At the Churchill Club in Santa Clara, two tech titans sat down to have a conversation. LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman interviewed Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer at an event with “tech influencers and innovators,” and a bunch of of us press folk. Ballmer is riding on the release of Windows 8, Surface and the Windows 8 Phone, so there is plenty to talk about.
I love when Reid Hoffman asks questions, as I saw him speak with Newark Mayor Cory Booker last year, and it was great.
Hoffman asked Ballmer what the future looks like at Microsoft and he said “We’re happy with the spectacular start we got off to with Windows 8 and we’re always innovating, but from a strategy perspective we’re all in. We’re off to a very good start, and we have a great team.”
On Sinofsky’s recent departure, Ballmer said: “Sinofsky’s departure was his decision. We wish him well.” Hoffman clearly got this question out of the way, as some of them came from the audience before the event.
On the Surface and Windows 8, Ballmer says that Microsoft has found the best of “both worlds — work and play.” On the Surface specifically, Ballmer says that many people have had that “Ooooh, Ooooh, Ooooh, I get it moment.” Hoffman then pressed and asked if Ballmer feels like it makes a dent in the tablet market, and Ballmer brought up the Asus model for Google and others. He does give in by saying that Microsoft is still in early days. “Diversity of form factor matters, and not compromising either form factor. You need diversity of price point. That’s quite important.”
We recently reported that Surface sales were “modest” at best.
Ballmer went on to discuss the Surface UI, which he described as “Different.” Also, Ballmer made it clear that Microsoft wants to control its hardware creation, as not to give in to competition. “If we see an opportunity in the software/hardware seam, we’re going to take it,” Ballmer told Hoffman.
On Xbox, Ballmer says that it’s very hard to share the economics, therefore handling the hardware itself. As far as phones, it made more sense to go along with partners and open innovation. Interestingly, when asked if Microsoft would ever ship a PC, Ballmer asked Hoffman “What is a PC?” This defense sounds very familiar, as Microsoft clearly wants to move along with the pack when it comes to blurring the lines between laptop, computer, phone and tablet. Microsoft has no plans on making laptops, or “clamshells” as Ballmer calls it, any time soon.
Back to this “Oh” moment, Ballmer really didn’t get too much into that, but did say that his son uses it “all day, every day.”
The best moment of the night was when Ballmer discussed Halo 4′s “200 something, I don’t know, copies sold on the first day, or whatever.” Yes, it’s a popular game. Huge for Microsoft.
Have you had your “Oh” moment?