New Delhi: In an interview, Microsoft Corp.’s chief strategy officer Craig Mundie talks about the company, new product launches and its battle with Google Inc. Edited excerpts:
What is your assessment of the economic recovery in the US?
I think we still tend to characterize it as we are approaching a bottom that appears to have some firmness to it, but not anything that would say there is a big rebound that is about to happen. So, we have at least planned at Microsoft for this to be more like a reset and that the growth out of it would be more at typical GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates, and that will be different on a region-by-region basis.
Highly confident: Microsoft’s Craig Mundie says the target for Windows 7 has been remarkably on schedule. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
So, in that context, what really is the outlook as far as IT spending is concerned because that continues to be a big worry and a big question mark?
I think we are certainly seeing some impact this year simply because capital budgets have been constrained. But at least in our sector, there has also been a fairly long period of time where people have been holding back on upgrades. With the arrival of Windows 7 and some of the things that are coming in 2010, we at least are forecasting that there will be a bit of a rebound in that particular component of capital spending and software spending around IT.
Let me talk to you about the big launch, which is Windows 7. I believe the date has now been fixed for 22 October. There have been some delays, haven’t there been?
No, actually. The target for Windows 7 has been remarkably on track. In fact, if you look back about a year, we were actually conditioning people that it might not occur until the first calendar quarter of 2010. So, in fact, we are ahead of that conservative schedule.
How confident are you feeling about the possible success of Windows 7 given what we saw happen with Vista, which even (Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer has proclaimed has been a failure as far as Microsoft is concerned?
I don’t think we characterize this as a failure, but one where we did not come out of the gate quickly. The whole ecosystem wasn’t really prepared and there were other issues around it. I think we are highly confident about Windows 7... It has got rave reviews through a fairly long-testing cycle. I think we have as much confidence in this as anything we have ever done.
What is the status as far as the deal with Yahoo is concerned in terms of the regulatory roadblocks? How confident are you of overcoming those regulatory roadblocks at this point?
It is not an area that I personally track very carefully. It is going through the regulatory reviews at the predicted pace. So, I don’t have any knowledge or reason to be pessimistic at this point.
Have you got an update from the Indian government as far as its UID (unique identification) programme is concerned, because the last time Bill Gates was here, he spoke about how he would actually like to partner with the Indian government for this programme?
We have talked about that. In fact, I brought up that subject a number of times, not just with the Planning Commission, but with others here this week. We think that in general, a very important issue is this question of digital identity, but not just for the citizens but for their computers and ultimately their software, too. So I think we really do want to work aggressively. We think we have some interesting ideas about the most effective ways to implement these identity programmes. In some cases, these go beyond the UID concept that has been advanced so far. So I am hopeful that we will find a way to work with Nandan (Nilekani, head of the Unique Identification Authority of India).
I can’t ask you about the battle with Google and I know Steve Ballmer said our focus is not taking on Google at this point in time, but really, is that the strategy? How do you plan to approach it?
It doesn’t do any good to go on and take on the market leader in any deal if you are not really well prepared. So our first few years was to come up in terms of the basic search and advertising capabilities. Our sense is that we have achieved that...it also doesn’t make any sense to go into the market place in a big way and have a big promotional campaign if you are not fully prepared.
So this issue was super important for us with the launch of Bing. So we have a steady stream of these inventions that we will bring forward now and hopefully that will provide some differentiation.