Steve Ballmer’s trying to set the record straight on Microsoft’s maligned consumer businesses.
“We’re pretty focused in a set of areas we think have big potential,” the Microsoft chief executive said to 180 or so financial analysts meeting in Redmond today.
During his presentation, it was disclosed that Microsoft’s expecting Windows 7 tablets to spread in early 2011 after new Intel hardware emerges.
The company’s also preparing to offer a “personal cloud” to Windows 7 users, including a set of online services for managing and synchronizing files that will come with Windows 7 PCs starting in the third quarter.
The personal clouds include Windows Live services such as the SkyDrive online storage system and online Office applications, with the addition of new sync features for synchronizing and sharing content across various devices.
During a demonstration on a prototype Windows slate computer, an upcoming version of Messenger was used for a video chat by Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows marketing . During a chat session, a user can call up files such as photos from their devices or cloud storage site and share them with the other person.
Another demo featured an application for moving media content across various networked devices. On the top of the screen was a menu of connected devices for outputting the content, including a networked stereo receiver, an Xbox and a TV adapter. Songs and videos could be pulled from a personal cloud to the devices by tapping and dragging the file onto the menu.
The personal clouds extend the “personal hub” concept that debuted on Microsoft’s short-lived Kin phones, which automatically synchronize photos and messages with a companion personal Web site. These hubs will be a key feature of phones running the upcoming Windows Phone 7 software. (Here’s one of Ballmer’s slides from the presentation)
A Windows Phone 7 demo showed how the device draws on both work and personal calendars stored online, displaying both on its calendar. It showed a conflict – a meeting during a Sounders game, so the device was used to adjust the meeting, map travel to the game and find and choose a Chinese restaurant for the post-game celebration. In true Microsoft style, a shopping list for a pre-game party was managed on OneNote and the to-do list was shared with other participants via SharePoint.
Microsoft’s consumer businesses include Xbox, Bing, Windows Phone and mostly Windows and Office. Ballmer said consumers buy two-thirds of the copies of Microsoft’s flagship operating system and productivity suite.
Ballmer reminded analysts that the Windows PC business remains huge. “Overwhelmingly this is the most popular smart device on the planet,” he said.
Ballmer pointed to IDC data saying Windows is on 93 percent of the laptops sold in the U.S., where it’s gaining share over Apple over the last two years.
Microsoft is working hard to get Windows 7 onto the emerging category of slate PCs. Ballmer said the company’s trying to do the same thing to the tablet category as it did to netbooks, where Windows eventually displaced Linux as the dominant operating system.
Ballmer said Microsoft’s counting on a new Intel processor coming in early 2011, saying “we’ll get a boost after the first of the year when Intel brings out its new Oak Trail processor.”
On the Xbox business, Ballmer noted that more than 42 million of the consoles have been sold and more than 25 million of those are connected to the Xbox Live service.
After years of investment in the Xbox business that dug a financial hole, “we certainly emerged wonderfully from that hole,” he said.
Ballmer’s also enthusiastic about Kinect, which he said will enable new applications (and games?).
On Bing, Ballmer said “Our total volume of queries is up close to double year on year.”