Ballmer Executive Letter

30 Nov

During the last decade, technology has been the catalyst for incredible change. Ten years ago, the PC was just beginning to achieve broad acceptance. Today, the PC, the Internet, and mobile phones and mobile devices have all reached critical mass, creating fantastic opportunities for hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of companies around the globe.

In many ways, it was the launch of Windows 95 and Office 95 eleven years ago that signaled the start of this transformation. Together, these two products helped revolutionize the way people create and use information, opening the door to new forms of communication and collaboration that transcend the old limits of time and distance. The free flow of information, goods, and services that resulted has given rise to an era of unprecedented productivity and innovation that has had a profound impact on the global economy. As The Economist magazine recently noted, "the first decade of the 21st century could see the fastest growth in average world income in the whole of history."

But while we like to think that the digital revolution has already happened, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We still rely too much on paper documents to share ideas and paper forms to conduct business. That’s about to change. During the next decade, the world’s information will be digitized. So will the world’s commerce, communications, and entertainment.

New versions of Windows and Office will play a central role in this ongoing transformation. Today, for the first time in 11 years, we are releasing our flagship products simultaneously. With the PC an everyday tool at work and at home for nearly a billion people around the globe, the joint launch of Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will open the door to an era of even greater productivity and innovation. Because you are a subscriber to executive emails from Microsoft, I wanted to share my thoughts with you about why this wave of groundbreaking products will have a bigger impact than anything we’ve ever built before.

Transforming IT from an Expense into a Strategic Asset

Windows 95 and Office 95 were big, bold bets for Microsoft. The fruit of 20 years of innovation at Microsoft, they embodied our belief in the power of software to change the world. That’s a belief I hold more strongly than ever. In fact, I think the innovation we’ll see during the next decade-both on the desktop and as a result of the emergence of Internet-based software services-will transform the world of business more profoundly than the changes we’ve witnessed so far. Ten years from now, the barriers between organizations, systems, processes, and forms of communication will have given way to a seamless flow of information and ideas that will unlock personal creativity and productivity, and drive even greater opportunity and growth.

Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 include sweeping changes designed to eliminate these barriers. It starts with far-reaching changes to the user experience. From the new Windows Vista Aero interface to the new Ribbon in the 2007 Office system, these products offer dramatic improvements that enable users to focus on content and tasks rather than the interface itself, making it easier to find information and access useful features with fewer clicks.

Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 also deliver new capabilities that enhance security and performance; streamline the flow of information between people, systems, and processes; and transform the way people use information to drive informed, creative decision making.

The changes are dramatic. And with significant change comes more than a little risk. After all, these are some of the best-known and most-used products on the planet. Windows powers 845 million computers. Office is used by more than 450 million people. Any thoughtful businessperson would think twice before tinkering with the products that people use every day to manage their work and run their businesses.

So why are we making these changes? And why should you risk disrupting your business to take advantage of these new features and capabilities? Because business has changed and new tools are required. No one questions the competitive advantages that come when we can communicate and collaborate instantly with colleagues and customers around the world. No one doubts that businesses have benefited from access to nearly limitless information about customers, competitors, and markets.

At the same time, no one labors under the illusion that business is any easier as a result. In today’s global economy, where customers can find the best price without leaving their desks, competitive advantage can come and go in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, dealing with the endless deluge of data, email, and information often threatens to overwhelm our ability to be productive and to make smart decisions. According to one leading industry analyst firm, we spend an average of 14.5 hours per week reading and answering email, while the time we spend looking for and analyzing information costs companies $28,000 per employee per year. And ongoing studies by the research firm Outsell show that the amount of time corporate information workers spend gathering information has almost doubled in the last five years.

Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 were designed specifically to address these issues. Our goal is two-fold. First, we want to continue to advance the revolution in workplace productivity and efficiency that we started 11 years ago by delivering tools and capabilities that complete the transformation of IT from an expense into a strategic asset. More importantly, we want to provide a platform that is a catalyst for continued expansion of growth and opportunity because it enables companies to get the greatest possible value from the knowledge and expertise that their employees possess.

A Foundation for the People-Ready Business

Behind all of the changes in these new releases is a single, powerful idea: that people are the driving force behind business success. Ultimately, a company thrives or fails based on the thousands of small and large decisions that employees make every day, on how well they can answer customers’ questions, on the insight they can gain, and the product breakthroughs they can deliver based on the information they have at hand. Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 were designed to create a people-ready business where employees are empowered to turn data into insight, ideas into action, and change into opportunity. They deliver a platform that enables employees to build profitable relationships with customers, spearhead new innovations, improve products and services, and drive the business forward.

To provide the capabilities that people need in today’s fast-changing world of work, we’ve focused on four specific areas:

Simplifying how people work together: The nature of how we work has changed dramatically since 1995. Today, people work in teams that cross divisional boundaries and span companies. Collaboration with colleagues and customers in different cities, even different continents, is the norm. The workforce is also increasingly mobile. From unified messaging enabled by Exchange Server 2007 to workflow and collaboration in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, the new products revolutionize the way people work in teams.

Finding information and improving business insight: Companies of all sizes struggle with the fundamental paradox of the 21st century: while we generate more and more information every minute of every day our ability to extract useable knowledge from that information grows more and more tenuous all the time. Deep integration of new search technologies and powerful, easy-to-use business intelligence tools will enable employees to find and use information more easily, streamlining the path from idea to execution.

Helping to protect and manage content: Governmental compliance mandates and the growing recognition that simplified business processes and improved information management enable employees to respond to changing business conditions with greater speed and accuracy make organizational transparency one of today’s critical business imperatives. Advanced content management and document retention tools combined with features to enhance data confidentiality make content authoring the starting point for automated business processes and regulatory compliance.

Increasing security and reducing IT costs: Secure by design and by default, the new versions of Windows, Office, and Exchange Server deliver breakthrough security features and they streamline deployment and management, helping reduce costs and enabling IT departments to focus on providing new capabilities that deliver strategic advantage.

Pioneering Innovation and an Unprecedented Partnership

In many ways, we have been working toward this moment since the day Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft three decades ago. From Microsoft BASIC to Microsoft DOS, through the first versions of Office and Windows, and beyond, Microsoft has pioneered many of the technologies that made the digital information era and the knowledge economy a reality. Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 continue this tradition and I believe they include the best work we have ever done. The result is groundbreaking innovations in interface design, security, networking, communications, and much more.

These new products are also the result of an unprecedented partnership between Microsoft and our customers. We worked hand-in-hand with tens of thousands of customers who allowed us to watch them use Windows, Office, and Exchange in more than 1 billion work sessions to help us understand how they use these products and how new technologies can help them work more effectively. As we moved toward launch, our customers and partners downloaded more than 5 million beta versions of the three products. Their valuable suggestions and feedback helped us assess the quality of our work and the value of the new features and capabilities we’ve built in. No software products have ever been through a more thorough software design and testing process.

No software products have ever created such broad-ranging business opportunities for the computer industry, either. Across the globe, more than 500,000 partner companies, including consulting firms, independent software developers, and systems integrators are poised to help businesses deploy and run Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007. Industry analysts expect that in 2007 alone, these products will generate more than $250 billion in revenue for our partners.

The launch of Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 kicks off the most important 12 months in Microsoft history. During the coming year, we’ll introduce new innovations such as unified communications including voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and performance management utilizing cutting edge analytics and business intelligence that will enable businesses to achieve new levels of value from their information technology investments.

Over the course of the next decade, we expect that Windows Vista, the 2007 Office system, and Exchange Server 2007 will be used by well beyond 1 billion people. They will be used by CEOs to plan corporate strategy and by elementary school teachers to help children learn the skills they need to thrive in tomorrow’s knowledge economy. They’ll help researchers explore the far reaches of science and enable artists to explore the outer edges of creativity. Product planners at the world’s largest consumer enterprises will use them to understand market trends while craftspeople in remote villages will use them to reach out to customers in distant nations. The future of business computing begins today-we look forward to the new ideas, the new businesses, and the new innovations that will result.

Steve Ballmer

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Posted by on November 30, 2006 in Hot Topic


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