My email to Steve Balmer

Steven | multimedia,Random Thoughts | Monday, 12 May 2008 - 16:56

I had the opportunity to see Steve Balmer perform live on stage twice the last couple of months. First at MIX08 in Vegas in March, and last month at the Mix essentials conference in Belgium. I enjoyed both times. Some good entertainment, some good business insights. He knows his stuff and best of all, he’s very passionate about it!

One of the new things Steve Balmer does is shout his email address all over the place. Proving the new and more open Microsoft. Interesting, and that’s what I checked out. So I sent him an email, and got a response!

Steve Balmer So here’s my email

Monday, April 28, 2008 8:23 AM

"Hello Steve / Mister Balmer,

The new and open Microsoft! Glasnost and perestrojka so to say. What better to illustrate this than the CEO of a billion dollar company handing out his email address. I like this, I like your style. But I also want to put this to the test by mailing you directly. Saying and doing, 2 different things.

I don’t intend to prove you won’t answer. I know you’re a busy man, but if you do answer this would mean a lot to me (and others I guess) in terms of respect.

I’ll try to move it one step further, and try to establish some email communication with you, asking some question. I’ll publish anything directly to my blog: – a blog about the cross-section between marketing and technology, the things that keep me up at night.

The question I would like to start with is kind of an observation on terms of marketing the expression suite. The design and development collaboration. Don’t get me wrong, this is an important concern. I’ve been the production director of a development team for quite some years now and I do know the issue and the importance of it. However, the funny thing is, somehow managing to work together is part of the creation process. And it can be improved, it needs to be improved. But it won’t solve the need for craftsmanship, because that’s part of the solution.

To be honest: we never had that many problems building for example flash or php websites, we developed kind of a methodology our own. Building complex ASP.NET websites is an other thing. We did use the .NET technology, no doubt. More in a back-end / business logic configuration that we combined with like a flash front-end. Works great. Lately we do more complex .NET / Silverlight front-end websites as well. Microsoft is a client of ours and it’s only fair. Also fun, no worries. We love exploring and find solutions, but there are some difficulties.

This is more or less a situation sketch, not the real question. You might be familiar with it, or not. Thought it would be a good intro.

I guess the question is: focussing on collaboration, isn’t that somewhat limited and short sighted. I mean, if Adobe releases their collaboration tool (and they will, you probably know), doesn’t your whole strategy and USP break apart. By trying to convince Adobe users now to try Blend of the expression suite because it’s a better collaboration tool, you kind of fool them in the end. They also start with specific expectations Silverlight can’t meet up (yet).

I have an other vision on this, if you allow me.

Development and web development, at this point, 2 different things. I mean the application / forms developers, there’s a huge base of them that the typical web development community never sees. A lot of them use .NET to build their applications. But they don’t build websites or web apps yet.

This is the unused potential! They know about the business logic. They sometimes know about usability, but they rarely know about looks. (So WPF can be big indeed.)

Silverlight on the other hand makes it possible to convert them into multimedia (/web) developers. An other proposition indeed. If we face it we know lot of these app developers never would build rich web applications, and now they can.

So instead of a competitor for Adobe Flash, Silverlight much more is a tool to unleash the potential of application developers to other platforms. And I think this is great!

So let’s close with this 5 cents for now.

Really curious for your answer and your thoughts.

Cheers & take care,


Monday 5 may I got an answer. Only brief. In cc: S. Somasegar

"Interesting input for sure   what do you say soma"

This S. Somasegar is the Senior Vice President of Microsofts Developer Division. So indeed, due to the nature of my email he was more designated to answer my questions. And so he did, only 10 minutes later or so (it was night in Europe at the time).

S. Somasegar

Monday, May 05, 2008 7:43 PM

"Good input, Steven.

What you are suggesting is something that is absolutely on our minds.  More and more application/forms developers (what we call the VB development of the yester-year) are looking to the Web to deliver their applications/experiences.  We need to do some work both on the run-time and in tools to enable these developers to really do web stuff.  This is in our roadmap but is going to be some time before we will have the technology in place to be able to deliver on this.

We started on the let’s go deliver rich media experiences, then we said let’s add the .NET programming model (including a subset of WPF and XAML) to Silverlight to enable RIAs and the next step is to have richer framework and tools support to enable application/forms developers to be able to target Silverlight and deliver via the web.

Thanks again for the note.


So where does that bring us. First I think it’s absolutely great to get an answer. Of course, would be fun to get some more words by Balmer himself, but on the other hand, that’s why there are SVP’s right. So a correct redirection indeed :)

Second, good to hear they’re on what I suggested. Still some work to do and I guess we’ll see it evolve the following years. Focusing on delivering rich media experiences first is in my mind a good starting point. Microsoft has a good experience with video and streaming, so getting this good first is proving their case.

I’m thinking about some new stuff to mail to mister Balmer. Anybody anything you like to ask, I might include it.


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