Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer Discusses The Future Of Media, The Company’s Strategy, And Expresses Mystification Over What Google’s Doing In Mobile

“We didn’t get to paid search first, and it turns out that’s the best part of the market,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Washington Post Editors as part of a meeting that explored a range of topics. Among other things, Ballmer discussed Microsoft’s strategy and mission statement, why it aspires to be competitive in search, user privacy, and the future of media. His boldest statement and prediction is that in 10 years there will be no more print magazines or newspapers.

Paraphrasing some of Ballmer’s remarks:

He sees speech, touch, and natural language as interface innovations across devices, including the PC, in mobile and on other types of screens out in the world.

Microsoft is the 10th largest seller of advertising in the United States and the third largest online.

As stated above, Ballmer predicted that there “will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network.” Paper newspapers and magazines disappear; everything comes in electronic form.

He predicts a high degree of automation of the targeting/matching of ads among publishers, advertisers, and users, based on data and historical behavior. “It [the ad platform] gets smarter and smarter and smarter about delivering the right ad in the right place at the right time.” Ballmer adds that business has a killer application: “It’s called search.”

He says that Microsoft has the best long term prospects for being competitive with Google: “The game’s not over, Google hasn’t won.”

“We’re going to have to compete on privacy policies,” Ballmer said as he advocated that multiple privacy standards be allowed to exist in the market but that complete and clear disclosure about those policies be required by the government.

The Post has a discussion in the article that accompanies the video excerpts of the meeting, of additional topics including more detail about the failed Yahoo acquisition, Microsoft’s relationship with Carl Icahn, and Google’s mobile ambitions: Will something happen with Yahoo? Every day is a new day. We’ll see what happens.

We had no contact with Carl Icahn before he bought his stake . . . Obviously, he has talked to some of our folks since then. He’s kind of an independent actor in the thing. I have no clue what [Google is] up to. It’s very hard for me to understand what they are up to…

I don’t know what Google’s angle is because it sometimes looks like Google wants to become a telecommunications company. And yet that may not be right. But that recent thing where they went in with Sprint and the WiMax guys is very confusing to me. I think it’s very confusing to a number of telecommunications companies, as well.

We don’t aspire to buy spectrum and get into the direct-delivery game. . . . It’s unclear to me why any of us would like to jump in and go compete with rest of the cable, mobile and telecom industry. At least we don’t think we do.

If you want to see the video of Ballmer’s remarks, it’s here.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Business Issues | Microsoft: General | Microsoft: Marketing

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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