Vector 9: Ben Thompson on Microsoft's mobile dilemma

Vector 9: Ben Thompson on Microsoft's mobile dilemma

Ben Thompson of stratēchery joins Rene to talk about Microsoft in a post-Ballmer mobile market, the IBM analogy, whether they need to be more like Apple, and why Google and Samsung were so damn smart. Also: Nokia sale!

Note: This was originally supposed to be next week's episode of Vector, but due to Microsoft buying Nokia, we decided to fast-track. (It's especially interesting given Thompson, until recently, worked at Microsoft on the Windows 8 apps team, and previously interned at Apple on the Apple University project.)

Show notes




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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 5 comments. Add yours.

SockRolid says:

MS is screwed if they do and screwed if they don't.
If they succeed in mobile, they cannibalize their legacy desktop money machine.
If they fail, Apple cannibalizes their legacy desktop money machine.

Maybe that's why everything MS has done in mobile is half-a**ed.
They lose either way, so why bother?

EPJS says:

I wish my pocket sized point-and-shoot digital camera had as many megapixels as the phone in the picture...

BobAtPitt says:

I hadn't heard of Ben Thompson until I listened to this podcast, but it's clear that he's clueless. 1) Thompson says Microsoft is a failure in consumer products and will continue to fail. Since Microsoft has successfully been selling webcams, mice, keyboards, XBoxes, PCs (Signature series) and now Windows Phones (and mostly profiting from all of them), Thompson's prognostication of future failure is laughable. 2) He says it was stupid for Microsoft to try to get into everything all at once (e.g., Bing, gaming, phones, etc), but since *everything* is now interconnected (and we've had the "ecosystems rule!" mantra drilled into our heads for years now), wouldn't it be dumb *not* to try to get into everything (while making them work interchangeably)? 3) He said it was stupid for Stephen Elop to drop Symbian and go all-in on Windows Phone, but then went on to describe Symbian as a nightmare. He says, essentially, that the OS doesn't matter and Nokia could have kept on by differentiating on hardware, as if Nokia couldn't have differentiated on *both* hardware and software at the same time. He also failed to mention the fact that Nokia was tanking *precisely* because Symbian paled in comparison to iOS and everyone knew it had no future. What Thompson was hinting at (but never quite said) is that Nokia should have gone with Android instead. He didn't have to say it - his fawning adulation for Google later in the conversation codified that. Elop is a *genius*. Both Nokia (with Windows Phone) and Palm (with webOS) had ingenious, cleverly designed and user-friendly platforms, but just didn't have the financial means to capitalize on them. Although it's possible that Nokia could have made a go of it with Android, Elop rightly discerned that they could better grab the world's attention with Windows Phone, and they did. I applaud his courage and vision, and being bought by Microsoft doesn't negate that decision. I could go on. Thompson is one of millions of would-be pundits who pontificate endlessly without making sense, and espousing viewpoints that don't reflect common sense. P.S. Microsoft's biggest problem is that they don't realize how much the world hates them (or they refuse to acknowledge that). Once they figure out how to work around that, the world is their oyster...

Correction: I wrote this before I listened to the Microsoft-buys-Nokia addendum. Ok, he clearly (but belatedly) stated that Nokia should have gone with Android. Well, based on Samsung's manufacturing and marketing prowess, I believe Nokia would have been left in the same position as HTC, so Thompson would have been proven wrong.

cardfan says:

I think Ben is right on in this instance. Although I do agree that I had never heard of the guy. I'm still not sure what to think of him since he lacks experience. He basically created a blog, was a grunt at MS and a lowly intern at Apple. This isn't exactly the kind of stuff that qualifies him to be any kind of expert.

BobAtPitt says:

I wasted more than an hour listening to this guy, thinking I'd hear some kind of jewel of wisdom. Instead, I was angry that my time was wasted by someone who clearly had nothing of import to say, and had difficulty keeping to any kind of narrative. To me, it sounded like he was winging it. Thanks, iMore! Next time you find someone in "self-promotion mode", leave me out...

Addendum: I want to add a few "useless" thoughts of my own. Does anyone in this world have the courage to fight anymore? Or to fight anything? I believe pacifism has ruined our country. It has taught us to be timid, to go along to get along, to compromise our principles, our integrity and our ideas. We've seen pacifism almost ruin the NFL, and it's apparently killing our competitiveness. If you're not competitive, you're not driving sales, and you're encouraging monopolies and stagnation (something Microsoft was accused of in the past). Thompson says Microsoft/Nokia should have gone with Android. I vehemently disagree. With a few caveats (I have a WP 7.5 device), I love the way my Windows Phone works and love the styling, efficiency, robustness and security of it. The big apps are finally starting to show up, and as long as Microsoft continues to have the fortitude to stick it out, it *will* succeed. I do believe that Ballmer had to go, by the way. Although he's not completely to blame for Microsoft's woes, he's disliked by too many, and is too closely associated with Microsoft corporate (i.e., Ballmer *is* Microsoft). Microsoft's problems can be solved, but they need to have patience...