Making his first keynote speech as president of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer was careful not to upset the crowd?s clearly pro-Macintosh sensibilities. But while he said the company remains ?100 per cent? committed? to the Mac, he also used the opportunity to showcase the Windows-only Chromeffects technology.
Early on in his speech, Ballmer asked for a show of hands - who uses Windows on his primary machine? Somewhat less than half of the audience raised their hands. ?When I spoke here in '91, my sister and I, and maybe a couple of other folks were the only Windows users," Ballmer joked.
This same picture was also reflected in the Seybold exhibition: Macs outnumbered Windows PCs on the show floor, but by a narrow margin.
On the other hand, it was very clear which side the Seybold crowd was on. The publishing professionals at Seybold were clearly happy with the newly invigorated Apple. While Steve Jobs? keynote was frequently interrupted by applause, Ballmer was given a noticeably cooler reception.
Ballmer appeared to correctly sense the atmosphere, and stressed the company?s ongoing commitment to the Mac. ?We are 100 per cent commited," he said, ?just as we were when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates first talked about this a year ago?. Ballmer said Office 98 for the Mac is the best selling Mac version of Office ever, and pointed at Microsoft?s efforts to make NT Server a better server for Macintosh clients.
Ballmer stressed NT Server and Site Server ? while being very cautious not to oversell NT Workstation as a publishing platform.
Ballmer admitted that NT was still lacking many features that publishing professionals crave, such as adequate colour management. He said NT 5.0 would address many of these concerns, but said the ever slipping OS would be merely ?a set of nice enhancements? for the publishing industry. ?I wouldn?t say it?s a radical breakthrough," he admitted.
But at the end of his speech, Ballmer did try to convince Web publishers to use a new technology that, at least for the time being, will only run on Windows.
The recently announced Chromeffects allows Web developers to spice up Web pages with 2D and 3D animations ? but only for the happy few. Web surfers will need 300MHz Windows 98 PCs with an advanced 3D card if they want to see the glitzy effects ? leaving out not only all non-Windows platforms, but even virtually all of the installed base of Windows PCs.
Ballmer admitted that this kind of hardware is not mainstream today. But he said that by Christmas, PCs capable of running Chromeffects will be priced about $900.
Ballmer said Chromeffects will be an add-on for current Windows 98 users, and will be included in the next OEM version of Windows 98. In the autumn, new PCs will ship with the technology installed, Ballmer promised.
When asked, Ballmer would not commit to a Macintosh version of the technology, though he didn?t rule it out either. ?We?ll look at that based on demand," he said.
Responding to a question from 'VNU Newswire', Ballmer denied that Chromeffects amounts to an attempt by Microsoft to turn the Internet into a proprietary, Windows only platform. "No one could do that", he said.
?I think it would be a shame to stop all innovation at this point, and not give Web site developers the opportunity to take advantage of new capabilities," Ballmer argued. ?Some will choose to use [Chromeffects], some will choose not to, it?s really up to the Web site developer."
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