@Web2.0: Steve Ballmer Wants To Buy Your Company

Alberto Escarlate, the CTO-turned-reporter, sends us these dispatches from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s Web 2.0 Q&A session with John Battelle:


How are the Facebook negotiations coming along?
“Mark Zuckerberg says it goes pretty well. So that’s the answer.” When pressed by John about his involvement he didn’t answer it directly, which makes John conclude that Steve isn’t directly involved [Ed. Really?]

What parts of Microsoft are you happy with? What parts are you unhappy with?

The Vista launch was phenomenal (audience laughs). Keep on releasing OS and Office. Online we’re relatively a small player. In every area there’s a lot of good and many areas for improvement.

Is Google a one-trick pony?
Most tech companies are one-trick ponies because they start with a core business and then need to build things around them. IBM started in enterprise, Oracle with DBs, etc. Microsoft’s tricks are devices, entertainment, OS and online.

Developers, developers, developers; is Facebook’s platform going to take mindshare?

“I do love developers. I don’t see Facebook as a threat.” Every application has its own developer story but none of them replace the OS.

Flash vs Silverlight:
Those who were here yesterday saw Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen tease Microsoft by saying that Silverlight has still lots of catching up to do. Ballmer brushed that off saying that Adobe has been doing a good job in this area, then showed off Msft’s Popfly — a mash-up creation tool with a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to create web-based applications mashing APIs like Technorati, Facebook, etc.

Office and their online competitors:
Zimbra doesn’t keep him awake at night. Outlook is whatever best suits each user (mobile, rich app, web-based). Google Docs & Spreadsheets is not a good product for Office power users. But: “We pay attention to what other guys do.”

This got Ballmer got really excited – almost “developers, developers” excited — as he explained the untapped potential of Microsoft’s search. But what about now?

Battelle: “Is search the kid that you slap in the neck and tell him ‘you got to get better in school’?”
Ballmer “No. It’s the 3-year-old-kid that’s playing basketball with 12-year-olds trying to beat them.”

On Ballmer’s plan to convert 25% of Msft into an ad business:

That’s a $15 billion business. How’s he going to get there? Four things: Do search well, get better on community (FB partnership), strong ad platform (all payload on all media with all business models), sell ads on behalf of other people (syndication).

Is the current FB deal making money for Msft?
“rumour has it that we’re not, but we’re getting smarter. There are lots of things we invested in this relationship.”

Aquantive acquisition ($6 Billion!)
The ad platform requires tools for advertisers, publishers, and an algorithm and intelligence sitting in between.They offered most of that. No plans to spin Razorfish out.

Next acquisition?
No comment. Except: “We buy 20 companies a year within the range of 50 to 200 million. My email is [email protected] If you want to sell your company write to me.” But what about the really big, $10 billion Facebook deals? No comment.

What about merging with Yahoo?
“Great company, great relationship. If at some point it makes sense…but not the focus now”