said. (A bold claim, but we will have to see about that.) And in Web search, he said, “there’s been more innovation in search in the last year than in the previous three,” because of competition between Bing, Google, and others.

But in terms of the five cloud dimensions laid out above, he said, Microsoft is “at the front or tending to the front.”

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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