SEATTLE (07/22/99) - When it comes to the PC, Microsoft Corp. is in the midst of a balancing act -- trying to maintain the genre's vitality, in which it has an obvious stake, while at the same time moving beyond the PC with Windows.
That was the message from Microsoft executives at the company's annual conference for financial analysts here today.
In fact, President Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft has altered its original creed, "A PC on every desk and in every home," which dates to the company's inception in 1975, to something a little wordier, and broader: "Empower people through great software anytime, any place, on any device."
"The PC remains the central device … but we certainly admit that there are going to be a lot of other devices," Ballmer said. In particular, he said, "PCs remain red-hot for application development."
However, Jeff Raikes, group vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Sales and Support group, emphasized that the PC is still one of the most significant -- if not the single most important -- cog in Microsoft's strategy.
According to the company's internal estimate, PC shipments increased 16 percent in fiscal 1999, which ended June 30.
"When we look back, we see a year of growing presence of the PC; broadening and deepening usage of the PC," Raikes said.
The Redmond, Washington, duo also discussed the competition facing Microsoft, with Ballmer calling Linux the most important platform competition Windows has seen since the heyday of IBM Corp.'s OS/2. The reason, Ballmer said, is because the open-source operating system is rejuvenating Unix on the Intel architecture.
"Linux is a serious, albeit a little bit crazy, implementation of Unix on the Intel platform," he said.
The Microsoft execs delivered their state-of-the-company presentations three days after the company reported net income for the fiscal quarter, which ended June 30, at US$2.2 billion, up 60 percent from what it reported a year ago. Revenue for the fourth quarter was $5.76 billion, up 39 percent from the same period a year ago.
Nevertheless, Ballmer warned that the company is facing a slowdown -- a message Microsoft delivers every time it reveals its quarterly financial results. He admonished the 40 percent of analysts who, in an informal poll to kick off the conference, predicted the company would see profits rise by at least 25 percent -- $5 billion -- in fiscal 2000.
"It's outlandish," he bellowed. "I encourage, in my own gentle way, a note of caution."