With reading, each passing day tells me that Microsoft, headed by Steve Ballmer, has clearly lost its way on so many fronts. Though no one has asked me, I firmly believe that trying to be all things to all people is not the way you continue in turbulent times. Shooting arrows in all directions, in the dark, is hardly a good way to get food, unless you happen to have an unlimited supply of arrows.

An article from a couple of days ago, caught my eye immediately, but I did not do anything about it until now. It comes from Betanews, from a writer I frequently disregard, but this one is mainly “just the facts” so that makes it very useful.

For anyone that missed Microsoft CEO’s Q&A during the Search Marketing Expo West yesterday, a transcript is now available online. I went through and picked out key quotes, so that you don’t have to read the whole thing.

Several things stand out from Ballmer’s comments:

1) Mobile operators that want a search engine other than Bing can’t have Windows Phone 7 Series.

Does this man think that he is in the position to dictate in a market where Microsoft is not in the lead, and clearly has shown thus far that Windows 7 will be more of the same ol’ Microsoft?

2) Microsoft almost certainly is stirring up trouble for Google in Europe through third parties.

We did not have to consult Sherlock Holmes to suss this one out. Though as a matter of intelligence, it was not one of Ballmer’s finer moments. However, no one has ever accused him of being a deep thinker.

3) Microsoft isn’t interested — at least for now — in releasing a Bing application for Android phones.

4) A Bing for iPhone search deal is still possible, simply because Ballmer deflected the question rather than denying it.

5) Twitter is a great Microsoft partner, but the value of an acquisition is “not clear.”

My favorite quote from the Q&A: “I haven’t found that when you’re trying to sell something to somebody yelling is very effective.” How funny is that. coming from boisterous Ballmer?

We might think, since he has discovered that, why it is that he has not gotten a bit more subdued in his later years.

Bing

When asked if Microsoft could be No.1 in search, Ballmer answered: “There’s no good answer to this question…If you say yes, you sound arrogant. If you say no, you sound like you have no faith. So the answer is, yes, someday.”

Good answer, but then, even a broken clock is right twice per day.

The truth of the matter is the number one thing that Google benefits from in search is they did it right first. And put culture aside and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I love our culture, I think we’ve got great people, they’re innovative, they’re doing great things, but we started later.

Ballmer’s Binging family: “We have Bing evangelists, age 18, age 11, and age 15. We are definitely a religiously pro-Bing family…My dad worked at Ford for 30 years, I still drive a Lincoln. I hope my kids 30, 40, 50 years from now, they’ll still be using Bing.”

I love to make the assertion about apartments in Paris. I have a buddy from Stanford who rents apartments in Paris and if she wasn’t my buddy you wouldn’t find her on page one of Bing, you would find her on page one of the other guy, and that is a quality. From the standpoint of the searcher if you’re looking for an apartment in Paris it’s not going to show US in the algorithmic results. So, it’s really important for us to get scale in terms of value to the searcher themselves.

Is Bing Cashback a success: “The Cashback has been interesting. I would say it has worked. It hasn’t worked fantastically. I mean, in the sense that it has completely changed the economic structure of the business.”

Google Competition

Regarding Microsoft encouraging third-party antitrust complaints against Google in Europe:

As in our case, a lot of times initial complaints will come from a competitor. We’re clearly a competitor, there are other competitors, as well. But, we have a blog post on our public policy blog that kind of makes clear we’re not being silent in this game, we’re expressing some of the issues and frustrations that we see, and certainly sometimes unsolicited, but oftentimes because we’ve been asked.

In other words, we are whiners and find that it is useful, especially when you cannot compete head to head. Having the ear of a few well placed people in government is always useful.

Google in China: “I think we all understand, the real force in China isn’t Google and it’s not Bing, it’s Baidu.”

Google’s book search deal: “The book deal essentially takes somebody who has a very strong position, and gives them a stronger position relative to everybody else in the space. It doesn’t seem right to me, let alone what it might mean for publishers’ rights. So, we’ll express our points of view, but ultimately it’s up to the regulators.”

Smartphones

Regarding Bing replacing Google on iPhone: “I read that rumor…It was very funny, I was in Europe someplace, and I read it, after a journalist had asked me about it. Weird how rumors start.”

Do I search when I’m out on the move? The answer is too much relative to what my wife thinks I should be doing when I’m driving. So, I’m trying to — I’m trying to tame my search behavior while I’m — I mean, literally I only have a phone when I’m in the car, because if I’m not in the car I’m in a meeting, and it’s impolite, for me at least, to bring phones to most meetings.

About Bing for Android phones: “It’s not like our open religious principles can be questioned here, but it is a little bit tricky to understand exactly where the market opportunity might lie for us in the mix of Android kind of cacophonous implementations.”

Stop and take it outside of the specific Android-Windows phone debates. How does Apple make money on phones, basically with a licensing fee on their own phones. It’s a positive gross margin on the phone. If you offer a phone of high value, there is money to be made. We happen to, in our model, split that with a phone manufacturer who makes some of the money that Apple might have made and we make some of the money that Apple might have made.

Search-engine choice on Windows Phones: “My guess is we’re not going to get a huge amount of operator support for Windows Phones who don’t want Bing. I mean, in some senses it’s an essential part of the definition of the Windows Phone, and if you have an operator who would want to do something with another search player, they’ll probably do it with a non-Windows Phone.”

This is Ballmer at his most clever. You can see he practiced this answer beforehand. Still, the idea that Bing is an essential part of the mobile phone experience? Please, spare us of your delusional thinking.

Xbox

“How many hours of practice do you need on Xbox to catch your kids?…Ten thousand hours. Ten thousand hours of Xbox and you can be as good as your eight-year-old.”

Twitter

Should Microsoft buy Twitter:

Not clear. I mean, we have a great relationship and partnership with Twitter. Not clear to me. I mean, I would hate to not have that partnership. Whether we need to own the company or not I think is far less clear. In some senses, as an independent, they have a lot of value and a lot of credibility, I think, with their user community. Would they have that same credibility with the user community if they were captive? Not clear.

Does Ballmer have a stealth Twitter account: “Of course.”

Of course, what better way to spread vicious rumors and other tripe.

Ballmer is one of those people that must be a true genius in some way, because Microsoft is running under his hands, though you would never know it from outward appearances. I’ve seen a few of his presentations, and he always appears to be having trouble delivering coherent thoughts on a regular basis, which is hidden by over-exuberance and stage antics.

As for the way the company runs, as I stated in my piece about Microsoft and the “cloud”, inertia will keep a behemoth on the appearance of the right track for a while, but eventually, the ride gets bumpy and the wheels come off.

The most amazing thing about this is I simply can’t believe that Bill Gates put this man in charge, and that he looks at these ramblings and doesn’t immediately fire off a call burning the line all the way between Redmond and wherever he might then be, as he dresses down Ballmer for the reckless abandon with which he speaks.

By the way, has Xbox made a profit yet?

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Isn’t this the sort of thing that will drive down thee use of Bing?



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