Microsoft's bombastic CEO, Steve Ballmer, has "thrown down the gauntlet" at Apple, and while acknowledging they'd ceded innovation in the past, they'd not be doing that again. According to comments provided to CRN following Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Ballmer said:
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.
While Steve Ballmer has been successful in maintaining Microsoft's Office and Windows profits (Vista hiccups not withstanding), and managing, if expensively, to get into gaming with Xbox, Ballmer's attempts to be keep Microsoft relevant in the white-hot internet and mobile markets have been disappointing to say the least.
Now with Nokia as their primary handset partner, and Windows Phone 8 ready to hit the market, and with Microsoft making their own Surface hardware to try to compete with Apple's iPad, clearly a new strategy is in place.
And for Ballmer, at least, it's vital that it works. Having former CEO Bill Gates remain as Chairman of the Board has probably insulated Ballmer from much of the pushback on his internet and mobile strategies to date, but even that can't last forever. Apple has a new CEO with Tim Cook. RIM has a new CEO with Thorsten Heis. Google has a new CEO with Larry Page.
Palm didn't survive their transformation. RIM's is by no means certain. Microsoft has several viable businesses and billions and billions in revenue to keep financing their failures, but they're a public company and their shareholders might not be happy with their firehose staying on full forever.
Ballmer can be as bombastic as he likes in interviews, but if he doesn't start nailing internet and mobile, Apple space or no Apple space, billions in the bank or no billions in the bank, Microsoft might be next in line for a management shake up.