Balmer's quote comes from a really interesting article in CRN originally pointed out by Richard van der Brugge over at ThinComputing.net. The article is about Microsoft's stormy relationships with independent software vendors (ISVs). ISVs accuse Microsoft of enhancing Windows too much and pushing them out of business. Microsoft defends itself by saying that it will continue to invest $1.5B per year in partners.
"There is always room for innovative work," Ballmer told CRN last Tuesday. "What makes people uncomfortable are changes in the footprint. I point to our relationship with Citrix. It's not always comfortable, but it works. We have engineers who want to do better than Citrix but we're happy to see Citrix succeed."
Of course Microsoft is happy to see Citrix succeed. They're also happy to see Tarantella/New Moon, Jetro, and DAT Panther succeed since every one of these companies' products require full Terminal Server licensing. Microsoft has nothing to lose and everything to gain by people using third-party products. Citrix, Tarantella, Jetro, and DAT, on the other hand, have a lot to be worried about. Balmer said flat-out that Microsoft engineers want to do better than Citrix, and he didn't say that he was going to stop them or even that he disagrees with them.
That $1.5B per year that Microsoft is spending seems like great news for Citrix and the other ISVs. Unformately, they'll have to share it with every other ISV out there. Plus, Microsoft is spending $1.5B on the channel, not just ISVs. That means this money will be split by every ISV, systems integrator, consulting partner, reseller, and system builder. Plus, that same $1.5B also pays for Microsoft's support, training, account management, reward programs, relationship programs, and salaries for 2,500 channel-related employees. I'm not trying to say that the $1.5B is not enough, is just that you shouldn't think that all third-party ISVs will be okay since Microsoft is investing $1.5B in them.
Of course Microsoft can't be everything to everybody. While healthy competition can be good for everybody, Microsoft has a familiar pattern of identifying software products, building their own versions, and forcing the orginal product to have a much smaller market share than they began with. (Think of MS Money v. Quicken, Exchange v. Lotus Notes, SQL v. Oracle, MS CRM v. Everyone, Longhorn AV v. McAfee/Symmantec, MS Office v. WordPerfect, etc.)