Ballmer delves into the 'new normal'

Microsoft's CEO sends one of his periodic e-mails, taking a look at how his company is responding to the "fundamental shift" in the economy over the past 12 months.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent on Monday one of his periodic public e-mails, outlining the business realities of what he called "the new normal."

His e-mail comes just ahead of an event in San Francisco where he will talk about the lineup of products Microsoft is launching, namely Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Exchange Server 2010. I'll be covering that event live later Tuesday.

"Today, people borrow less, save more, and spend with much greater caution," Ballmer wrote in the e-mail, which is sent to anyone who subscribes to the notes. "This is the new normal and it will be with us for some time to come. The issue now is how to respond."

Here's the full e-mail:

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Ballmer
To: Ina Fried
Sent: Tue Sep 29 04:08:15 2009
Subject: The New Efficiency

In all the talk about the economy, one term that comes up more and more frequently is something called "the new normal." I like this phrase because it speaks to the fact that economic reality has undergone a fundamental shift over the course of the past 12 months.

So what is the nature of this shift? After years of economic expansion fueled by unrealistic rates of consumption and unsustainable levels of private debt, the global economy has reset at a lower baseline level of activity. Today, people borrow less, save more, and spend with much greater caution.

This is the new normal and it will be with us for some time to come. The issue now is how to respond.

I believe the new normal requires a new kind of efficiency built on technology innovations that enable businesses and organizations to simultaneously drive cost savings, improve productivity, and speed innovation.

Because you are a subscriber to Executive Emails from Microsoft, I want to share my thoughts with you about how information technology can enable organizations to operate more efficiently, more effectively, and more strategically as they respond to the new normal by moving toward the new efficiency.

THE NEW EFFICIENCY: WITH LESS, DO MORE

In the new normal, one thing is clear: cutting costs is extremely important. But cost cutting by itself is not a long-term winning strategy. To build a sustainable competitive advantage, companies must ultimately do two things-increase productivity and find ways to deliver new value to customers.

The issue, then, is how can organizations take costs out of their operations, increase productivity, and expand their capacity for innovation all at the same time?

For years, we've talked about how information technology enables companies to do more with less. But during this economic reset, IT provides business leaders with the answer to a slightly different question: Can my company with less, do more?

Other trends give this question even greater urgency. Workforces are more distributed and employees are more mobile. Government regulations are increasing and compliance requirements are mounting. Data security is more important to preserve and more difficult to maintain.

At the same time, companies struggle with legacy technology systems built on incompatible and disconnected applications that limit access to information and impede collaboration. The complexity of these systems forces IT departments to focus too much of their time and too many of their resources on providing basic services and protecting security.

Today, a new generation of business solutions is transforming IT into a strategic asset that makes it possible to cut costs without crippling customer service or constraining workforce creativity and effectiveness. A new generation of business solutions is eliminating the barriers between systems and applications, and automating routines tasks so IT professionals can focus on high-value work that is aligned to strategic priorities. These technologies can help organizations reduce risk, improve security, and drive down support costs.

This is IT how achieves the new efficiency with less.

At the same time, these technologies streamline access to information no matter where it is stored and enable people to work together securely no matter where they are located. This new generation of business solutions also provides improved mobile computing capabilities so people who work in a branch office, at home, or on the road can be as productive as employees who work at corporate headquarters.

Most important, a new wave of IT technologies offers advanced tools that enable employees to transform insights into innovations that address unmet market opportunities and meet unfulfilled customer needs.

This powerful combination of greater productivity and improved capacity for innovation is how IT enables businesses to do more.

SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW EFFICIENCY

This year, Microsoft is introducing a wave of new software created specifically to enable businesses to tackle their most pressing challenges and strengthen their ability to deliver innovation to the marketplace.

It starts with Windows 7, the newest version of our flagship PC operating system. Windows 7 simplifies tasks and lets people get more done in less time with fewer clicks. Ready to deploy now, it enhances corporate data protection and security, and increases control to improve compliance and reduce risk. Part of our Windows Optimized Desktop solution that includes Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, Windows 7 streamlines management of PC environments, making it easier to reduce costs, improve performance, and enable end users to work anywhere.

These and other enhancements are the result of close collaboration with millions of customers and thousands of IT professionals who participated in testing programs and provided suggestions about the capabilities and improvements they wanted to see. Thanks in large part to their help, Windows 7 is the best PC operating system we have ever built.

We've also just released a new version of our server operating system. Windows Server 2008 R2 is designed to increase the reliability and flexibility of server infrastructures. It provides a productive server platform that offers cost-effective virtualization and business continuity, great power saving capabilities, and a superior experience for end users.

Later this year, we will also launch Exchange Server 2010. The cornerstone of Microsoft's unified communications technologies, Exchange Server 2010 provides a great email and inbox experience that extends from the PC to the phone to the browser and it helps companies archive and protect information efficiently. It also enables companies to reduce costs by delivering a built-in voice mail solution and providing low-cost storage options.

ACHIEVING THE BENEFITS OF THE NEW EFFICIENCY TODAY

Organizations around the globe are already deploying these solutions and reaping the benefits.

At Intel, for example, Windows 7 is providing improved performance, greater application responsiveness, and a better platform for mobile workers. Ford is taking advantage of Exchange 2010 and Windows 7 to streamline communications, improve decision making, and boost productivity. Continental Airlines expects to save more than $1.5 million annually in hardware, software, and operational costs through the server virtualization capabilities of Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V technology.

At Convergent Computing, an information technology consulting firm based in California, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 will eliminate the $40,000 in annual spending that was needed to maintain a virtual private network for the company's 55 employees. In addition, employees can now access the company's corporate network instantly and download files 30 to 40 percent faster than before.

Another example is Baker Tilly, a London financial services firm with more than 2,000 employees and a network of partners in 110 countries. One of the first businesses to deploy Windows 7 on a company-wide basis, Baker Tilly expects to save about $160 per PC by reducing deployment, management, and energy costs. And because Windows 7 improves productivity, it offers the potential to increase billable time for mobile workers at a rate of nearly $600 per PC. This could return the equivalent of one-half of one percent of the company's current gross annual revenue to the bottom line.

Businesses aren't alone in their struggle to respond to the new normal. Governments must figure out how to deliver more services on budgets that are sharply constrained by falling revenue. As part of its response, the city of Miami deployed Windows 7 and expects that it will save nearly $400,000 a year in reduced security, management, and energy costs.

IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR AN ERA OF INNOVATION AND GROWTH

Despite the challenges posed by the global economic reset, I'm optimistic about the long-term opportunities that lie ahead.

I'm optimistic because there are encouraging signs that growth may resume in many parts of the world during the course of the next year.

More than that, I'm optimistic because I believe we are entering a period of technology-driven transformation that will see a surge in productivity and a flowering of innovation.

The new efficiency will not only help companies respond to today's economic reality, it will lay the foundation for systems and solutions that connect people to information, applications, and to other people in new ways. The result will be a wave of innovative products and services that will jumpstart economic growth as companies deliver breakthroughs that solve old problems and serve as the catalyst for new businesses and even new industries.

This too will be the new normal-economic growth driven not by debt and consumption, but by rising productivity and new ideas that provide real value to people throughout their lives. Information technology will play an important role. I look forward to seeing the progress that results.

Steve

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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