Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declares war on Apple

In his first public statement since Microsoft revealed plans to develop and market their “Surface” tablet computers, CEO Steve Ballmer in an interview with vowed that they are “not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple” referring to the software giant’s unprecedent push into a product develeopment approach of closely integrating hardware and software. This approach has been the long-time strategy of Apple which achieved spectacular success developing products that re-defined tech cool by keeping tight control over software and hardware design.

Microsoft, for its part achieved its own success initially when it became the leading vendor of what were to become the lingua franca operating system and programming languages.

The company founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen came to dominate personal computing software on the back of the success of the IBM PC and the PC clones that subsequently proliferated. At one time Microsoft was a virtual monopoly, supplying Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS DOS) and Apple DOS to PC manufacturers and the Apple II line respectively. It also developed and marketed the programming languages MS BASIC and Apple BASIC, both of which along with its DOS products were practically single-handed creations of its two founders.

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Just teenagers back then, Gates and Allen broke ground and blazed trails in the true spirit of the generation of tech garage startups they heralded in and in the real sense of innovation. This provides a backdrop to Ballmer’s menacing words today: “We do feel empowered to innovate everywhere and bring our partners with us…”

Apparently the irony in these words escapes Ballmer who uses the word “innovation” within the same space of a virtual promise to catch up with the Apple juggernaut. Ballmer had defined his innovation crusade in terms of territory already mapped by Apple — mobile hardware, touchscreen tablets, sleek design, tight integration, cloud computing, and mobile apps among others. Is thinking outside the square dead?

Perhaps this is what sets apart the truly visionary startup entrepeneur from the merely competent professional manager. To “innovate everywhere” comes across as a quaint oxymoron when one considers how guys like Gates, Allen, and their peers Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page set out to conquer the world. They all started out doing one thing really well.

4 Replies to “Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declares war on Apple”

  1. What is amazing is the one project of Microsoft that Ballmer hasn’t laid his hands on — the XBox — is now the most successful division and device in terms of take-up, innovation, sales and marketing in its respective market (console games), placing itself as a formidable competitor vs Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s Playstation.

    That alone speaks volumes about who the real problem in Microsoft is.

    1. Xbox 360 doing really well in terms of market share . They ramped up the power on a frame that can’t support it. Thus was born the red rings of death. Whoever decided that responsible for a mixed blessing, market share with expense of extended warranty.

  2. The problem with Microsoft is that they always tend to bark up the wrong tree. What makes iOS and Android equally successful is that they have the right formulas that match their respective philosophies fused into their products (Apple with its convenient walled garden digital hub and Google Android’s open source philosophy). Microsoft on the other hand, is merely trying to copy the things that work on both platforms like the closed source, closed design principles of iOS and the openness of Android licensing to OEMs. However, it doesn’t simply work that way.

    Trying to copy Apple’s “hardware and software integration” will alienate the OEMs, severing one of MS’s vital lifelines.

    Save for the Xbox, Microsoft has consistently failed in consumer electronics. They have been successful, however in the gaming and corporate industry with the Xbox and Exchange. If they are to copy Apple, they should at least consider one of Apple’s corporate philosophy; “For Apple to win, Microsoft doesn’t have to lose” or in their case “For MS to win, Apple doesn’t have to lose”. Improve on the things they’re already good at, and try to take on things that Apple hasn’t been successful with; Apple TV, MobileMe, etc. They should pour their time and resources in perfecting their Media Center and cloud computing.

  3. To add something; all this thanks to Ballmer. I doubt if he has any vision for the company. He’s too busy doing tacky PR stunts. He should leave that to Michael O’Leary.

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