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WPC: Ballmer Admits 'All In' Cloud Announcement Was 'Scary'

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confessed to being very afraid at the last Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, when the company declared itself "all in" on the cloud.

"Last year's WPC was, for me, scary," Ballmer explained Monday morning during his keynote opening the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, which runs through Thursday.

He described the year-by-year process of telegraphing to Microsoft's community of roughly 640,000 partners how the company was approaching first Software as a Service and later cloud computing, as the industry and Microsoft's strategy evolved.

He said five years ago, Microsoft "mentioned" the cloud, four years ago the company talked about the transition, three years ago it provided some detail and two years ago it provided a little more detail. But in 2010, Microsoft executives said constantly that Microsoft was going "all in" on the cloud.

Ballmer effectively admitted that he had worried that he'd be standing at the front of a cloud parade that partners wouldn't line up behind.

Microsoft's top executive told attendees at the L.A. Staples Center that he was "relieved" that partners came with him, pointing to the record attendance of 15,000 people at WPC as evidence of partners' interest in and support of Microsoft's cloud strategy.

He made the comment while stating emphatically that he appreciated that partners are "independent business people who are coming to work every day cheering for us but also" considering alternatives. "So, you're always pushing us, pushing us, pushing us," said Ballmer, pointing out that it's a role that only partners play -- customers aren't as invested in Microsoft and employees don't have the psychological distance.

For partners that commit to Office 365, Ballmer vowed that Microsoft could beat Google and any other cloud competitor. He made the claim that every deal that Microsoft engages in with the Business Productivity Online Suite/Office 365, the company wins.

But most of his cloud emphasis on Monday was around the cloud infrastructure solutions, such as the Azure platform and the private cloud.

Reviewing the last 12 months since WPC 2010, Ballmer said, "A couple of big things have happened," then he went on to list Windows Server's 75 percent market share for new servers and SQL Server's 40 percent market share for new databases.

In the rest of the speech, Ballmer and other executives made some small-bore announcements, including the availability of a public beta of Windows InTune 2.0, a promise that more would be revealed about Windows 8 at the Build show in September, the holiday availability of voice command and Bing integration with Xbox and that Windows Phone 7 had reached the milestone of 20,000 apps.

However, it was on the topic of Windows Phone that Ballmer got his biggest audience reaction. "Phone: We've gone from very small to very small, but it's been a heck of a year," Ballmer joked to big laughs.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 11, 2011