Live from New York: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Posted by sumeethevans on March 21 2009, 10:14 AM. Posted in Steve Ballmer.

The Microsoft (MSFT) boss is sitting down with BusinessWeek editor Stephen Adler at the McGraw-Hill media conference. Expect at least some chatter about Yahoo (YHOO) and its new boss Carol Bartz, who just happens to be visiting New York this week as well.

Following is paraphrased live notes, unless in quotes. Please refresh your browser for updates.

Starting off with an economy question: Should be believe that recent rally means things are getting better?

SB: The principle we’re operating on is that the economy will contract, reset… and we’ll begin again what I call “regular growth”. We had had abnormal growth fueled by too much debt in the system. I don’t how long that will take. It could take, two, three, four years to get there.

SA: Back to MSFT business. Why don’t you dominate search?

SB: We had to start essentially from scratch about 6 years ago. Essential thesis: Most of the innovation is still come in search. Search hasn’t changed much in the last 5 years, 10 years. “It’s gotten somewhat better, but at the end of the day you search to do something, you don’t search to find links to web pages.” We think there’s a lot of innovation yet to come. We’ve learned that cost of just getting into the game - the table stakes - is a lot higher than we realized in R&D, capex. Google (GOOG) is making that investment, Yahoo can’t, we are.

SA: Isn’t much of this a marketing question, that no one visits you for search?

SB: Yes. But it means opportunity for us. Our brand will differentiate us, and if we can just get 15 or 20% in the next few years, that’s a big step up.

SA: Please tell us about Kumo, your new search product.

SB: Not really ready to talk about it. Need a new name. We update search every 9 months. Going still call it “Live Search” for now.

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