Calling Microsoft 'multicore,' CEO Ballmer prepares analysts for Vista delay

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Redmond (WA)- Not to be outdone by today's news of Intel's release of Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer drew a mental picture for analysts attending today's all-day financial session. Gone were the "focus," "laser-like focus" and, from one point in history, "razor-like focus" used to describe the company when Windows Vista looked like a done deal. Instead, Ballmer said, try to think of Microsoft as a company that does many things, that's involved in several aspects of consumers' lives...you could call it a "multicore" company.

The company must shift its strategy, Ballmer said, toward the delivery of software over the Internet, reviving notions that Microsoft is resurrecting its application delivery model project, which dates back to ActiveX and the year 1999. Supporting this new, Internet-driven system of delivery, he depicted, are "two big muscles," which support the structure of his company the way a dual-core processor supports a modern computer. "I think about us as a business that we might characterize as multicore," Reuters quotes Ballmer as saying today. "We're trying to grow today two new cores: one in online and one in entertainment."

In other words, Microsoft's real, real busy these days, so if you're waiting for something to happen on the Vista front, you're not alone. "We are not a company that starts things and gives them up," Ballmer's quote continues. "We keep working on things and working and working and working."

And working. What investors noted today was another ominous resurrection: specifically, of the term "on track," which Microsoft hauls out of its marketing closet whenever it needs to explain a delay, as in "Vista is on track to deliver in the first half of 2007." Today, Microsoft co-president Kevin Johnson would not even entirely confirm that second half date. Sources quote Johnson as saying, while Vista remains "on track" for 2H 2007, it will only ship "when the product is ready." Later during the meeting, Reuters quoted Johnson as slipping that commitment even further, stating, "We will ship Windows Vista when it is available."

"We are going to ship the product when it is ready and we are just going to take it milestone by milestone," came the most recent Johnson quote from Reuters. He also apparently repeated to analysts, responding to multiple questions apparently driving him to set a firm timetable, the old Ford Motor Company phrase "Quality is Job One," and may have even stated Vista is effectively "on track" to ship "when it's ready."

Investors - many of whom are actually there listening to Microsoft - got the message. Trading in Microsoft shares plunged in value almost immediately thereafter, with late afternoon value on the NASDAQ exchange down almost 2%, to under $24 per share.