3 Things Steve Balmer Did Wrong

01/21/10 04:43:22 pm, by Kris Kelso
Categories: IT Industry

On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer spoke to the Nashville Technology Council's annual Membership Breakfast.  A record crowd was packed into the room with great anticipation for his first visit to Nashville in almost 40 years, but many, including myself, left very disappointed.

There were three things that I believe were wrong about his speech:

1. It was a great big commercial. Did I really pay money to go sit and hear that Windows 7 is more stable, secure, and feature-rich than any previous Windows platform?  Or that Project Natal is going to change the way we interact with games and movies?  And did I need Steve Balmer to tell me those things?  Where were the personal anecdotes that only Steve could have told?  Where were the statements of vision for the future - not just product hype, but cultural changes and innovations around computing?  I can understand that Microsoft products are his passion, and so he's going to spend most of his time talking about that, but there was very little which was proprietary to Steve - the speech could have been delivered by any one of their salespeople, which brings me to my next complaint.

2. There was very little content that can not be found by surfing the web for a couple of hours. The crowd at the NTC breakfast was composed of the most tech-savvy and plugged-in group of people in the mid-state.  90% of those people are aware of any major technical innovation within days of it being made public (and earlier in many cases).  I doubt that very many people heard or saw much they did not already know.

3. The speech was entirely consumer-focused. This is the worst of the three problems.  There was barely a mention of Azure or the recent alliance with HP, other than repeating the "three screens and a cloud" mantra over and over.  There was no talk of ERP or CRM solutions.  Sharepoint was a bullet point on a slide, and OCS didn't even get that much consideration.  If I had to sum up the presentation in one statement, it would be "git you some XBOX!!"  I have to imagine that from a room full of CEO's, CIO's, and technology staff, many people came away as I did - feeling there was very little from the speech I could apply to my plans or strategy for the coming year.

I can only guess that there was some confusion because of the fact that we met at Trevecca Nazarene University, and either Steve Balmer or one of his organizers prepared the "college crowd speech" instead of the one he should have been giving to the people who control a lot more than just the household entertainment budget. The result was the wrong speech given to the wrong crowd, and some disappointed attendees. At least the food was good.

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