For anyone that didn’t catch my first blog, this is my first time attending WPC and, even though we’re early in the conference, there’s a ton to talk about. However, before I get started, I want to make a confession: I am NOT a Microsoft fan boy. I mean I’ve used Microsoft products since MS-DOS 3.1 (and I remember the “big” changes in 3.11!), but I’ve used Macintosh products for nearly as long. And I’ve used—and enjoyed—Linux for the last six years or so. Additionally, I have an Android cell phone and tablet, and own an Xbox 360 and Wii. So when I speak about technology, understand that I use all kinds of different technologies and love them all.

All that being said, I came away from yesterday’s keynote with Steve Ballmer being :
a) very impressed with him personally;
b) very impressed with how Microsoft is approaching businesses and its
    partners; and
c) fairly impressed by some of the Microsoft products coming down the pike.
But in the interest in building a little suspense, I’ll go through these in reverse order after I recap some numbers that highlight where Microsoft is today. Note that these numbers come from this morning’s keynote, so I’m not exactly sure of their respective sources: 
  • There are more than one billion Windows PCs out there – which is a bigger ecosystem than any other software-based ecosystem – including smart phones, tablets, etc.
  • There have been more than 630 Million licenses of Windows 7 sold
  • Every day, half a million desktops move from Windows XP to Windows 7
  • In the enterprise, 50% of desktops run on Windows 7
  • On its first day of availability, Windows 8 Preview version enjoyed more than one million downloads
  • Every year, roughly 375 Million PCs are sold, which is a strong, ongoing opportunity
Microsoft Products:

As expected, there was no shortage of Windows 8 news. As cited above, downloads of their Windows 8 Preview have been very strong and it was said to be the most widely tested OS in history. During the keynote, they showcased multiple demos that used Intel 3rd Gen Core processors running Windows 8 including:
  • ASUS convertible – a tablet that plugs into a keyboard, and impressed me the most
  • Lenovo A720 – All-in-one, demoed with “Fresh Paint” Metro app for painting with a stylus
  • Lenovo “Yoga” – an Ultrabook that folds from “closed” through “laptop” and onto “tablet” mode
There were a few other demos, but the above shined the brightest, especially, in my personal opinion, the ASUS Convertible.  I already have a Transformer TF-101 so I can appreciate this concept. I was also intrigued by the Lenovo Yoga, which I later went in search of on the showroom floor. Additionally, Microsoft announced that if consumers buy a Windows 7-based computer today, they will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only about 15 bucks—a very reasonable offer.  Finally, it was disclosed that Windows 8 will RTM in the first week of August.
There was also a lot of talk about Office 365. It also yielded the worst pun of the keynote, “And Burger King is shifting to Office 365 and you can imagine, they got a (wait for it) Whopper of a deal!” Still, some top-line numbers for Office include the fact that there are 1B users worldwide, which would be a proud accomplishment for any product, but one obtained by very few. They also disclosed information about Office 365 Open, but that belongs in the next section.
They also yammered (see, they aren’t the only writers of bad puns) on for a bit about recent acquisitions. The first one they discussed was Yammer and how they were excited about what it could bring to the world of workplace collaboration. It was mentioned that it allegedly already works with SharePoint, and when you consider it in concert with other acquisitions and products like Skype and Lync, the world of working together from across the world seems to be ready to take a leap forward.
There was also a lot of time spent discussing the very recent announcement that it was buying Perceptive Pixel,  a maker of very large (i.e. >80”) displays that supports both touch and stylus and runs Windows 8 natively out-of-the-box . (The company’s founder, Jeff Han, must have said the phrase “out-of-the-box” about 20 times in 10 minutes). Still, it was impressive and one’s mind automatically leapt to ways in which this could change things in businesses – in conference rooms and collaboration centers – as well as education institutions where this could both re-ignite the interest of kids in learning as well as improve the efficiency of the classroom.
How Microsoft Does Business:

This may just be my personal opinion, but it feels like Microsoft occasionally (or perhaps frequently) gets a bad rap. But I’ve got to tell you, in a room with 16,000 other people the feelings towards Microsoft was nothing but positive.

Why? Some folks will turn their nose up at the fact that Microsoft makes money, but honestly, that’s the point of all publicly traded companies. Apple makes money (gobs of it), Google makes money (even more gobs of it) and, almost by the definition of the word, all “successful” companies make money. That being said, one of the reasons that I have to believe there was so much love flowing around is that Microsoft is enabling all of its partners to make money, to make a living, to put food on the table for their families and kids. And from what I can tell, Microsoft is getting even better. For example, it announced Office 365 Open, which will allow its partners to sell directly to their customers and be responsible for the top-line revenue. That means that partners can get paid more immediately and bundle it with the rest of their invoice with things may or may not include other Microsoft products. Simply put, this makes it easier for partners to do business with Microsoft. And that “make money with me” mantra resonates very well, especially during such depressed economic times.

Steve Ballmer:

First off, I’ve never seen Steve speak live before. So I have the very unscientific study of one data point, but I will say that I really liked what I saw. He had passion. He had enthusiasm. He had passion—yes, it was that much passion! But he was also a supportive executive. There were several times during the keynote when folks made mistakes and he just gently corrected them back on track. In addition, he had what could only be considered a catastrophic microphone failure. Not only did his label mic stop working, but the first two handheld mics he was handed also failed. Ironically, we could hear him fine when he was near his interview because he had so much passion (read: LOUD), that the other guy’s mic picked him up. But he rolled with it, laughed about it, and moved on. His style of presenting wasn’t that of a preacher to his flock, but rather in a more informal setting with an interviewer, so it had a nice, conversational style, similar to many popular news shows. I thought that was a very nice change and I hope a lot of other CEOs follow this trend.

​​So that’s it, my day one recap. A lot was seen, many were met, there’s so much more to write, but I’ll end this here. I’ll close with this simple, two-part question: If you’re at #WPC12, what was the most impressive thing that you’ve seen OR, if you’re not at WPC12 – what would you like to hear about or see?

– Eric​