Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblogging Microsoft’s Financial Analyst Meeting (Afternoon Session): Hey, Steve Ballmer is All In!

BoomTown has been in Redmond, Wash. today to attend Microsoft’s annual Financial Analyst Meeeting, where top execs from the software giant have been taking the stage to talk about All Things Microsoft.

I liveblogged this morning’s sessions here, and now the afternoon opened with CEO Steve Ballmer.

The pugnacious exec has been under a little bit of pressure from Wall Street, due to the company’s naggingly limp stock price, even though Microsoft (MSFT) just turned in record results for its fourth quarter

He has even been subject to an ongoing series of rumors, scuttling around the tech sector, that Ballmer would even be replaced due to the moribund shares.

That did not happen today, with Ballmer appearing as confident as ever, very loud and proud, hanging out and kibitzing with investor dudes (they are all dudes here, for the most part) at the technology showcase after the morning session.

Like a particularly aggressive tour director on “The Love Boat,” in fact, he even ordered the analysts to go see all the stuff on display, such as a mobile data center, Windows 7 Phones and its gesture gaming technology now called Kinect.

We complied.

After a lovely lunch, here is a report of the action at the afternoon session at FAM:

1 pm PT: Ballmer took to the stage to talk about Microsoft’s consumer businesses.

First to get praise: Xbox, a money-losing, but very innovative business.

Read the screen: FY10 A Great Year. FY11: Even better.

Ballmer was hot on Kinect, which will be “wow.”

Next: Bing!

Share was from eight to 12.7 percent, frequent releases, mobile focus and strong brand awareness.

Yay. Except the part about Google (GOOG) still having a 70 percent share of the search market.

“We’re not confused, we have a lot of work to do here,” said Ballmer, who noted the price tag for competing in search was high. “It’s going to take a lot more.”

A lot.

Office 2010 was next and it’ll be cloudier, touchier, socialier than ever.

Next up: Windows 7–a definite home run, with an almost 93 percent share on laptops.

“Suffice it to say, Windows is the tide that floats all boats,” said Ballmer.

That is, of course, except that PCs are being inevitably supplanted by many other types of other consumer devices.

Thus, Ballmer moved onto tablets, which he called slates and convertibles.

He took some shots at Apple (AAPL), and promised something would be coming soon.

It better.

Ballmer did admit the truth: “They’ve sold certainly more than I’d like them to sell, let me just be clear about that.”

Then it was onto a demo of some new stuff, including the availability of a “Personal Cloud” for users of Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7.

Essentially, as many companies have been trying to do, it a way for consumers to have access to photos, music and more anywhere on any device.

There was also a new Windows synch feature, which is part of this anything-anywhere-anytime-any device theme.

At this point in the afternoon, I have to say that the thought of a hyper-sharing world of endless data shooting all over the place was exhausting.

I suddenly started thinking about starting a site called Hermit.com–please don’t visit, as I have nothing to share with you and I don’t care what you’re doing either.

Where were those sugary donuts, Microsoft?

I perked up at the demo of the Windows Phone 7, which is very slick and looks terrific. As with Bing, it is nicely differentiated from Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Android mobile operating system.

There is some nice automatic integration in the Windows 7 Phone with Facebook, the powerful social networking platform, with cool blue dots as the updating signal.

2:06 pm: Ballmer was back, declaring he’s not only a PC, but “I’m a Phone too!”

Not quite as catchy a motto, but I like the effort.

Ballmer also touched on Microsoft’s retail stores, which I like to call Not-Apple-But-They-Look-Like-Them Stores.

Next up: CFO Peter Klein, whom I have never seen in person. Let me say, compared to most Microsoft execs, he is unusually young looking, as if he just got his driver’s license.

But he is clearly a smartie, pulling out all the big graphs of money stuff, discussing the economics of the cloud and how it will will result in profit growth.

Many wish the boxed software business did not have to die, but it is on its last legs, so it’s time to hug the cloud for dear life

Klein’s argument that it will all be okay: Microsoft will sell to more users, they’ll earn more per customer and customer satisfaction is increased.

He walked through the numbers, which have been good, noting he hoped for more of the same.

2:31 pm: It’s Q&A time, with Ballmer coming out and calling for “ENERGY!” from the group.

If there were donuts, perhaps! Otherwise, it’s more of a snoozy afternoon situation. Zzzzzzz.

While waiting for other execs to get onstage, Ballmer made a kind of humble-pie statement for shareholders, noting he is a big one too and wanted the stock price higher.

“I’m all in,” he declared, noting he still held 86 percent of his shares in Microsoft since he arrived decades ago.

Of course, that 14 percent represents billions of dollars to have to scrape by on.

The first question was: Wassup with tablets? “It feels like right now you are not completely clear,” said the questioners.

Ballmer was a bit defensive, with his voice going up and up some more. It’ll use Intel (INTC) chips and Windows, but he was still not more specific.

“We’ll be in market as soon as we can,” he said, which was to say that he was not saying.

The next few questions were about financial details and costs. Again, Ballmer noted the returns were strong and other execs said the company had discipline.

More about the cloud, which COO Kevin Turner continued to declare was a big focus. “The proof’s in the pudding,” he said. “But clearly, we have to execute.”

Another question about the tablet, which seemed to annoy Ballmer, who made a lot of noise about being ready to compete.

One tidbit: The Windows 7 tablet will print.

Wheeeee!

After declaring Google’s Android, a “weird collection” of phones, he repeated that Microsoft was all in with its tablet.

Well, get in then!

A good question is asked about what Ballmer thought would be a good sign of progress on mobile phones a year from now.

Well, more share and to stop the downward slide of it.

Then a key question: What if Windows 7 Phone does not work, if it is like the failed Vista operating system software.

For the first time, Ballmer answered quietly: “It won’t be.”

And, then much louder, he’s all in.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google