Microsoft's Ballmer says they'll never again leave any space for Apple

Microsoft's Ballmer says they'll never again leave any space for Apple

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.

Source: CRN via @Lessien

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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

Microsoft's Ballmer says they'll never again leave any space for Apple


"Ballmer's attempts to be keep Microsoft relevant in the white-hot internet and mobile markets have been disappointing to say the least"

You link to your own editorial about the Microsoft Surface(s) and say their efforts are disappointing?? Disappointing to whom? People who want Apple to be uncontested in the mobile space??? MS' Surface announcement is one of the most exciting things they have done in the Internet and mobile markets in years!

Surface and Windows Phone 8 are new and not released yet, so not "to date".

Tablet PC, Windows Mobile 6.5, and Windows Phone 7 have been inarguably disappointing to Microsoft and the market.

You're basically agreeing with me :)

"Tablet PC, Windows Mobile 6.5, and Windows Phone 7 have been inarguably disappointing to Microsoft and the market."

THAT, I definitely agree with!

But, what I said was that your statement is not supported by your own article, which your statement linked to. Surface is not vaporware. It has been demonstrated and had hands-on by people outside MS. It's not released yet, but, "to date", it exists and it IS exciting! And nothing that Apple (or the Android Conglomerate) has "to date" or has demonstrated and scheduled to be released in the same timeframe as Surface has anywhere near the innovation and features that Surface (RT and Pro) have been shown to have.

Until a product is available in stores, it is moot. It isn't available because it isn't ready for prime time.

I don't want to hear promises, which often go unfounded. Promises are another way of begging your potential customers to hold off on buying a competitors product, and nothing more. Sadly, Microsoft has pulled this stunt before, so we really will have to wait and see if they can turn their ship around. I know. I spent many a year there. They have great employees shackled by an incredibly poor but highly narsisistic senior management team. Like RIM had.

Hey hoofer. Haven't you had an opinion on a product you have NEVER touched, tried one used?

Yep, same here, yet @stuartv seems to be the only one on the planet outside of the corp team in Redmond to actually have a Surface device AND used it.

Dude.......don't comment on something you have only seen and read about in blogs. Makes you look like a homer with no credibility.

Cannot wait for that 2016 Range Rover. Sure it's gonna be good.

Except, I cannot get it yet. But I'm sure it will be solid.

Well, maybe not.

there U go ... MICROTROLL:

would some rednerd please train his 500 pounds gorilla how to hold the computer... thanks :-))

IMHO... it looks like a ad banner for a B movie, in which a young transvestite can't decide if to love a old fat bald man, which looks like a 500 pounds gorilla with a laptop glued to his leg ... and a young boy with an iPad glued to his hand :-))

I totally agree. 2012 is pretty exciting in the Tech World IMO. I personally think that Window 8, Surface, WP8 will be a pretty big hit this fall. Let's hope they don't screw it up.

I'm not very hopeful regarding WP8. But, I think, if MS prices the Surface Pro attractively enough, it will merge what is currently two separate market niches (iPad and Macbook Air) into one new market - and OWN it.

I'd say the chance of that happening is less than zero. Tablets are used in a much different way than notebooks. MS may gain some tablet market share in the enterprise market, but they'll have no success merging the two categories imo.

MS is having enough trouble establishing Windows Phone. Maybe they'll add a keyboard/cover to Lumia and own the Blackberry market :)

Talking to people Surface has pretty good buzz. I know very few people that own any tablet right now. Apple has sold a lot of iPads sure but the vast majority of consumers still do not own any tablet. The market is still expanding and growing. I am surprised by the number of people who have mentioned Surface to me and they are all interested in the keyboard cover. The major concern voiced is price which I also have a feeling will end up being too high.

I have hopes for WP8 as well. I have a Lumia 900 and while it's a nice phone on the usability front WP7 feels like I am using iOS 3 again. The OS is very smooth and fluid like iOS but the way it functions and apps currently work are way behind the times. But it is a good start and WP8 to me looks a lot better. I'm rather bored of iOS at this point. After using Android I would get a Nexus 7 right now if I was getting a tablet sometime soon. I really have no interest in the iPad at all. Bring on Windows 8.

I think everyone must agree that iOS is smooth and fast. But like you stated, it's getting quite boring. Hopefully with the iPhone 5, they will refresh the homescreen.

ARE YOU KIDDING. You think people will use the Surface Pro instead of a laptop. That would be the most cumbersome device I have ever seen to use as a laptop. The screen is to small for desktop software, the keyboard is to flappy and would require a flat surface and the kickstand also requires a flat surface. The only way to use that thing as a laptop is at a table or desk and if you are going to be at a table or desk why do you want to use a portable device with a little screen.

There are already tablets like the surface out there, have you heard of Windows Tablets. That is the type of device Bill Gates introduced 12 years ago and the surface is no different except for Windows 8. I believe Window 8 is another VISTA moment for Microsoft. We will have to wait and see.

I agree with Ballmer that there is a line between phones and PCs. The tablet physical form factor would dictate that it should be on the PC side of the line. But, when Apple introduced the iPad, the technology could not support putting it on the PC side of the line. Now, technology has evolved and MS is about to release a tablet that is truly qualified to be on the PC side of that line.

I own Apple, Android, and WebOS mobile devices. I have not owned a MS mobile device in years. But, I can't to get my hands on a Surface Pro...

If you wanted to run Windows desktop software on a little tablet screen why didn't you get one of the Windows tablets that are out there. Windows software is designed to be run with a precision mouse and keyboard and not with a finger so it will never be a good experience on a small screen or with a finger. Metro is a better option but you can get that without getting the Pro. But you can probably get a RT version of the surface and run a desktop computer with software like you can on an iPad. I use my iPad to do a few things on my Window 7 computer but I can't wait to hurry and get done because it is so cumbersome to use desktop software on a tablet.

It's really a shame that they think they actually allowed Apple to gain ground. Instead of realizing it was their repeated incompetence that drove away their customers.

If I worked in Microsoft, I would want to see that "go go GO" from the top; but it's not enough; a LOT more is required. Like all companies Microsoft needs to have a mature set of objectives and a few dreams informing their developmental process. That is what people like Jobs contributed at Apple; we are also beginning to see some of that ethos and purpose at Google.

Surface indicates that Microsoft do have more than bluster on offer - but can they make it fly?

in REDMUD NEVERLAND ... where U dream and never wake up... and where the 500 pounds gorilla can dance... as it was trained by some villainous REDNERD :-))

IMHO, Apple got where it is NOT focusing on the competition (although clearly, at times, painted MS as the enemy), but rather innovating where there was little or none. iPod's, personal computing for the masses, tablets, etc. They never tried to "not let MS go uncontested," but chose their battles and tech wisely. Steve and MS should choose their battles and dominate the areas they can.

Let's just remember for a second that unlike RIM, Palm or even Google, Microsoft produces much of the backend software that drives the web, such as server, database and cloud software, and thus in spite of the poor performances of phones and tablets, Microsoft remains highly profitable and is not going down if it loses the mobile battle to Apple.
It's not too late to remember that even Apple's cloud solution runs on Microsoft software, which by itself shows that some of their mobile strategy is spot on.

As per Wikipedia, 48% of all commercial web servers sold on Q1 2011 were running Windows, so yeah, as I said, much of the backend software that drives the web is produced by Microsoft. I did say "much" and not "all".

So he's saying they will copy every single thing Apple does from now on, instead of picking and choosing what to copy.

They are not coping, their magnetic cover has a keyboard in it. And their tablet uses a stylus. So they have innovated. And Metro is nothing like the look of iOS which you can't say about Android.