Should Apple Break Up the iPhone? Ballmer Says Yes!

Taking a break from not buying Yahoo! and single-handidly driving the internet Monkey Boy dance phenomena, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer decided to throw a little advice Apple CEO Steve Jobs' way: Break up the iPhone! (Please!)

Right now, of course, Apple tightly integrates both the iPhone hardware and software, just like they do with the Mac. This gives them unrivaled fit and finish and ensures developers (and consumers) a unified platform, end to end. It also ensures Apple -- who makes their money on hardware, not software -- very good margins and, thus far, very profitable business.

Enter Steve Ballmer's plea, according to Ars Technica:

[Ballmer]'s expecting Apple to do poorly in both the smartphone and notebook markets over the next five years, mostly because the company continues to stand by its rather un-Microsoft-like integration of both proprietary software and proprietary hardware.

For the full video interview, see ZDnet.

For a reality check, see how the current iPhone model has rejuvenated an industry and led to a bevy of iClones, while Ballmer's Windows Mobile 7 has been pushed back to 2009, meaning we won't even begin to see a 2007 iPhone competitive device running anything Microsoft until 2010...

So, yeah, we're sure Jobs will get right on that...

But what do you think? Should Apple scrap the iPhone model and go the Microsoft route?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Should Apple Break Up the iPhone? Ballmer Says Yes!


Definitely. It's worked so well up until now producing the likes of the Treo and Microsoft Mobile Windows.

I happened to hear Ballmer on the radio in the month leading up to the launch of the original iPhone, and with great condescension in his voice, he laughed about what a failure the iPhone would be, how it had captured the attention of the media but it would be a non-starter with consumers. Too expensive, no physical keyboard, tied to AT&T… how utterly ridiculous the notion that anybody would buy one!
I don't know if he actually believed what he was saying or was speaking strategically. But I remember it vividly. I hardly think Apple should be taking advice from him.

I think a better model would be Android. If Android succeeds, and that's a big if then Ballmer would be right. Even if his bluster is way too annoying

Well, but I think Android is going to quickly face the issues that WM already has, and maybe even moreso since it will be even more open. Namely, with a large variety of hardware vendors, device types, etc it will quickly become overwhelming for application developers to ensure that their programs will run properly not just on the OS, but also on the specific hardware on which vendors deploy it. Screen sizes and form factors play a particular role here.
While in some ways limiting, Apple gains a gigantic benefit in terms of user and developer experience in this area by tightly controlling the variability of OS-to-hardware. And this is not to say that they haven't felt the pinch of hardware changes over time. For example, changes in CPU architectures (68xxx --> PowerPC --> Intel)... but by maintaining tighter control they can actually /manage/ those migrations. So while I don't deny there are definite profit margin advantages for Apple, there are also advantages for those of us who use their products as well.
The areas where I would like to see Apple open up a bit are in /integrating/ their products on the software layer. In this regard, iTunes seems to be a constant burden. I will admit it offers a certain level of simplicity and that same integrated experience... but when the experience isn't all that positive and you don't have an alternative then it becomes something of a pickle.

tight integration is needed but Apple needs to be good to the developers and seems to be learning slowly :)

Ballmer has enjoyed so many years if monetary success over Apple that he is blind to Apple's renewed success. Apple has always produced better software and hardware, though struggled with marketshare. Apple may not dominate the markets, but the continually improve the lives of their users. Keep it up Apple and who cares what Ballmer thinks about anything. Apple never has.

Isn't that what has made the iphone/s great though? The integration of both hardware and software. With so many iterations and variants on hardware android will be limited. The fact that it is open makes open hardware a problem. While I am all for competition as we all know competition fuels the market. Saying to split it up would be a mistake.

I think it's pretty funny how people call MS a big evil company and give them crap about being a monopoly. And all the while they are praising apple for how great they are even though apple is the one who is stiffeling competition and acting like the monopoly. Just look at what they are doing with the app store they have denied apps because they feel that they compete with their own their words not mine. How much more monopolistic can you be.
Now I will say I wrote this on my iPhone which I love but I would love it alot more if apple would just be a little more open with it.

the pc industry thrived as IBM standardized the hardware and m$ standardized software. But the mobile hardware industry has not been standardized so far. A variety of keyboards various form factors variety of input devices to an extent that nothing is a mandatory. (For ex a programmer cannot expect numeric Keypad to be present for playing his game). Unless the hardware is standardized the software standardization will only lead to confusion and that hardware standardization will never happen as there are way too much players in market. Apple's strategy will definitely win here. However apple should be relaxed in the type of apps they allow in their app store. Though tehnologically voip over 3g or tethering is possible apple is purposefully banning those apps without any reason. If this is changed apple will have a bright future.

If I want an app for my iPhone, I just get it from the appstore and it works. Palmos did this well, though you has to search high and low to find anything.
Windows Mobile was horrible. Was it for smartphone, or not? Was it compatible with my current version of not? Would it even work on my device, despite the above conditions being met?
Android will be even worse.