Ballmer lays out consumer, business tech vision

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal)

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, Last Updated: 9:50 PM ET

In a wide-ranging interview published this week, Microsoft's CEO explained the logic behind the design of Windows 8 and clearly laid out his vision for the future of consumer and business technology and the role he sees Microsoft playing in that future.

Speaking to MIT Technology Review, Ballmer said of Windows 8's radical departure from the historical look and feel of past Microsoft operating systems: "For the first time, Windows PCs, tablets, and phones, as well as Xbox, all share the same look and feel and iconic live tiles. A common visual language makes a lot of sense and helps unify the experiences people have across the devices and services they use daily. Increasingly, people access the same content and services from multiple devices or use more than one device at a time. SmartGlass is really magical in this way. You can cue a movie from your Windows tablet to play on the TV connected to your Xbox, or navigate the Web on the TV screen with your Windows Phone. The same look and feel shortens the learning curve and creates a more seamless user experience."

When asked to define what the company today stands for in comparison with Google and Apple, its biggest direct competitors, Ballmer said that the company is focused on empowering people and businesses to realize their potential. "We're defining the future of productivity, entertainment and communication. In the new world, software is going to have to come in kind of an integrated form --or at least a well-designed form that includes cloud services and devices." For this reason, continuity of look, feel and behavior across multiple devices is crucial. "The living room is different from the phone, and productivity at the desk is different from productivity on the go," said Ballmer.

Microsoft has faced more than its fair share of criticism over recent months, not least over its decision to launch an operating system that was optimized for touch-screen navigation, despite the fact that at the time of launch, there wasn't a single existing desktop computer that could support this interface.

However, the company must be doing something right. Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak recently commented that Microsoft is innovating in the way that Apple used to and a new poll commissioned by Reuters, published this week, reveals that Wozniak is not alone. Roughly 50 percent of Americans aged between 18 and 29 now regard the company as being cooler than it was a year ago. And while that is a significant improvement, 70 percent of the same sample said that Google had become cooler over the past year and 60 percent said the same of Apple.


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