Ballmer unveils mashup beta, dismisses Google apps

Microsoft CEO says Popfly tool can help nonprogrammers build Web 2.0 software

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week unveiled a public beta version of the company's Popfly mashup tool while offering his take on the Web 2.0 landscape.

Ballmer told a keynote audience at the Web 2.0 Summit here that the Popfly mashup tool, first announced in May, is built with Microsoft's Silverlight rich media software and is aimed at allowing nonprogrammers to build applications without having to code.

"This is designed for some of that end-user 'programmer' somebody who doesn't necessarily have to be a conehead," Ballmer noted.

Microsoft demonstrated Popfly on the keynote stage, showing how a user could join a blog searching mechanism from blog search engine Technorati with a Friends tracking feature in Facebook to track when friends update content on Facebook.com or are mentioned in the blogosphere.

The new beta version of Popfly adds features that let users publish Popfly applications directly to Facebook, and can be used to create Windows Vista Sidebar gadgets and Windows Live gadgets, Microsoft said.

In his keynote, Ballmer also dismissed efforts by companies like Google and Zimbra to take on Microsoft's Office suite with online personal productivity application suites. The Microsoft Outlook personal productivity software, he noted, is available on a phone or as a rich client application in a browser.

"We think of our job as to deliver productivity," he said. "Outlook is whatever best suits a given user at a given time. What we will do is focus in on delivering the experience and taking advantage of all technology models."

Google's hosted applications might be good for "a few people to collaborate on fairly simple thing," Ballmer said. However, he noted that if users want to do something they would do in Word or Excel, "today, Word and Excel is the best place to do it."

Ballmer also indirectly poked at Google when asked to compare Microsoft's fledgling search business with the big kids on the block. Noting that Microsoft's search business today is akin to a three-year-old "playing basketball with the 12-year-olds, you're going to dunk on the other guys some day!"

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