Yesterday Steve Ballmer sat down with LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman to talk about Windows, technology, and the state of things. From the audio (and video) posted by TechCrunch, there were the typical Ballmer moments, but more interestingly Ballmer is trying to position Microsoft as a middle ground between the wild west of Android and the tight control of Apple. Maybe he’s onto something.
In true Ballmer style, he had these comments about Apple and Android:
Ballmer called the Android ecosystem “wild,” “uncontrolled” and susceptible to malware.
He called the Apple ecosystem “high-priced” and “highly controlled,” further noticing that iPhones cost upwards of $1,000 internationally.
He truly believes that Microsoft can wedge itself between the two to be successful with diversity and organization. As Ballmer describes Windows 8, Surface and Phone, he says that the products have been done right and the company is working very closely with developers, unlike his counterparts at Apple and Google. Sure, Ballmer has said these types of things before, but he’s losing his mind tonight in only the way he can.
The wild and uncontrolled comments are going to make hay this morning (and for a while, I expect), but Apple being highly controlled? Blinding flash of the obvious. Drew Olanoff posted some of the audio from the interview to SoundCloud and marked places of interest:
I listened to the whole thing (the first marker is about Apple and Android, the second is just a series of Ballmer being Ballmer whoops), and while some folks are saying they heard this all before from Redmond, I think Ballmer is on to something. I think Microsoft does have an opportunity to get in as the middle way between the crazy openness of Android and the strict control of Apple.
I think it would be healthy and good for the industry overall for us to have a third mobile OS to push innovation and ideas. In an interview with Reuters Ballmer acknowledges that it will be their hardware partners who will make most of the devices:
“Do I anticipate that partners of ours will build the lion’s share of all Windows devices over the next five years? The answer is, absolutely,” Steve Ballmer said at a tech industry event in Santa Clara, California, on Wednesday.
“With that said, it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft,” he said.
Which Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac thinks hints at a Microsoft smartphone. Jordan is right, but I think it’s more than that. I think it won’t just be “a smartphone” I think it will be a “showcase smartphone”. A device that shows off all the best of what Windows Phone 8 has to offer. Maybe like the Surface Tablet is supposed to show off Windows RT, a Microsoft phone would do the same. Now, if Ballmer thinks he can price his phone better than Apple and Samsung price theirs, I think he’s nuts. Premium phones, phones that set a standard, aren’t cheap to design or build—and therefore sell.
Is Ballmer onto something? Can he push Microsoft to be a real alternative to Android and iOS? I certainly hope so, because competition, real competition, will keep everyone on their toes and we’ll all benefit from it.
Photo from TechCrunch.