Steve Jobs won’t be center stage this week. Chuq von Rospach, who used to work at Apple, wraps up what that means from an inside-the-Apple sphere.
But there’s another first coming up next week: it’ll be the first CES without Bill Gates on stage.
It is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. The lights will be all on him thanks to Steve Jobs’ decision to not show up on stage.
Now, look at the enterprise videos I’ve been doing this week (I just did another one with Jive Software’s CMO this morning). Do you sense it? This is Steve Ballmer’s big moment. Everyone in the industry is gunning for Microsoft. It’s Ballmer’s big moment to tell them all to “stay off our lawn.”
What must he do?
1. Introduce Windows 7 to us and make it seem a LOT cooler than Vista. Not a hard job, for sure, but he needs to nail it. This is job #1 for him this year.
2. Assure its partners that people will buy computers and its mobile phones in 2009. Next week I’ll be walking around with executives from Best Buy to find out if what Steve said resonated. BestBuy and other retailers are feeling tons of pain right now due to the economic downturn. Can Ballmer offer them any hope?
3. Demonstrate how Microsoft is pushing into new markets. It’s rumored to be bringing out a new version of Sync for automobiles at CES, for instance.
4. Explain why Microsoft Office is still the tool for workers to use, even going into 2010. In a year where entire ecosystems and Google and Salesforce and other companies are gunning for Microsoft (Adobe and Cisco are expected to make announcements for office workers in the next few years). Microsoft is being pressured for both price and functionality. Will Office 14 resonate? A lot will have to do with Ballmer’s big moment.
5. Explain how Microsoft will remain relevant to the living room. At the IFA show (Europe’s Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin) last year I was at the Panasonic press conference where they showed off Google’s YouTube running on one of their 50-inch screens. That is not a good trend for Microsoft who hopes to be able to bring its services into the living room.
6. Show how Microsoft will stay on the mobile leader’s table. Right now they are threatened with being kicked off by Apple, RIM, and Nokia to make room for upstart Google. What Ballmer says and shows next week will determine whether Microsoft has a decent position in 2010 or is seen as a has been.
7. Excite developers. Not just the ones who were using Visual Basic back in 1993, either. They need to get developers to switch their attention from Facebook and iPhone and the web and back to its stuff. Can Ballmer do it? It’ll take a lot more than dancing around on the stage screaming “developers, developers, developers.”
Can Ballmer do it? I won’t bet against the guy.