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Steve Ballmer Swings By the Post

Kim Hart

Steve Ballmer's favorite TV show is "Lost," but he refuses to pay a buck to get it on iTunes--he'd rather deal with a few ads. He still isn't sure what "Web 2.0" really means. And he predicts that in 10 years, everything will be delivered over the Internet in an ad-supported format. Newspapers and magazines will cease to exist, but content producers will continue to proliferate. And Google's strategy is baffling to him.

Microsoft's CEO stopped by the Post today for a discussion about the many business models the company is diving into these days. Although he didn't have any new thoughts to share about Microsoft's failed bid for Yahoo, he had many aggressive thoughts on the direction of the Internet, and how to make money from it.

Search and advertising go hand-in-hand, he said--which is why Google is the No. 1 seller of online ads right now. He compared it to Microsoft's own dominance in the software market. The company's Windows operating system and Office suite supported each other, driving demand for both. "You've got to be in the search game to be in the advertising game...They reinforce each other," he said.

Search is becoming a serious priority for the Redmond, Washington-based software giant, which was signaled by its very recent announcement that it would offer consumers cash incentives for using Microsoft's search engine to find what they're looking for. This week they formed a partnership with HP to have its search bar integrated into every HP computer.

So while Microsoft is trying to tackle the search business that Google dominates, what exactly is Google's strategy? Your guess is as good as Ballmer's, at this point. Between Android, Google's new mobile operating system, the company's participation in the Sprint/Clearwire WiMax Venture, and its plans for Google Docs, Ballmer said he was pretty baffled.

"I don't know what Google's angle is because it sometimes looks like Google wants to become a telecommunications company. And yet that may not be right. But that recent thing where they went in with Sprint and the WiMax guys is very confusing to me. I think its very confusing to a number of telecommunications companies as well," he said.

"This Android thing is classic. They say they are going to open-source it. Guys who make handsets and phone companies say, 'What's the catch? Why are they going to give us something for nothing?' There may be no catch. But most of telephone operators I talk to say, 'We're nervous.'" he said. "Where does it all fit? Will Google put its toe in and pull back?"

On the mobile side, Ballmer said there still aren't enough cellphones equipped with decent Web browsers. If there's one thing the iPhone has proven, it's that "nobody wants mobile to be a separate world."

As usual, Ballmer was extremely energetic and seemed to be very candid during our lunch. You can take a look for yourself tomorrow, when we'll post video footage of his talk along with more details about his responses to our questions.

By Kim Hart  |  June 4, 2008; 2:25 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Take a look at WrapMail (, potentially game changing technology for so many companies.

Posted by: Dave | June 5, 2008 10:50 AM

Kim, as you mentioned in your article, Steve predicts everything in terms of "media" will be digital. With advertising, what better way to go green than to junk the marketing collateral and print advertising and harness the power of the Internet.

WCP may not agree with this or like what I am about to say but here it is anyway; Newspaper, magazines, newsletters and other print media WILL be replaced with digital media. Technology is evolving this way and preparation is clearly underway for Big Media to accommodate this necessary shift.

Like Steve said in his interview, 20 years ago the thought of replacing main frames with microprocessers wasn't taken serious by many.

Today with online advertising, it is evolving over the Internet because the "I" is mobile, far reaching and high tech. Television is not--it is difficult to target market and cost vrs. conversion is rediculous compared to targeted and reach opportunities on the Net.

Beyond Desktop PC's and laptops, are now handhelds that will only increase in technology exponentially over the next year or so. You can already view a commercial on them. So pick up a newspaper/magazine OR switch on the "Apple" while communting to work. They are already doing this in Japan!

This is why a year ago, I founded Hot Pluto to become the world's 1st video advertising site. I saw it coming--we all saw it coming--and we are all watching it evolve monthly!

Microsoft has its niche and so does Google.They are both big and do alot of things--some crossing into each others territory. All us other smaller players (most of us know each other and talk often) know this space is wide open and at this point--there is plenty of room for content producers and hosts. Monitizing the video advertising is only difficult when you serve it up in front of supposedly "relative" content in the current intrusive manor. To me and others, it is a no-brainer: Compel both advertisers and consumers to come to a common place where they know they are there to do business. Allow Advertisers to tell their story and make it about people and not just products and services. Everyone needs to "buy" let's get that out of the way.

People will be more compelled to buy things from other people closer to whom they relate. It will soon NOT be about models pitching products but more about people building relationships with other people. The Internet will facilitate that necessary shift. will be one of the 1st to intoduce advertisers to consumers and build branding through personal relationships--"they are people just like me."

Posted by: Brett Hill | June 14, 2008 11:34 PM

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