Barney's Rubble

Nostrabarney: My Tech Predictions

Doug Barney on Ballmer's future and Apple in the enterprise.

Every pundit worth his salt tries to nab headlines with self-indulgent predictions. Why should they have all the fun? Can't I get a piece? Sure I can, and I will.

Steve Ballmer Prospers: I love the fact that Microsoft is always under pressure. The fact is, most innovation comes from Johnny Come Latelys -- always has and hopefully always will. VMware, Facebook, Google, Netflix, eBay and Amazon -- all of these concerns seemingly came out of nowhere and defined huge new markets.

OK, so Steve Ballmer isn't Meg Whitman, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin or Diane Greene. Mr. Ballmer is not an inventor or an entrepreneur in the traditional sense. Instead, he runs a company much like IBM -- one that services incredibly broad needs for its customers. That's a whole different deal. Mark Zuckerberg, the pasty-faced founder of Facebook, may be worth more than Ballmer, but his company, as good as it is, only does one thing -- it's a Web site. (Here's a hilarious but obscenity-filled send up of Zuckerberg.)

One word describes why Microsoft will be just fine for many years to come: integration. Its products are all about integration. That means each builds on the last, and the fact that they intertwine makes them compelling. Is SQL Server the best database-management system? Probably not. But because it works so well with Windows Server, Office and Redmond's management tools, IT will buy it rather than the best of breed. This philosophy runs across the entire client and server Microsoft line.

Because of this principal, product development -- except in areas of radical change -- can be planned years out. And even when deployment schemes change, as with the cloud, the fundamentals often remain the same.

Microsoft is maturing and should be judged as such. Sure, we expect and want innovation, but when it comes to enterprise software, a long-term, grownup view is more effective.

What do you think: Am I too bullish on Ballmer?

Apple Will Succeed and Annoy: I have a love/hate relationship with Apple. My kids all have Mac laptops and I never have to fix them. The software is outstandingly reliable. The hardware? Well, let's just say AppleCare is as good an investment as Apple stock.

I've second-guessed Steve Jobs plenty of times and he always proves me wrong. But success isn't the only measure of success. While folks still complain about problems with the Windows client (count me foremost among them), at least Microsoft is gunning for the enterprise. To Apple, it seems a dirty word. I guess the old hippy in Steve Jobs still hates the corporate machine, even if he is one. Apple will have another record-breaking consumer year, and through its neglect, will give Microsoft another record-setting enterprise year.

Should Apple enter the enterprise market, and if so, how? You tell me at [email protected].

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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