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Ballmer touts business benefits of Windows 7


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Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer extolled the virtues of Windows 7 to a business audience in London today, claiming that the new platform will help them make savings through efficiency.

Ballmer also said that Microsoft could offer customers better support for virtualisation than VMware, but rebuffed suggestions that the company should simplify its software licensing.

With the official launch of Windows 7 coming in just a few weeks, Microsoft is making renewed efforts to convince customers that they should upgrade to the new platform despite the difficult economic conditions.

Ballmer opened his address with remarks about "the new efficiency", and how efficiency is more on people's minds than at any other time. Many IT managers have seen budget cuts in the range of 10 per cent or more since the credit crunch started, he claimed.

"But pressures on IT have not significantly mitigated. Newer processes are emerging that need IT support, yet pressures to keep the budgets down will still be there," he said.

Earlier, IDC analyst Chris Ingle warned the audience that budgets are never likely to come back to the level of spending seen before the recession, pointing out that this happened in earlier financial upheavals.

"Every time we have a recession, we don't get back the money. This is because you are up against newer, more competitive companies that do more with less, so you need to be more radical with IT coming out of the recession," he said.

Instead, companies will have to change the way that IT is handled in their companies, and look at greater automation and flexibility.

Not surprisingly, Ballmer said that Microsoft could help organisations here, claiming that Windows 7 and the Micro soft Desktop Optimisation Pack can drive down the cost of large deployments.

"Our job is to create end-user interest in Windows 7, but we also need products that drive productivity and efficiency gains. With BitLocker, policy compliance, virtualisation, and improved policy management, we are really giving tools with the potential to save cost," he said.

Ballmer said that early adopters in the UK are "seeing the value of Windows 7 ", citing the case of the Isle of Man government which he said had already benefited from a £120 per desktop saving on management costs.

But Ballmer conceded that most customers will move to Windows 7 when they refresh their hardware.

"We hope that in the first three to six months we will have made the case that [a new PC] should come with Windows 7. If customers have been doing testing with Vista, that should make it easier to move. You'll see us work hard to make Windows 7 the default choice on new PCs, whether you decide to move your entire installed base or not," he said.

When asked by a customer about compatibility with VMware infrastructure, Ballmer responded in bullish mood that Microsoft tools can manage existing VMware infrastructure, and there is no need for customers to invest any further now that Microsoft has its own technology.

"On the parts of the infrastructure you haven't virtualised yet, why spend the money with VMware? We'll give you as good an environment as VMware, and will help you manage both. Why waste your money on a more expensive solution?" he said.

Another customer asked whether Microsoft was going to simplify its licensing, especially the fine print, a question that drew a round of applause from the business audience.

But Ballmer responded that this was difficult without affecting customers that benefited from some existing licence clauses, such as choosing to pay for software based on the number of processors or client access licences.

"I don't anticipate a big round of simplifying licences. Every time you simplify you lose something that someone uses to keep their costs down. I'm sure we have some fine print we don't need, but changes need to be driven by things our customers want us to do," he explained.

Finally, Ballmer looked further out to the future, suggesting that there is much more that could be achieved on the desktop, and admonishing predictions that the days of the "fat" business client were numbered.

"After Vista, many in the media said that [it would be] the last Windows release ever, but there's still a lot of work to do. We don't have voice and gesture recognition built in, and you can't have everything seamlessly managed from the cloud yet," he said.

Windows will still be around on the desktop for at least the next 10 years, according to Ballmer.

"We have to go from support for single-core to better support for multi-core, and I can see plenty of line-of-sight for things we need to do," he said. "But I might not be the guy around building it in 20 years' time."

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