Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer steered clear of controversy Wednesday morning in a rare meeting with financial analysts, presenting the group with a ebullient vision of the opportunities before Microsoft while offering few comments about the problems buffeting the technology Goliath.
Microsoft is in the early stages of its most significant product cycle in years, but misfires and delays, most notably with Vista, have investors echoing partners' concerns about Microsoft's execution. Ballmer's speech in New York at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.'s Strategic Decisions Conference, the kickoff to several days of behind-the-scenes meetings with local financial analysts, was aimed at buttressing Wall Street's faith in Microsoft.
Ballmer's strategy for Microsoft boils down to one word: win. Enumerating the dozens of technology markets in which the company competes and anticipates dramatic innovation--entertainment, office productivity, consumer products, enterprise applications, infrastructure, etc.--Ballmer optimistically forecast that rising technology demand will lift all boats, especially the biggest.
"The paybacks almost always work if you win," Ballmer said. "If you don't win, the paybacks don't work."
Asked about Microsoft's plans for fending off competitors, especially Google, Ballmer said that the challenge is less about any particular rival than it is about effectively handling the industry's changing business models.