Microsoft’s head honcho, Steve Ballmer, was not due to make an appearance at the company’s BUILD developer conference taking place in California this week, but he snuck in yesterday to hail the popularity of its nascent operating system update, Windows 8.
We saw Microsoft go though an in-depth display of exactly what Windows 8 is all about earlier in the week, before it made the preview version available for download on Tuesday evening.
By the time Ballmer took the stage yesterday, we was able to announce that 500,000 copies of the OS had been download overnight – however he was wary to point out that Windows 8 is far from being the finished article.
“We still have a long way to go with Windows 8,” Ballmer warned. The big man had little else of note to announce to the audience of developers, and said he only popped in as he was in town anyway to attend an analyst meeting.
Indeed it was at this analyst meeting that arguably the more interesting pronouncements from Ballmer came – in relation to its smartphone OS. He said that while he was pleased with the response from partners and developers to Windows Phone, the handsets have not exactly been selling like hot cakes.
“We haven’t sold quite as many as I would have liked in the first year,” Ballmer said, speaking at the company’s financial analyst meeting. Microsoft has remained very tight-lipped about sales figures for handsets with WP7 since it launched almost a year ago.
“I’m not saying I love where we are but I am very optimistic on where we can be,” Ballmer said. “We’ve just got to kick this thing to the next level.”
While Ballmer believes it has managed to create a viable alternate ecosystem to Android and iOS, it is the addition of Nokia hardware which could give them the necessary sales boost: “With Nokia we have a dedicated hardware partner that is all-in on Windows Phones. They are not doing something on Android or [any other operating system].”
With Nokia’s first Windows Phone handset still due to arrive before the end of the year and the Mango update due any day now, Windows Phone is certainly in with a fighting chance in the smartphone wars, but unless it sees significant growth of its market share, then Ballmer and Co. could be coming under severe pressure from shareholders.