The poetry of Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer July 9th, 2012 on competing with Apple:

We are trying to make absolutely clear:
We are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple
We are not.
No space uncovered that is Apple’s
We have our advantages in productivity
We have our advantages in terms of enterprise management, manageability
We have our advantages in terms of when you plug into server infrastructure in the enterprise.
But we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested to Apple]
Not the consumer cloud
Not hardware software innovation
We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself
Not going to happen
Not on our watch.

Steve Ballmer, July 2010 on competing with Apple’s iPhone and iPad:

Today, kind of I’d say one of the top issues on my mind, let alone on your minds, one of the top issues on my mind, is, hey, there is a category that we’ve had Windows on for actually a long time. We’ve had Windows 7 on, tablets and slate machines now for a number of years, and Apple has done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out, and in which they’ve — they sold certainly more than I’d like them to sell, let me just be clear about that.

We think about that. We think about that in competitive sense. And for us, then, the job is to say: Okay, we have a lot of IP, we have a lot of good software in this area, we’ve done a lot of work on ink and touch and everything else — we have got to make things happen. Just like we had to make things happen on netbooks, we’ve got to make things happen with Windows 7 on slates. And we are in the process of doing that as we speak. We’re working with our hardware partners, we’re tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs that they’re bringing them to market. And, yeah, you’re going to get a lot of cacophony. There will be people who do things with other operating systems. But we’ve got the application base, we’ve got the user familiarity. We’ve got everything on our side if we do things really right.

So, we think about these devices and I don’t think there really is one size that fits all. I don’t think everybody wants a slate. I’ve been to too many meetings with journalists who’d spend the first 10 minutes of the meeting setting up their iPad to look like a laptop…

Laptops actually are well designed for a lot of things. I notice they are all light. In fact, if you look around this room, they all weigh zero pounds, because they’re just sitting on the table, you are not holding them and you don’t set them up when you want to type, and they prop up — they have good attributes. But some people are going to want that form factor. Some people are going to want probably a screen that they take with them and maybe they throw it back into the keyboard. Some people are going to want a device that is screen and keyboard that spins around for inking purposes. Some people are going to want things very light or very cheap or very expensive or very powerful. All of those things are going to be important, and we’ve got a push right now — right now — with our hardware partners.

… We’re coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows. No — there’s — let me be unambiguous. A new Windows Phone for screen sizes that, let me just say, are, you know, sort of bigger than three or four inches — the answer is Windows Phone. We are in the game. We’re all in the game today with Intel architecture machines. We’ve got improvements coming from Intel. We’re driving forward. We’re unambiguous about that. Now, where we’ll go and what’s going to matter — I said also in my remarks that in no way will we allow hardware to be the impediment. We will embrace what we need to embrace over time in terms of hardware evolution.

But you say to me are we going to see slate? Yes. What processor are they going to have? They are going to have an Intel architecture processor at least in any foreseeable future. Are they going to run Windows? Yeah. Will it be tuned? Yes! And we are going to sell like crazy. We are going to market like crazy. We have devices that will run more applications, that have as much content, that have anything you want on the planet.

And we have an ecosystem of developers that know how to write applications for that thing. Believe me, as I think everybody knows, you can buy two PCs for the price of one iPad — two netbooks today for the price of one iPad. So, people are sitting there over-celebrating BOM costs and blah, blah, blah. We and Intel can get our job done and know how to make money. There’s good money for everybody in the ecosystem to go make.

I talked about power. We’ve got work we have to do with hardware partners, with Intel. There’s certainly some work to be done there. And over time where we go is where we go. But at least in the timeframe that which anybody does these models, for example, let’s go. Let’s go and we’ll be in market as soon as we can with new devices, whether that’s, you know, really, really soon or just really pretty soon. I’m going to wait until I have the device that I want to hand you and tell you to go use, or a collection of devices. I think that would be the appropriate time to say it is time. But it ain’t a long time from now. Pardon my English…

On the netbook, nor the slate, if it’s two weeks one way or the other, or it’s a month, I mean, let’s not speculate, let’s merely say when you get your Windows 7 machine, it will print. Let’s just start with that. I mean some people actually like to print every now and then. Ours will print. I’m not trying to say that other guys aren’t doing good work. I’m not saying that. We’ve got to ‑‑ come on, every day. Every day you come to work you have to prove yourself, prove yourself, prove yourself. We’ll prove ourselves. …

I relish the competition. I relish holding up those couple of machines today that I wanted to hand you. It’s not today. I’ll relish doing it tomorrow. Bring on ‑‑ particularly if with the application base, with the tools that we have, with the user understanding and momentum and everything going on, we can’t compete with ‑‑ particularly whatever the weird collection of Android machines is going to look like, shame on us.

Apple is Apple. They’re always a little tougher to compete with. They’re a really good competitor, and tend to be a really high-priced competitor. People worried a little bit about our bottom costs. They’ve got a lot of margin in those devices, which creates a lot of room in which to operate. Okay. We’ve competed with Apple before. I talked about that.

We’ve been competing with Macs, and I notice in this audience you get one profile for the 93 percent of people almost who agree with us every day about laptops. We’re going to have things that should be interesting to them. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be exciting. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to pay attention to shareholders. It certainly means we’ve got to pay attention. But, at the end of the day kind of what makes life kind of interesting, kind of fun, and you’re going to see very interesting things.

Steve Ballmer, January 2007 on competing with Apple’s iPhone and iPod:

Right now, well let’s take phones first Right now we’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year. Apple is selling zero phones a year. In six months they’ll have the most expensive phone by far ever in the marketplace and let’s see. You know what’s so special…? Let’s see how the competition goes.

In the case of music and entertainment players Apple absolutely has the preeminent position We said we want to be in this market. There’s a lot of reasons why. There’s synergy with other things that we’re doing. We’ve got some neat innovations. In particular, what we’re doing with community, with wireless networking. And we came into a market in which they’re very strong and we took, you know, about, by most estimates, I would say we took about twenty, twenty-five percent of the high-end of the market. We weren’t down at some of the lower price points but for devices 249 dollars and over we took, you know, let’s say about twenty percent of the market. So I feel like we’re in the game. We’re driving our innovation hard. Ok, we’re not the incumbent. He’s the incumbent in this game but, uh, at the end of the day he’s gonna have to keep up with an agenda that we’re gonna drive as well.

  • deemery

    Ballmer: “Not on our watch.”

    I’ve been saying since before the Vista debacle that I really do not understand why Ballmer is still running Microsoft (into the ground…) They’ve been behind the power curve on almost everything they’ve done since Bill Gates left, and they have the substantial losses to show for it.

    Microsoft does have a lot of advantages, it’s too bad they can leverage these into any new markets. Rather, they’re still capitalizing on the monopolies (particularly MS Office), but they’re starting to get pressure on those fronts from Google in particular. What happens when “no one gets fired for buying Microsoft” is no longer acceptable in corporations?

    • “They’ve been behind the power curve on almost everything they’ve done since Bill Gates left”

      It’s not like Microsoft was in the forefront of technology when Bill Gates was in charge. Internet browser? late. Word processor? late. Spreadsheet? late. GUI? late.

      Microsoft’s strength was not being on the edge: it was copying and iterating until they are good enough and kill the competition. And about leveraging their monopolies, of course.

      Balmer’s MS just hasn’t been able to make good copies and iterate well enough, except perhaps with the Xbox.

      • deemery

        But in the Gates era they were able to come from behind, through a combination of smart investment (buying companies/products) and market management.

        In the Ballmer era they have done neither smart investment nor been able to work the marketing to come from behind and grab the lead.

      • darwiniandude

        In the Gates era, they didn’t have Google as a competitor, (android business model seems largely modelled on windows) and they certainly didn’t have Apple as a competitor. Microsoft largely got ahead because Apple did little but tread water for 10 years.

      • Also, in the Gates era technology wars were decided by corporate IT. Now they are decided by consumers. Not a Microsoft strength…

      • freediverx

        Thank goodness for that. And also that consumers finally realized that a product’s value is determined by more than a list of specs on the box and the up front purchase price.

      • In the Gates era they had two great advantages:

        (a) they didn’t need to sell to individuals, they only needed to sell to organizations. This is a different type of task, and one they built the company to solve. They created a machine that was very good at checking boxes and ensuring that every little weirdness of the sort of an IT person might whine about was covered.
        (b) there was a long period where MS was staffed at the higher levels by people more interested in and familiar with computing than Apple. This meant that MS, from basically as soon as it was practical, took seriously the idea that it needed a modern class OS with process separation, multi-tasking, VM, multi-CPU support, etc. During this whole period Apple dithered, kinda sorta thinking about Copland, but not seriously, kinda sort thinking about Taligent, but not seriously, and with few inside the company caring much about the weak OS foundations.
        This mattered because the MacOS weaknesses meant that MacOS was NOT an unequivocal slam dunk against Windows; in particular the always loud and listened to alpha-nerd class could sing the praises of Win NT and how much more pleasant it was to work on, and convince (with justification) a great number of other developers. And so we got the rise of so many of the Window-specific domain-specific apps — dental software, accounting software, legal software, cash-register software.
        [In this same category some would add Developer Studio. I’m less sure about that. Personally I loathed Dev Studio, even when the underlying OS was a whole lot more robust for development; but I appear to be an exception among my peers.]
        So MS really had both the communities that mattered at the time — IT managers and developers; and at least one of these was Apple’s own damn fault.
        What happened? Well strengths, in excess, become weaknesses.The first strength, in excess, becomes an MS terrified to change anything ever, and so we get the Windows of today, with seven different APIs to do anything, and never any clear decision as to a future direction for .Net vs Win32.

        The second strength, feeding off the first, fell apart once Apple inherited from NeXT a corp of engineers who were not just well aware of the advantages of a better OS, but were also aware of how to translate those same advantages into a better UI framework. In many ways the story of the API side of OSX since version 10.0 has been of successively adding the equivalents of process management, VM, multi-core support, etc to a UI framework. It’s been a more difficult and slower process than laying the core OS simply because it’s heading into new territory, covering ideas that have never been used before.

        (A more brutal version this second point would be that MS has never done an original thing in their life. They knew, in creating NT, what they were targeting as a VM/UNIX hybrid, so could do that successfully; but with no role models to copy from as to how to create a modern UI framework, they didn’t know how to do that.

        A kinder version might be that they were — and still are — trapped in chains of their own devising. After pouring so much money and effort into a COM-based world, they lost their nerve when it came to implementing .Net and fell prey to classic Clayton Christensen. Unwilling to disrupt themselves, they stood still and others did it for them.)

        The point is — it’s not clear to me that Gates would have fared any better.
        We have one example of Gates pivoting on a dime, the whole “the Internet is the future” thing. But Gates doesn’t seem to have pushed .Net at all; and for all I know he was on the winning side in that argument, the side that insisted it was better to stick with the known and developed Win32 API than aggressively push this very new concept.
        Gates by temperament, was a conservative. He instilled the ethos of Windows (and DOS) backward-compatability no matter the expense. He stuck with BASIC as his baby long past it’s sell-by date. It looks to me that Ballmer is doing exactly what Gates would have done — stick with the past because the past has been good to us.

      • Microsoft’s growth and success is rooted in low end disruption. They approached many markets as commoditization opportunities. For example the “low end” Office vs. Lotus, Exchange vs. Novell, IE vs. Netscape, etc. The last major low end innovation attempt was Xbox but it ended up diverted into a sustaining head-to-head fight by its second version. Efforts in the device space have never taken hold because Microsoft’s approach was never low end disruptive and the company does not do new market innovations.

      • Louis

        The other common thread there is a non-linear network effect associated with the DOS/Windows platform. Microsoft’s problem with devices seems to be that such an effect barely exists for devices. (Or even is negative, in the sense that iOS appears to have helped out OS X.)

      • Mike Wren

        Their success with Exchange points the way to Microsoft’s future. Except for the Xbox, I expect them to lose out in the consumer space. And even the Xbox will fade over time as the Apple TV gains the ability to run apps and use game controllers. Home Mac users will demand to use them at work, much the way that has happened with the iPhone and iPad. So Microsoft will continue to lose Windows on PC share and will never gain much tablet and smartphone share. Office will hang on longer. After all, people use it on the Mac. Long term Microsoft will go the way that IBM went and that HP and Dell are going – enterprise software and services. And IBM is very successful.

      • Walt French

        Might fade even faster than you realize: headlines today about a huge drop in console game sales, and a post noting how XBox screens are used heavily for advertising, not game revenues.

    • KirkBurgess

      They should be embracing apple instead of fighting, 100 million iPads will be sold this year – 100 million potential users of Microsoft Office for iPad.

      • Agree. It’s completely baffling that they wouldn’t have some form of Office on iOS. But then we all know the iPad isn’t for content creation. /snark

  • rodney dawkins

    Can’t be a Gangster they are more articulate I’m presumably

  • Axel

    That is a depressing collection of words, Horace. It really is just about dollar signs for that guy.

  • rimzy

    in other words, Ballmer’s proclamations are all a bunch of hot air. what a doosh.

    • Horace the Grump

      I believe the term is ‘douche’.

  • Ballmer needs to learn to speak publicly.

    “We are trying to make absolutely clear:”
    Well, good, you’re at least trying. Take responsibility and don’t mish-mouth. Go with

    “I want to make this clear”.

    .”We are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple”

    Uh-oh, double negative land. They’ve decided against leaving an uncovered space, hmmm. On a tactical note, it sounds like Apple’s set the agenda (it has) and Microsoft is playing catch-up. Not good from the mouth of a CEO. Should have said

    “We are competing aggressively on all fronts.”

    “We have our advantages in productivity
    We have our advantages in terms of enterprise management, manageability
    We have our advantages in terms of when you plug into server infrastructure in the enterprise.”
    Ballmer never learning about speaking efficiently to retain listener interest. Try “We have advantages in productivity, enterprise management and ease of integration.”

    “We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself.”
    Wow. I mean wow. It sounds like a tactic admission that Apple is running away with mobile by itself. By saying that, he is admitting that Microsoft and its partners to date have let Apple take mobile but now things will change. Big talk, big man.

    Not going to happen
    Not on our watch.

    Already has. Its hail-mary pass time, and you’re now just learning about supply-chain issues for your Surface cases. Ut-oh. Now wonder Apple locked Tim Cook in for the next decade. You might get a little more traction without the bravado.

    Something’s in the water at Microsoft that causes management to not consider what and how they say things. Botched message re OEMS with Surface competition. Elop leaving MS to helm Nokia, only to telegraph to everyone to stay away from any Nokia products for the foreseeable future. MS should zip it. Develop a tightly defined, long term message and then carefully control interview settings and personal so they tow the company line, verbatim. Only then will people start to believe that Microsoft isn’t flailing about and know what they’re doing.

  • Wow, sounds like Ballmer has a serious fixation on Apple 🙂

    I hope the Surface is successful; I’d love to see MS become known for its innovation and design.

  • Horace: PLEASE leave Mr Ballmer alone. He remains the best thing that ever happened to Apple. Perhaps you should review the following video:

    • barryotoole

      LOL. Very apt.

  • vincent_rice

    Ballmer’s continued reign at Microsoft is utterly mystifying.

    • N8nnc

      Ballmer’s continued reign at Microsoft is utterly gratifying (to watch)

      There. Fixed that for you.

      • vincent_rice

        I see what you did there…

    • r.d

      apparently it is to protect their monopoly
      business of Windows and Office.
      Microsoft’s revenues have tripled in 12 years.
      It is just that Apple’s have kind of overshadowed
      that thus we have Microsoft envy of consumer market.

      • Henry_3_Dogg

        MIcroSoft’s share price is the sage as it was 13 years ago. Before the .com bubble.

        Is that Apple envy too?

        I don’t think so.

    • Anal.lyst

      If Monkey boy Ballmer didn’t own so many shares of MSFT he’d have been gone YEARS ago.

      Much like the story of the Brothers Rimm.

      Often you read/hear that investors want the executives of a company to have a lot of shares in the company so that they’re interests are aligned with the other shareholders. Well, here are two examples where that is NOT a good thing for other shareholders.


    • Jens

      Not if you realize that he’s only there because Gates appointed him. And Gates is no person to admit a mistake. Case in point: Tablet Computers…

      Funny how how history repeats itself over and over…

      • Henry_3_Dogg

        Gates was not wrong about tablet computers. He thought that they were the future.

        He just didn’t have the talent to bring that future to fruition.

      • They’re hypnotized by a static vision: Windows on every desktop. Now that most computing devices are not “on the desktop,” they are stuck with an outmoded slogan. The PC market is shrinking. Mobile phones, tablets, and so on, don’t need a Windows-sized OS, they just need to sync with desktops and/or the cloud. “But I can’t use it for full-sized Word, Excel…” No, you can’t. But you can take pictures of your locations, if you’re a film producer, and show everybody in design what they have to work with, instantly over the phone or tablet. You can make a storyboard on your tablet, and share it with the production staff on their desktops, or their iPads. You can’t do those very business-oriented activities on your desktop. You’d have to take your tower computer to the location and hunt for a power supply.

  • dgrayson98

    What CEO and company does this incomprehensible pile of confusion remind me of? Jim Balsilie and RIMM. Probably the same outcome, just on a larger scale.

    • Mike Wren

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. This is an excerpt of my comment for Horace’s article about RIM, “The highway to hell”, on 6/1: “Compare the rambling, incoherent original RIM co-CEOs to the concise, profound Steve Jobs. If you can’t describe the job to be done in a way that the customers and employees can understand then how can you compete with the iPhone [and iPad]. … not being able to speak and think clearly is the root cause [of RIM’s failure] and for that management was to blame. A fish rots from the head(s).” My comment about RIM also hold’s true for Ballmer.

    • N8nnc

      A good story is easy to tell. A bad story is hard for even the most eloquent to spin.

    • David

      As the old saying goes, “engage brain before opening mouth”.

  • Dockweiler Jones

    Is it just me, or does Ballmer remind anybody else of Monty Python’s quadriplegic Black Knight, screaming at Apple: “Come back here you coward; I’ll bite your ankles off!”

    • Henry_3_Dogg

      Perhaps still at the one limb stage, but soon.

      And look, there are all the so called IT managers, with no real IT knowledge, just Windows, lining up to sing “look on the bright side of life”

  • The man is a goober of Olympic proportions.

    • freediverx

      Or in Steve Jobs’ words, a bozo.

  • The misguided Ballmer:

    “Believe me, as I think everybody knows, you can buy two PCs for the price of one iPad — two netbooks today for the price of one iPad. ”

    Who would want a $250 ($200) netbook? Let alone, two of them.

    “Ours will print.” (referring to the Wintel platform)

    So what? That’s not on anybody’s radar, but yours.

    The I’ve got a Surface in my hip pocket Ballmer:

    “There’s certainly some work to be done there. And over time where we go is where we go.” (referring to working with the hardware manufacturers)

    The Surface was where we ended up. Is this Plan B?

    Horace, you really needed to add the quote about iPhone competition, when Ballmer said, “I like our chances, I like ’em a lot”, or words to that effect.

    • I don’t know what Ballmer means when he say “will print” but maybe he should have a look at AirPrint
      I set this up at our office in 5 min so now we (or a visiting client) can print from their iPhone/iPad. Funny thing is that no one use it.

      • Barry Nathan

        Ballmer said that in July 2010. The iDevices (including iPad) didn’t get AirPrint until iOS 4.2.1 in November 2010.

      • freediverx

        Again, demonstrating his shortsightedness.

  • febsee

    Horace, whats the “job to be done” by your blog? I have been using it to learn. You blog posts and analysis have been helped me learn a lot. However, such posts really seem to serve no purpose. People have points of view. One cannot characterize a person just by things he says on a few occasions without setting the appropriate context. I would expect such posts in sites like businessinsider etc, but reading this post on your blog just tarnishes your brand.

    • Chris

      I think it’s a subtle way for Horace to illustrate how disruptive technologies, like the iPhone and iPad, take incumbents by surprise. In 2007, when the iPhone was launched, Ballmer the incumbent basically dismissed it entirely. In 2010, the year of iPad 1, Ballmer’s tone is a bit more serious, but he still feels like he has Apple under control: we have competed with them before, and we can do it again. Last week, Ballmer’s tone is of a frantic nature. What I learned from this post is how the incumbent’s CEO was caught by surprise, and by the time the is an urgency to his dialogue, it is far too late.

      • Klasse

        I agree with this completely. The post does a brilliant hob of highting how the mentality within MS has changed over time. Reading between the lines you can see e.g., how seriously they view apple as a competitor at a given point in time. This mental stance is a precursor to a competitive response.

        Of course, what Ballmer says in public may not actually reflect what he really thinks, but we do have hindsight on Microsofts actions after the 2007 and 2010 comments. And judging by their actions I have no reason to believe that Ballmer was not being sincere.

    • Tim F.

      The quotes may go on too long; on the other hand, the entire Innovator’s Dilemma can be read in Ballmer’s quote in relation to touch computing (which is likely disrupting the entire PC/computing market).

    • The characterization is left to the reader. I did not write anything but the title. I think there are clues in the quotes about the development cycle of the Surface product. I also think the quotes offer insight into the evolution of strategy in response to a threat (i.e. Gandhi’s “First they fight you…”) I have some thoughts on this but I did not want to bias the discussion.

      • r.d

        Horace, you missed my earlier post saying the quote is
        not from Gandhi.

  • Micromeme

    So is this an indication that once more he’s going to fail against apple or is it an indication that he’s screwed up by not noticing that in mobile his lead competitor is android/google

    • Good question.

    • KirkBurgess

      It depends if you are talking about smartphones or tablets – marketshares are very different in those two markets.

      However profit share in both markets is overwhelmingly led by Apple.

      • micromeme

        in phones apple has great profit share its true, their margins mean in a $600 phone they get ~40% or $240. But notice that microsoft is not following any model that would compete with that, if I understand correctly licensing windows phone whatever is ~$10-20 per phone. so to get apples profit they would need to capture something like 14x apples volume? that doesnt make sense at all if you are doing it for the profit, you have to be doing it for the eyeballs as google is (for secondary service, advertising mindshare whatever).

    • Walt French

      More than anything else, I take the 2010 promises as a sign that Microsoft cannot be assumed to follow through on their “strategic directions.” When you’re trying to turn around an aircraft carrier, full of missions that need to be continued, there will necessarily be some imprecision (to say the least). Some of that is hard because it’s the level of disruption that Detroit suffered through when Japan started selling cars into the US, only 30+ years compressed into 3.

      Still, I think Ballmer is signaling that they have not built in a culture of strategic direction—they’ve been just coasting along a path of least resistance for years, it seems—and it will take them several years to have Apple-like focus and ability to tackle tech changes.

    • Walt French

      Oh, regards Google. No, Microsoft recognized decades ago that Google was a major competitor. They just presumed that Google would content itself with the territory it won in the last war. Yeah, Microsoft has done a couple of “new” things, notably the Kin and its cloud program, but mostly it has made the mistake of letting go of the notion that Google wanted ALL of its business.

      • micromeme

        true things, but what I was referring to were two aspects I found odd from Ballmer’s comments
        –> Ballmer says he’s going to do every area apple does–
        a) that betrays that he has no focus, no sense that his strategy has a do this and do not do that component (remember the dilbert cartoon) that is a company with no strategy at all.
        b) but one of the things he’s going to do is build better phones/ecosystems (because apple does? not a good reason) — but in any case that fails to notice that google/android is actually bigger than apple on phones and so why is he aiming that way. (especially flawed since he’s following the os licensing model that google uses, not the vertical approach apple has) his problem is to beat google/android. ie if he wants to take share from someone there is more of it to get at android… does he even know this?

    • Henry_3_Dogg

      Ballmer wants to be an Apple, not a Google.

      He wants to make money selling Software, Computers, Phones, Content.

      He doesn’t want to give software away to make money from advertising in competition with Google.

      His problem is that although Google make no money from Android, it’s dominance of the medium and low end of the market effectively blocks Microsoft out of an easy way in and means that MS has no option but to try to compete with Apple head on. And they are patently ill equipped to do that.

    • Ballmer & Co. have a strong penchant for counting success in terms of profit; therefore, their perceived arch-enemies are those making the most money.

      Android as a class of phones makes more profit than Apple, but neither Google nor any one phone manufacturer makes anywhere near Apple’s profit.

      • Simon

        “Android as a class of phones makes more profit than Apple”

        Somehow I doubt that. Horace ran numbers a few times to show that’s definitely not the case. Revenue and unit numbers, yes, not profit, even when you combine all the phones.

      • Android as a class of phones most certainly does not make more profit than Apple (or the iPhone).

      • micromeme

        it seems an often held opinion that microsoft and google in some sense chase apple because apple is so profitable. however both use a model in phones where at best they would make $10-20 per handset. So by choosing the many hardware distributors and one OS maker model– and by choosing to price their OS at the 10-20$ per handset range it seems to me that both Microsoft and Google are actively saying I am not interested in apples profits, because I am pursuing a model that can not mathematically get there. I would have said they are conciously chasing eyeballs or unit share not at all profit or profit share…
        does this seem consistent with what is observed or am I missing some large profit potential in the strategies of microsoft or google?

      • micromeme

        it seems an often held opinion that microsoft and google in some sense chase apple because apple is so profitable. however both use a model in phones where at best they would make $10-20 per handset. So by choosing the many hardware distributors and one OS maker model– and by choosing to price their OS at the 10-20$ per handset range it seems to me that both Microsoft and Google are actively saying I am not interested in apples profits, because I am pursuing a model that can not mathematically get there. I would have said they are conciously chasing eyeballs or unit share not at all profit or profit share…
        does this seem consistent with what is observed or am I missing some large profit potential in the strategies of microsoft or google?

  • WFA67

    Sorry, I couldn’t bare to keep reading. If his thinking is as discombobulated as his speaking, it explains a lot.

  • Walt French

    My wife says you can happily listen to good poetry in a language you don’t understand. I imagine, reading the latest words, hearing simulated testosterone-addled boastfulness and perhaps a tinge of anxiety replacing the condescension from earlier years.

    Myself, I’m more prone to make mental images from the text, and I am struck by the vacuity of the promises. The 2010 talk is rife with vague and eventually unfulfilled promises. Why would a very experienced, very smart and very powerful CEO tarnish his reputation with soon-to-be-discarded allusions to a tablet in weeks or months, undefined “new devices” real soon or pretty soon, and bald-faced lies that he sees journos take 10 minutes to set up an iPad to take notes? And the latest boasts, more appropriate to WWF actors, suggest the ice cream has fallen out of his cone.

    Chris makes a very sound case for the Disruption Theory take on this, below, but really, the poetry has something else again.

    • Why would Mr. Ballmer make allusions to tablets, undefined new devices, and bald-faced lies?

      MS has a history of that. It’s called ‘FUD’, for ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt (though I’ve always thought it meant ‘fxxked up drivel’). What MS tries to do is to freeze a market. They had great success with this in the 80s and 90s: whenever a smaller competitor came along with something cool, MS would reply, “yeah, we’re working on the same thing, and ours is way better”. They’d show a ‘prototype’ (e.g., Bill Gates demoing ‘Cairo’) and the tech journalist crowd would cheer and walk away writing “MS will continue to dominate”. The venture capitalists and industry leaders would back away from all things non-MS, and MS would continue to print money as the small competitors died. And the prototypes? From Cairo to Courier to (I predict) Surface, they never do quite ship, do they.

      Ballmer continues to do this. It’s what he knows. Windows-everywhere, MS-everywhere, we’re going to do this and that, it’s all FUD. And it’s exactly the reason why they’re failing — they are sampling their own product, as it were.

  • Habeeb Hashim

    It gave me a headache just reading his July ’10 rambling. Succinct it was not.

  • Allen Ginsberg

    Transcribed speech never reads like written language; nor should it. Nevertheless, I hear an updated Beat poetry. Note the number of times Mr. Ballmer uses a form of the verb “go”. E.g., “And over time where we go is where we go.” Don’t think I could improve on that. Is it worth noting that the first Beat novel was entitled “Go”?

    • macyourday

      I thought the suggestion of poetry was merely satire. It hurts my eyes and brain even more than my ears (if I could listen). These transcriptions serve to clearly display the incoherent rambling and lies, probably induced (since the iPhone) by panic and chronic anxiety. Unfortunately he is typical of the majority of modern CEO’s (if somewhat louder), hence the disastrous performance of many large companies and corporations over time.

      • freediverx

        For some reason Gates also has that same rambling, annoyingly incoherent style of speaking, but without the pompous voice and mannerisms.

        The gene that controls speech might be associated to the one that governs taste.

  • r.d

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.Describing the stages of a winning strategy of nonviolent activism. There is no record of Gandhi saying this. A close variant of the quotation first appears in a 1918 US trade union address by Nicholas Klein:
    And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

    • Bananaman

      That’s also what happened to The Banana Republic of America.

  • To quote Horace quoting Clay Christensen quoting John Lilly quoting someone else, “the next big thing is always beneath contempt.”

  • For those who think Ballmer’s speech is incoherent..wake up! In fact this is a classic sign that MS is taking things seriously. Read all the points he covers, he touches upon everything that impacts Windows ecosystem, has highlighted all that he perceives as strengths that MS platform brings to the table. Of course Ballmer is in bit of a denial about the tectonic shift of a post-PC world but at least the guy is trying to fight with what he has instead of ignoring the whole thing.

    • Mike Wren

      If your audience can’t understand what you are saying then what’s the point of speaking? Maybe if I reread his quotes above several times I would understand it better but no one should have to do that.

      • Mike, okay, you do have a point there. Ballmer is no smooth talker, can’t expect that from someone who stomps on phones and throws chairs..but the guy has nerve to fight back on his own terms instead of ripping where credit is due I guess.

    • capnbob67

      The classic failure of his most recent comments is a total dissonance between his objectives and his approach… “We will not cede any consumer markets” then proceeds to highlight only enterprise strengths. Ballmer is clutching at straws in his efforts to gee up shareholders and devs to think that MS’s historical strengths have any real bearing on the current and possible terminal issue of consumerization.
      MS is in deep trouble as demonstrated by the desperation in their actions. They are risking to some degree all of their cash cows in the attempt to remain relevant:
      1) Gutting OS upgrade fees and lowering RT license fees
      2) Throwing away traditional Office revenues on Surface RT
      3) Angering their OEM partners with the Surface(s)

      There are potential mitigations for each e.g. maybe they sell more OS upgrades since they are cheaper, Office license is built into the Surface price and may be lower but has 100% penetration of the installed base, etc. but the point still stands that they are fundamentally changing the essence of their traditionally successful operating model in the face of Apple and Google attacking from places where MS has little/no reach.

      • Agree, there is some desperate reaching out for any foothold towards future relevance. But do view it from his perspective too, even though MS has ceded a lot of ground, confessing that to his core audience is not an option that he will take now..perhaps when there is a Nokia-esque “burning platform” scenario then it would make sense.

        Btw, have nothing to do with MS. Having worked in a large enterprise, I sort of understand the predicament Ballmer is in. Besides it is easy for the majority to make comments, without having been or dealt with a situation like that.

    • Walt French

      Yes, Microsoft recognizes a problem, but no, you cannot go back to the 2010 or earlier statements and read a strategy that has been building for years. If anything, Win8 seems to be a rushed, “put ‘mobile’ features on Windows” effort that only makes the product MORE complex and confusing to consumers.

      And I believe that Windows complexity/flexibility, while great for IT experts, is utterly anathema to success with the billions of people who are buying smartphones and more focused tablet devices.

    • freediverx

      Thanks for the chuckle.

  • I think he forgot to say one small thing: they (Microsoft) already covered most of those spaces, he’s talking about, unsuccessfully. I hope he’s aware about Surface (PixelSense), Zune, Kin-Sharp, Danger and why not Xbox!

  • Ian Ollmann

    There is lot of talk about business strategy, but precious little about product. This time around, I think MS needs to have a better product, because they can’t be the good enough, low price competitor when another entrant is already well established and free. They can’t afford to undercut that. Android is their problem, not Apple.

  • grawlix

    Ballmer’s key weakness is exposed by the paragraph:

    “And we are going to sell like crazy. We are going to market like crazy”.

    He still thinks he can sell any old thing to the Microsoft user base, every day of the week, if only he spends enough on advertising.

    • Walt French

      This is the problem with targeted messaging being read by the wrong audience.

      Marketing people NEED to believe that they can sell the products with sufficient (and well-focused) effort. Developers, consultants and IT departments with large MS investments NEED to be reminded that continued effort on their part will succeed. Hardware partners NEED to envision an environment where some nice hardware will, thanks in part to the new OS, sell in the millions.

      So what if it doesn’t do anything for the consumer? They won’t ever hear that message.

      Analysts— serious ones,anyway, as Mr. Hénault reminds us— ought to be able to read through these statements and evaluate the combination of what is present and what exists, but is missing from these words, before claiming there is nothing else.

      I, for one, am astonished at how little Microsoft has managed to create a credible consumer initiative, or to craft products that appeal to people who think of themselves as a bit tech savvy, but find Microsoft’s products with too much of an up-front learning curve.

  • Bernhard Grabowski

    Some people tend to forget – Bill Gates on the iPad in 2012:

    “You know, I’m a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard – in other words a netbook – will be the mainstream on that,” he said. “So, it’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’ It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.”

    It’s not like Bill is gone and only Steve Ballmer get’s it all wrong ever since…

    Bill Gates is certainly a very smart person, but the things that make him tick are vastly different from the things that make Apple tick.
    There’s reason to believe these things still make Microsoft tick as much as Steve Jobs’s footprint is still all over Apple.

    There’s two (main) kinds of people out there.
    One: I buy everything that comes with the longest list of specs.
    Two: I buy everything I can operate without a manual.

    Tides may shift from One to Two.

    • Bill P

      Exactly what RIMM said about keyboards

      • Bernhard Grabowski

        I am still very puzzled about RIMM.

        They DO know email is their key application.
        But still they shipped the playbook without native email.

        Of all possible cards they could play, they kept the joker.

        A BlackBerry with a keyboard is still a fine device, as long as email is all you do (and calling – some people still use their phones as a phone).

        But with live in the golden decade of convergence.

        Even tho Tim Cook made a counter remark (Fridge / Toaster convergence), Apple still is the king of convergence.

        Here’s a list of dedicated devices I could get rid of with the iPhone/iPad while traveling:
        – GPS Navigation
        – mobile Gaming Console
        – iPod
        – eReader
        – BlackBerry
        – Digital Camera
        – Digital Camcorder
        – Laptop (almost)
        – Line6 POD Mini (you play your Electric Guitar through it with headphones)
        – Digital Organizer (Palm)

        Since almost each device adds up with a charger as well, that’s a lot of things converging, almost imploding into one device.

        A touch interface without any real physical buttons is like a blank canvas, for each application to utilize as it wishes. And it allows for some nice intuitive interface design as well.

        If that’s not a masterpiece in conversion, I don’t know what is.
        People often complain about the price of an iPhone, but it only costs a fraction of what I used to pay for regular device updates on the list above.

        Therefore, to me, the iPhone / iPad are the cheapest electronic devices I’ve ever owned – by far the cheapest. It’s like living in a house you paid once, but you can grow new rooms at will for just the price of the additional wall painting.

        All babies born around 2000 now grow up as native touch interface users. By around 2020 hardware makers will suffer great pain from a new customer generation looking at keyboards the same way a 20 year old now looks at vinyl or a tape deck.

      • Henry_3_Dogg

        “A touch interface without any real physical buttons is like a blank canvas…”

        100% bang on exactly.

    • barryotoole

      I used to be #1 for 25 years when I was using Windows. Frustrated by Vista, I switched to OSX in 2007, and am now #2.

      Also, Bill Gates is a very smart businessman, indeed, but he’s no genius or visionary.

  • Almost everything I’ve ever heard Ballmer say in public was very likely indistinguishable from what he says in private to his Sales people. Much of it is posturing, team-building onanism… long on self-praise, very short on substance. It assumes your audience is credulous and faithful to the dogma you’re reciting, right down to the repeated promises made about future products that often don’t see the light of day.

    To the degree that many tech journalists have never understood the reasons for Apple’s latter-day success, this dogma is dutifully disseminated to the small portion of the consumer market that still holds Microsoft in high regard, if only due to personal animosity towards Apple.

    But it seems to me that more and more consumers are tired of being made to feel foolish by an operating system (and the company that created it) which to a degree still penalizes users for not having IT-support smarts. It turns out that this variant of Stockholm Syndrome is treatable.

    Ballmer might now have an inkling of this, having overseen the need for something like Metro, but in all likelihood I’ll bet he’s still mystified by the need to make something that consumers will actually enjoy using.

  • This is physically painful to read.

    • Rich

      Ballmer always sound like a general trying to rally morale from his troops into their last battle.

      • freediverx

        More like the fat flunky left behind after the captain was killed, now pretending to be a leader.

    • freediverx

      Which meshes nicely with how annoying he is to look at and listen to.

  • morgan

    The thing that surprises me most is that even in Ballmer’s latest statement, he clearly proves that he does not know what he is fighting against, and even if he did, i doubt he would know what to do about it.

    Hey Horace – why don’t you send Ballmer a copy of the innovator’s dilemma as a gift? You might get a sweet consulting job out of it ;P

  • Ballmer has the booming voice and the precise elocution of the college football coach he once was. This, notwithstanding the monkey dance brain flatulence, impresses audiences and, in turn, lulls him into believing his forceful oratory will move reality.
    I was in the room when, in 2009, he predicted 40% smartphone market share in 2012. Hey, the year is still young!
    This said, I’m baffled, this is a very intelligent man jumping – with great élan – from one puzzling statement to another.

    • mark212

      one little nit-pick: Ballmer was the manager of the football team at Harvard, which is about as far from being a coach as possible. He would be in charge of making sure the bags made it on the bus for away games and the water bottles were filled and the laundry done, but in no way was he a coach.

      Which may explain quite a bit about his personality, always near the heroes but never a player himself.

      • Anders

        That’s it – not an actual player. Because of this, he has no feel for where things are going. The only thing that puzzles me is why Gates still backs him.

      • Ballmer made Bill the world richest man (for long time). It was Ballmer that managed to license, not sell OS to IBM. A crazy contact that allowed MSFT to sell its OS to any vendor.
        Ballmer managed to sell something that MSFT did not even own. MSFT ran out and bought QDOS for 50K.

      • Enrique Zamudio

        Sorry, no. It was Paul Allen. Ballmer wasn’t even working at MS back then.

    • Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers

  • Mauryan

    Google is going to gain from all this. While Ballmer is sharpening his sword to slice Apple, Google is going to come from behind and take it all. Then Ballmer will have to grind his axe to take aim at Google. At some point he might fall on his back unable to hold the axe.

  • Pingback: Lo amo e lo temo | Script | iCreate()

  • Pingback: Boot up: Apple’s 13in retina MacBook?, Nexus 7′s cost, Dropbox upgrades and more | Technology News()

  • Pingback: Boot up: Apple’s 13in retina MacBook?, Nexus 7′s cost, Dropbox upgrades and more | Tech News()

  • Pingback: Boot up: Apple’s 13in retina MacBook?, Nexus 7′s cost, Dropbox upgrades and more | Web Guru Guide()

  • At D ConferenceJobs: “Allan Kay said People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”He looks towards Gates.Gates: “I could resist that.”

  • In a few more years he will only use one word to express himself.

  • occam1

    Horace, I think you should choose your line breaks differently. Most of the same words, better line breaks below.
    We are trying
    To make absolutely clear

    We are not going
    To leave
    Any space uncovered To Apple

    We are not.

    No space
    Uncovered that is Apple’s

    We have our
    Advantages in productivity

    We have our
    Advantages in terms of enterprise management, manageability

    We have our
    Advantages in terms of when you plug into server infrastructure in the enterprise.

    But we are not going
    To let any Piece of this

    Not the consumer cloud

    Not hardware software innovation

    We are not leaving any
    Of that to

  • Certainly the man has drive, has strong voice and loves the company he runs, problem is he wants to be everything for everyone, and history shows that’s a mistake, focus is king

    • freediverx

      That’s the worst assessment I’ve ever read about Ballmer.

      Ballmer cares only about trying to save face and figuring out a way to avoid his fate as the man solely responsible for flushing Microsoft’s competition-proof monopoly down the toilet.

  • Pingback: 鲍尔默谈“微软迷失十年”:没有的事! | 星科技()

  • Claude Hénault

    In his latest, Steve Balmer is saying:

    “O.K. Stop shaking me. I’m awake now.”

    As a onetime Kremlinologist, I appreciate the opportunity to parse public mumbles chronologically, as trends between the lines are more clearly revealed.

    This comment thread, however, displays a degree of triumphalism that normally is quite foreign to Asymco participants. I hope Apple itself is not drinking from the same stream.

    Fully awake Microsofts, Googles, Facebooks can blindside if written off with derision. The fact they haven’t yet is no guarantee.

    • For the past _five_ years, Ballmer kept deriding his competition, phones, PCs, Cloud services, tablets. And he’s achieved what? Ask his shareholders.

  • This is one of those articles that requires NO comments, what so ever! #nice LOL

  • Why does he still have his job?

    • freediverx

      One of the great mysteries of the early 21st century.

      • That it is. but a few more quarters with losses and I doubt he will be hanging around much longer.

    • Ballmer is a business genius. He managed to license MSFT OS to IBM, not sell it. IBM: the money is in the hardware. Ballmer managed to license something that MSFT didn’t even have! They had to rush out and buy QDOS and rebrand it MSFT Dos.
      That is the starting point of the whole MSFT empire.

      The latest genius move is how he managed to send Elop to Nokia and bring down Nokias value from over 60 billion to 6 billion. Ballmer managed to license Nokia’s patents and maps for “free”. Elop and Ballmer single handily destroyed the world largest cell phone company, Now MSFT can buy Nokia for less then Skype, and Nokia have over 10000 patents + GPS maps.

      There are loads of more examples with Ballmer. He is the reason why MSFT have a monopoly in Windows and Office. MSFT is 40 years old and they still make 94% of their money from Windows/Office. MSFT have never been able to compete in any market. Their most successful venture outside Windows is Xbox. MSFT have subsidised Xbox tens of billions. And I still don’t understand how Xbox 360 users accept the crappy hardware that failed (I personally am a stupid Xbox 360 owner. I have bought 7 Xbox 360! 5 RROD. 1 banned and one Slim that have been repaired 2 times and warranty runs out in a month.

      No wonder MSFT have sold more Xbox 360 then PS3. I don’t know any xbox owner that only have bought one Xbox. All have had RROD.

      MSFT strategy is to make crappy products and people have to upgrade or buy new hardware. The whole WinTel alliance was to make crappy OS so that people had to upgrade their computers all the time.

      So.. Ballmer is an expert on making money. Not in a good/creative way but other ways.

      He needs to be fire. Elop of Nokia needs to be court marshalled in Finland. World greatest Manchurian candidate.

      • Enrique Zamudio

        I believe it was Paul Allen who licensed QDOS to IBM, not Steve Ballmer.

  • Rogelio DuFountaine

    Raving idiot. My international students who’s English is not their first language can put SB to shame.

  • Rogelio DuFountaine

    ‘whose’ English. My English needed help right there too! Sorry mates!

  • D R

    If there was only one reason why Apple is doing so well, it is that this douchebag is in running Microsoft.

  • bystander

    Time to superannuate the soap salesman. Back to P&G he should go.

  • HarveyMunchkin

    Wow, that was painful! I had no idea.

  • chiefthinker

    How did he ever get into Harvard for crying out loud! He can not even put two coherent sentences together!

  • Jordan

    Everytime I hear him speak I think he’s on drugs, so much self-righteous misjudgement makes me think of Hitler announcing the next “Wunderwaffe” which will solve all problems. Poor Guy.