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For Microsoft watchers wondering how the company's top executive really feels about his company's search advertising efforts, CEO Steve Ballmer provided an emphatic answer this week to an audience gathered in San Francisco for the Web 2.0 Summit co-produced by CMP Media and O'Reilly Media.
When conference co-host John Battelle, founder of the defunct Industry Standard magazine and the active online ad network Federated Media, asked Ballmer whether he was maybe not so proud of the product so far, he responded "absolutely not, absolutely not."
He then launched into an animated description punctuated with wild gesticulations and sports metaphors that can only be described as vintage Ballmer.
Anthropomorphizing MSN search as a "three-year-old" giving it his all on the court, Ballmer spoke directly to the little tyke, saying "we've got you playing basketball with the 12-year-olds (meaning Yahoo and Google) ... and you're growing up quick...but you're gonna dunk on the other guy someday, Johnny."
When Ballmer jokingly ended by asking what they were talking about, Battelle's retort, "I think we were talking about the Zune," Microsoft's MP3 player that so far has earned only also-ran status, Ballmer laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair.
At one point, I got the feeling that if MSN search had been an actual living entity on the stage, Ballmer would have smothered it with a bear hug. All kidding aside, you gotta love a guy who cares this much about a product group.
And for those of you interested in the serious side of Microsoft's search strategy, the second part of the video clip presents Ballmer listing the four things his company must get right in order to succeed in the market.
For more on the Web 2.0 Summit, click here.
(Editor's note: in case you can't see the "CMP" floating on the screen, this video clip is courtesy of CMP and O'Reilly Media, co-producers of the Web 2.0 Summit.)
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