Keynote Conversation With Steve Berkowitz
[So far this morning I have chatted with Kim Krause-Berg and her hubby Eric, been taunted by Tamar and Barry, and got to buddy up with Danny Sullivan (major thanks to Paul Mooney!) for a bit (He sat next to me. I’m stealing the chair and hanging it in the office.). Oh yes, the official Danny meeting has happened. I can die a happy blogger. Hi Danny!] [So. Jealous. –Susan]
Oh, Microsoft’s Steve Berkowitz is speaking. Apparently, the session has started while I was daydreaming about what a rock star I am.
Steve explains to a packed room that he does product management at Microsoft, which means he helps drive the priorities for what they’re going to be working on. It’s about understanding what the customers want. He says that everyone at Microsoft has a very customer-focused attitude, studying customer research to learn and define what users want. Steve has never seen the organization want to drive towards critical mass more than it has right now. He’s very excited about the company itself and where they’re going to go. Aw, that’s nice. I’m excited about Bruce Clay, too. We’re all pretty cool people.
Danny opens up an important topic and asks Steve how Microsoft will handle the double branding of MSN and Live.com
The easy answer is that Microsoft is trying to extend that affiliation.
According to Steve, software and services are where the world is going. It’s about bringing the PC onto the Web. Microsoft is trying to figure out how to extend the Windows presence, the idea of what Window is, and the value proposition of Windows.
The value of Microsoft will come from user’s ability to take their identity with them using Live ID. As things evolve and new properties emerge, users will able to take who they are where they go, similar to how you can take your cell phone number wherever you go. Windows will become an extension onto the Internet.
One of Microsoft’s focuses right now is getting the products right. If they perfect the products users will be able to mix and match the properties in a way that makes sense for them. You’re going to see Microsoft take Live and integrate more social content. They’re brining lots more current events and UGC into the experience.
Danny asks Steve how Microsoft will win with search. Are they going to do anything to make it pop or are they okay with being number three?
The goal of search is to first reach critical mass in an advertiser’s perspective. And, no, Steve says, it’s not ever satisfactory to not be number 1.
Search will continue to evolve and we’re going to see it evolve in many different ways. There are two different kinds of searches – destination searches and convenient searches. The latter means that users search because they’re there. They’re surfing MySpace and there just happens to be a search box. Steve predicts search is going to evolve to be about where you take the experience of search and that’s what Microsoft is working on. They want to create innovative ways to deliver search where users are. Users want to know what their friends searched on.
He says the search war is not over. It’s about getting the basics right, focusing on that and then moving towards innovating – which is what Microsoft is doing in the Labs.
Danny says that one of the advantages Microsoft has is that they control the OS and the browser. We’ve had these deals where competitors are challenging that. Comments?
Steve calls these deals the "deal of the day". They’re important today, but won’t be over the long term. That will happen because the product still needs to improve and get better.
According to Steve (slightly paraphrased. I’m not a robo typer):
One of the interesting things about being with Microsoft is that when you look at Windows in its purest form it’s a really nice interface. But by the time you get it it’s a completely different interface. You’re getting pop-ups from Symantec, from Google, from everyone. You look at Microsoft and say "why did you do this to me?" But we didn’t do anything to you. At the end of the day the customer is the final decision maker. It’s customer choice to set defaults.
Only not, because Microsoft and Google and working hard to change that. Danny asks if Microsoft will ever not set the default.
Steve laughs. I’m pretty sure that means no. It’s part of the development cycle.
Danny asks if Microsoft will ever partner with Yahoo or Ask.com.
Ms. Dewey has come to life and is now annoying all of us with her presence. No, seriously, she’s here and I hate her. Kim and Eric are both laughing. I am so not amused. Why are they doing this to me?
Make it stop.
She’s still here and Danny asks Steve about the future of Ms. Dewey. Great, now we’re talking about her. Maybe if no one looks at her she’ll just go away!
More talk from Ms. Dewey.
[I’m ignoring all the ridiculous banter thrown out by Ms. Dewey. Trust me, she didn’t say anything important. Only things to make your ears bleed. The guy next to me is totally confused. He keeps asking me who she is and why she’s here. I’m asking myself that second question.]
Steve says that Ms. Dewey represents that search is very much about the UI. It’s a way to deliver information in a different way. (If by different, you mean horribly annoying, then yes.)
Oh, thank goodness. The grand annoyance leaves and now it’s back to the original question — does it make sense to partner with Yahoo or Ask?
Steve can’t answer that.
My goal is to concentrate on organic search. Searchers are using the products, they just don’t use them enough. We want to increase engagement. We want them to use not just Mail or Messenger but all of Microsoft’s properties together. We want to touch consumers in different ways and crack open the vault of stuff Microsoft creates. We’re going to build an amazing business, just by getting our stuff together. I feel so liberated about getting into all these different areas. You’ve got all these people building these great products and now it’s about connecting them.
Danny asks Steve to compare and contrast Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. What puts Microsoft ahead of them and where are there strengths?
Naturally, Steve says it’s not a question about who’s ahead and who’s behind. (*giggle*) We all have great audiences. Where people do better than Microsoft is depth of engagement. The way Yahoo has built across Yahoo traffic. Users are going to see great things from Microsoft in the future. They’re going to see them integrating things in a much smoother way.
Steve things their advantage is its scale and its reach. It’s going to be the things Microsoft surrounds search with that are going to make it that much more enticing and that much better. Microsoft is more than search. (Uh, let’s hope so.)
And now my favorite part of Danny’s interviews – the word association game. Yay!
Google – Amazing
Yahoo – Working hard
AOL – Trying to hold its own
Ask – I love it.
Microsoft – Potential
Steve Berkowitz – Having fun
Such a great keynote and a very excellent way to start a Wednesday morning. Did I mention I got to sit next to Danny and pretend I was important? I did? Oh.