back to article Ballmer and Softies sacrifice sleep to catch iPad

Microsoft's chief executive has come very close to telling investors he screwed up after years of writing off, belittling and underestimated Apple's potential success in touch-based computing. Steve Ballmer told Wall Street he's under no illusion about Apple's success with the iPad and iPhone, and Microsoft's number-one …


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  1. IT specialist

    Microsoft doomed in mobile

    Microsoft was previously losing sleep trying to catch up to iPhone, using its Windows Phone 7.

    Now it looks like Microsoft has abandoned WP7 in the slate market, and is now "losing sleep" trying to fit some other OS into a slate form factor.

    Why doesn't Microsoft have any confidence in its existing mobile OS (WP7), on the eve of release, to abandon it in mobile slates and use something else instead?

    Madness. Complete utter madness. Stay away from the coming train wreck.

  2. Ian Davies

    He really is a colossal doofus

    "Interesting job of putting together synthesis"

    Seriously, can someone just tell him that talking like this is the reason MS is in such a shit hole?

    "You will get a lot of cacophony, people do things with other operating systems, but we have the application base, we have the user familiarity, we have everything on our side"

    NO, Steve, no you *don't* have everything on your side. In one fell swoop he's repeated exactly the same dismissal of a competitor that he's supposed to be issuing a mea culpa for, and at the same time has demonstrated how far removed from reality he is by saying that 'user familiarity' (with WIndows, presumably?) is a positive for them.

    If they ship anything that looks like Windows on a touch device then they've failed.

  3. Ned Ludd

    Can Microsoft catch up to Apple?

    It's too Zune to tell.

    1. Doshu

      Indeed, well see Zune enough

      But it's still good to get a fire going under Microsoft's ass. Hell, it's good to start one under everyone's ass (Android, Linux, etc.). Competition can be excellent for innovation. And who knows, maybe someone will come up with something bright and new.

  4. Dazed and Confused

    We've got the software, We've got the bloat

    Where an iPad seems to score over Windows based netbooks is that it is smaller and lighter. I guess the OS it runs is also smaller and lighter.

    Perhaps we have finally reached a point where their are enough people who are happy to buy a device which isn't a general purpose computer that can run all their apps from their desktop and laptops. So unless they can slim Windows down to a point where they can compete with the iPad in terms of size, weight and battery life and still offer good enough performance then this will be a market segment they will have missed.

    Personally I'd be happy to not have either and iPad nor Windows, but I can see why each appeal to some others.

    But I've felt that for years there was likely to be a huge demand for something simpler than a full blown WIndows PC. Plenty of non IT people just want a few simple apps, web, email simple WP and spreadsheet. full stop, end of story. A Windows box is too complex for this market place.

    Not many people start off with a new computer wondering how good the assembler is these days.

  5. fred slack 1

    His tongue is hanging out again.

    Windows has been a lemon since day one.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    too true!

    > we have the application base, we have the user familiarity

    No you don't, Mr Ballmer. New form-factor, new application interface required, new hardware architecture. You've got almost nothing except an installed management server base.

    Even if MS do manage to get something out, there'll be some schizophrenia about who MS's customers are - businesses (MS' usual customers) making the devices locked down, centrally managed and thus undesirable or the end-users. I know apple lock down their devices, but end-users don't see too much of that - any ipad can do what any other ipad can do. Now compare your home pc to your corporate SOE.

    If MS do manage to leverage the windows brand onto the device, there will be disappointment as my windows pad fails to do everything my desk/laptop can do and as apps are inappropriately ported to the device.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      They don't have the apps. Some peripheral things like Money have been ditched.

      Also, when I ran Windows systems at home I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time downloading and trying various freeware or shareware systems to try and do the bits and pieces that I wanted to do. Once some became popular, they started charging and when I would next rebuild the OS, I'd have to find some new applications yet again.

      If there is one thing that Apple provides that Microsoft doesn't, it is a machine with a useable set of basic productivity ability right out of the box.

      Whenever I rebuilt one of my Windows machine (sans Ghost) it would take all day. Now, with Ubuntu and the separation of the home directory, it takes about an hour to get the OS on, patched and all my applications loaded via a long apt-get. And no messing about with registration keys and serial numbers.

      Microsoft has a long ... long ... long way to go before they deliver an acceptable user experience with applications that work and/or respond.

  7. K. Adams

    "... with a promise you're now committed to catching up."

    Funny, I said that just yesterday:

    -- Comments: Microsoft biz stars won't shine in Wall Street web show


    Any chance for a footnote? ;-)

  8. Goat Jam


    "touch-based computing pads running Windows 7 and that people want"

    Good luck with that boys.

    Say, haven't you clowns been pushing touchscreen tablets now for nigh on 10 years with nothing much at all to show for it? What makes you think you will do any better now?

    Oh, that's right, apple has shown you how to do it properly.

    Nevertheless, I still expect you and the rest of your pathetic bunch of cargo cultists will still manage to get it totally wrong anyhow.

  9. LenH


    " deliver products that people really want to go buy." the Zune.

  10. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Too little, too late.

    Microsoft is the new Novell. Novell was once the 800lb gorilla of networking, and then along came Microsoft to relegate them to relative obscurity. Novell dropped the ball, stopped innovating, and Microsoft produced a good-enough clone with just enough added blue crystals to take the lead. (It didn’t help that Microsoft isn’t inclined to play fair, but what company playing at that level ever is?)

    Today, we are witnessing the death of the Microsoft client operating system. While it has the bulk of the market share in desktops and notebooks, this is largely a product of inertia. The constant game of “me too” and “catch up” has produced an impending death by a thousand cuts. Apple, Google and others, (Palm/HP for example) are simply out-innovating Microsoft while producing solutions that developers can live with and customers actually enjoy.

    Microsoft has already lost the smartphone wars; nothing short of divine intervention will change that. The war for the tablet might be over before it even begins; we are about to enter into the Christmas season with no evidence of either an Android or Windows tablet that doesn’t royally suck in sight. While I’m not 100% sure, I suspect that being allowed to go unchallenged for an entire year is more than enough for Apple to establish itself as the king of this particular hill, capable of fending off all challengers handily.

    So what’s left, the desktop? Traditional notebooks? I am sure there will always be a call for these, maybe even a fairly significant one. With VDI, cloud computing and a slew of credible alternative operating systems on offer, Microsoft stands to see a dramatic reduction in market share over the next decade. Apple has always been too expensive to realistically consider as a competitor for the desktop/notebook space, but Linux (in the form of Android, MeeGo, WebOS or ChromeOS) might finally be ready to start eating the low end.

    Do your thin clients need to run Windows embedded? Once your corporate applications are recoded as SaaS apps deliverable through a browser, can’t at least some of those desktops be some flavour of Linux? Does Aunt Tilly require a home PC with a 350W+ PSU running Windows to heat her living room just so she can use Facebook and Gmail?

    I don’t ask these questions or make these comments to attract flames, and I am not saying that this will all happen tomorrow. I am saying that in my opinion, over the next ten years, Microsoft will slowly fade out of the /client computing/ scene. I fully expect them to remain a server superpower, but I would be willing to bet that their desktop operating system versions will be used only by people requiring what we used to call “workstations” and by enthusiasts.

    The real problem is the bloat. Microsoft couldn’t make a competitive operating system even if they got rid of Ballmer. The new black are these operating systems that can run cheerily on a 500Mhz processor with less than 512 MB of RAM. They are thin, light, have their own app store and will give the non-power-user all the computer they want in a package that eats less than 5 watts fully loaded.

    Microsoft’s best embedded operating systems don’t even come close, nor do they get the kind of love or attention the flagship product does. If Microsoft wants to survive, then it’s time to say goodbye to the NT platform. NT is great for workstations, gamers or other demanding users…but until they can bring a credible lightweight operating system out as their mainstream they are cooked.

    They could front something based on Windows CE (or buy Novell and just birth a mobile Linux like sane people,) but it’s more than just the OS. If you look at the gong show that is Windows Phone 7 they are so culturally indoctrinated into the idea of “copy the competition” they are not only copying the positive aspects (such as an app store) but the brutal mistakes (such as lack of copy/paste, lack of full multitasking, walled gardens, etc.)

    If Microsoft want to play in so many different pools at once, they need to be capable of making products that are excellent on their own, interoperate beautifully with other Microsoft products but also interoperate with products from other companies. (Remember that they are competing not against Apple or Google…but the entire largely cross-compatible Linux/UNIX ecosystem.)

    They lack two critical elements to pull off all of the above. The first is someone with a grand unifying vision that truly has the depth of scope necessary to understand how all of Microsoft’s offerings contribute to each other and thus to the whole. The second is management capable of actually executing and doing so on tight deadlines.

    In the meantime, I will continue to wait around for a sub-$1000 tablet with 1366x768, SD card slot, USB and that either allows me to install whatever or want or can be easily rooted. Will Microsoft be capable of delivering, or will Android get there first?

    1. deadlockvictim


      To be fair, I liked the Windows 2000 series. I thought that it was a nice compromise of size, features and speed.

      1. Kevin Bailey


        And it was ruined by having the 9* bloat imported and becoming XP.

        Still amazes me when people say XP is any good - they obviously haven't used Ubuntu or MacOS.

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


        I completely agree. Windows 2000 was the best.

  11. Blain Hamon
    Paris Hilton

    Wait, run this by me again?

    Tablets running Windows XP or 7 were out long before the iPad was even announced. And the plan is to freshen up Windows 7 on tablets, and possibly make them cheaper or smaller? If that were really the problem, wouldn't netbooks have kept iPads at bay, instead of iPads making large enough an impact to concern Ballmer?

    Of course, if they were to use a UI designed for something that doesn't have a keyboard and mouse attached, they couldn't claim user familiarity or software base, so maybe it's willful ignorance.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "Tablets running Windows XP or 7 were out long before the iPad was even announced."

      There's quite a big difference between XP and 7, particularly on tablets, and a severe lack of under-£1000 tablets using either properly. A tablet is very much a personal computing device, and £1000 is too much. The Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium was available with Vista Business Edition for $1449, in 2008, which I think was around £725 then, but wasn't available in Britain.

      XP evidently is cheaper for PC manufacturers, but its "Tablet Edition", with the same handwriting and speech recognition features that are standard in Windows 7 and Windows Vista although you may not have noticed, maybe isn't so affordable - and has strict design rules. So manufacturers took to offering tablet computers as netbooks with Windows XP Home!

      1. Blain Hamon

        I agree that XP and 7 are quite different...

        But it's a difference between versions 5.1 and 7 of the same product. It's an incremental improvement but does not rewrite the rules. The start button's in the same place. The task bar (Now with icons instead of text) is in the same place, the windows are the same shape, close button's the same place, scroll bars the same functionality, etc, etc, etc.

        I think that handwriting and speech recognition are red herrings. The iPad has no handwriting, save for writing some alternate asian keyboards, and the speech recognition is mostly by the wayside and is hardly even considered when it comes to the iPad. One could argue that even XP's speech and handwriting offerings are superior.

        Price is a factor, bit I don't think it's the only factor. The entire thing seems of "Hey! They're doing what we've been doing for 10 years, but they're doing it different and succeeding! Let's keep doing what we've been doing for 10 years, but make it cheaper, it's bound to work!"

  12. Anonymous Coward

    The Poor Relation

    It's always great to hear what Microsoft is going to do. Back in the 90s it mattered...

  13. Mikel

    Windows Slate Forever

    The release date is "when it's done".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Comes bundled with... copy of Duke Nukem Forever.

  14. Captain DaFt

    He still doesn't get it

    /rant After all this time, the best plan for the future of Microsoft that Ballmer can come up with is, "What's the popular kids doing? Me too!"? Pathetic.

    Here's a thought: Why not put those billions of dollars and thousands of engineers, programmers, and (gag) marketeers to work identifying an under-explored, under-developed niche in the market, then design a user friendly toy to fill that gap?

    Otherwise, the only future view for Microsoft is the hind end of the competition running off with the market because you're totally focused on chasing them instead of innovating. (BTW, look that word up, you use it a lot, but I don't think it means what you think it means)

    Oh yeah, putting your fingers in your ears and shouting "LALALA!" every time open source is mentioned, just because you can't buy it or bury it, ain't what the cool kids are doing either.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a fan boy of any particular company or movement, I use what does the job I want to do, no matter who makes it. But I'm tired of this one particular git, who's spent the entire century, so far, wrecking an entire company and hindering an entire industry in the process. /end rant

  15. Mark Simon


    “Microsoft's number-one priority is now to deliver touch-based computing pads running Windows 7 and that people want”.

    How can you run WIndows 7 and be the one that people want at the same time?

    1. Tom 79

      Number One

      I guess they are ditching their previous "number-one priority" as the security initiative. I guess it was too hard.

  16. GrantB

    Still wrong

    "He tried to re-assert the supremacy of the PC as a general computing device, saying people struggled with their iPads for typing".

    If he thinks tablets are for typing, then there is fail right there. I already have a laptop for typing thanks.

    "...we have the application base, we have the user familiarity, we have everything on our side if we do things really right,"

    On Windows Phone 7 or on tablets, they pretty much have no application base right now, nor any user familarity unless they are intending to put the Win7 desktop UI onto a portable device. So I think not only are they not doing things right, they are not even in the right frame of mind to do so.

  17. Ron Christian

    I see no evidence that Ballmer gets it

    I'm still not convinced that Balmer gets it. To wit:

    The Start button is as bad an idea on a tablet as it was on a smartphone.

    Betting on faster and faster hardware compensating for 20 years of ever increasing bloat and kludges works right up until the market shifts to lower cost, lower power, lower performance hardware. At which point you may very well end up with nothing to sell and not enough development time to start over.

    And before you even bring it up, the inability of your main operating system to run acceptably on lower performance hardware can not be alleviated by renaming and redeploying WinCE. It has a similar interface to Windows, which fails on touch interfaces (see first point above) and it doesn't run Windows applications, which fails on Ballmer's objective to leverage the MS application base. The worst of both worlds.

    What MS needs is to start over with a new OS and a new paradigm specifically engineered for low power touch screen gadgets. Instead, they try to shoehorn one of their existing products into the new hardware platform no matter how inappropriate, betting on the "Windows" name to see them through. They just barely wrestled the netbook market away from Linux by giving XP another year to live and by redefining "netbook" as having enough resources to run XP, which, parenthetically, blurred the lines between "netbook" and "low end laptop" to the detriment of the things that made netbooks interesting -- price, portability, battery longevity.

    In other words, Microsoft will win the tablet war by redefining a tablet as a pricy, rather awkward laptop that you can only really use effectively with the optional keyboard and mouse. Who knows, they might even succeed.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does Ballmer get it?

    "...but we have the application base, we have the user familiarity..."

    I wonder if Blamer really gets what a threat Android and Chrome are going to be to his "application base and user familiarity". Users are already spending more time with portable devices (smartphones) and less time with traditional PCs. For many the smartphone is their first computing device.

    What would you you rather have, applications, data and a UI that seamlessly follow you from your phone to your tablet to your desktop to your car to just about anyplace else you want to go, or a radically differing (and data crippled) experience on each device you use?

    Google's strategy is absolute genius. Android and Chrome devices are thin clients, effectively connected to the Google "LAN". All the heavy lifting and data storage is happening on the back end, allowing them to offer sophisticated apps that would never run on a portable device with its limited processing, power and storage resources. Google clearly understands how to exploit the presentation layer segregation; they've built a massive back end to support it, and they're just getting warmed up.

    Toss in the fact that they make so damned much money on a completely different business model that benefits from every user that connects to their LAN, practically guaranteeing the thin client and apps will remain free or heavily subsidized for the foreseeable future, and it won't be long before no one cares about a Windows OS (or any OS for that matter), so long as you can plug into that glorious back end and all those free* apps - and oh yeah, all your data.

    I'm struggling to see how MS can compete without duplicating the Goggle model, and I wonder if it's too late to matter. I'm even beginning to wonder the same about Apple. The functional and aesthetic gap between Android and iOS devices shrinks with every Android release.

    Windows 7 Phone? By the time it's mature enough to actually be useful the game will have long been over.

    And Steve's worried about catching the iPad.

    * Only free in return for your privacy, but that's another argument I'm afraid most users who want free stuff don't care one bit about.

    1. frank ly

      re, Plugging into Google's glorious backend

      Didn't Google 'open source' their glorious backend, or parts of it? Or maybe they shaped it up from open-source in the first place (I may be wrong or confused here, but I'll get to my point.....)

      For corporate use, a large enough organisation can set up its own glorious backend and have it's employees plug into it, over site LAN, internet and via-mobile connection. Privacy problem solved as far as data retention and analysis go. I'm assuming that all this is available as FOSS in the first place, needing only minor tweaking and customising to suit.

      Is anybody doing this or looking into it? (Or have I totally lost the plot?)

  19. Michael Overton

    Same old same old from Microsoft

    As is always the case: somebody demonstrates there's a market and then microsoft moves in and buys their way into competitiveness. This may be more difficult, as their smartphone effort demonstrates, though.

  20. Player_16
    Gates Halo

    Wake Me Up!

    Wake me up before you go-go

    Apple leaves me hanging on like a yo-yo

    Wake me up before you go-go

    I don't want to miss it when Andriods hit that high

    Wake me up before you go-go

    'Cause I'm plannin' on going solo

    Wake me up before you go-go

    Take me developing tonight

    I wanna hit that high (yeah, yeah)


    (Jitterbug), (Jitterbug)


    The New Windows theme.

  21. ili1912

    Balmer is arrogant and that's their nemesis

    This is hillarious. I remember years ago I had the "privelege" of being allowed to address questions to Steven Balmer at a presentation on SQL Server, this was around 1999. I asked questions relating to the rise of Linux. Mr. Balmer's response was to laugh Linux off. Only 2 years later he was singing a completely different tune.

    Balmer is arrogant, and this is shown again with Microsoft lagging behind the rest of the industry with regards to the mobile platform. Just because you are a big industry player doesn't mean that a smaller bird can knock you off your perch. If Microsoft isn't careful, this arrogance will lead to their downfall.

  22. Peter 39

    a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    Steve may realize that MS has seriously missed the wave that Apple has been riding. For him and MS, that's good - they're past denial.

    Part 2 is the hard one - what the hell are you (Steve) going to do about it??

    Don't say "Windows 7" because we all know that's a non-starter on portable devices until it has had a massive re-work. If you have been building a super-sekrit "Slim-Fast" Win 7 then great. But I doubt it. And it is by no means clear that WinPhone7 will be any better received than, well, KIN.

    Ball's in your court. Enjoy the match :)

  23. lemon

    iPad win

    Because we all watched how the iPod was crushed by the Zune, and the iPhone was obliterated by the updated WinMob. Oh, er, wait.

    Ballmer, young people don't LIKE your BRAND, and nothing is going to change that.

    Your day in the sunny is now overcast, and I see storm clouds rolling in.

    I love Apple. Their products are amazing. From their desktops, to their Macbooks, the iPad, iPod and and the amazing iPhone 4 they deserve all of their success. I am a proud iPad owner and a Macbook Pro owner and planning on getting the iPhone 4 within a month or so. I have never been disappointed with any of their products. I never came across the problem like other ppl say, and watching movies on the go with ifunia converter to iPad is really fun :)

  24. Scott L. Burson

    Here we go again

    Redmond, start your photocopiers!!

  25. GKLR

    Well that's good news for Google

    Look at the list of products and technologies Microsoft executives have 'dismissed' over the years;

    The Internet ('clunky' was the term used as I recall), Netscape (yes MS killed them, but that resulted in the creation of Firefox), Google (mind you Microsoft weren't the only ones to dump on the Borg...Google collective), Palm (who practically started the PDA thing as we know it), iTunes, iPhone, iPad....

    And now Balmer is dismissing Android and Chrome? Google (Your data will be indexed and added to our own. Resistance is futile...) must be overjoyed....

  26. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Windows 7 problem ?

    I thought the whole problem with Windows and tables (et al) was that Windows wasn't suitable for touch input. So surely it's more a MS/Software problem, then a hardware problem ?

    Balmer also said (about Windows for smartphones): "...but we have the application base..." er, but isn't Windows 7 mobile going to require a re-write of all applications ? So, so far, you have zero applications ?

  27. Maty

    ah yes

    Can't wait for Microsoft's Ipad killer to slaughter the opposition the way that Zune (remember Zune?) didn't demolish the Ipod.

  28. Tufty Squirrel

    Prerelease spoiler announcements, again?

    MS have lost this one, unless they manage to pull an elephant-sized rabbit out of their hat. And by insisting on Win7 and "brand familiarity", that means they're off hunting elephants in the Gobi Desert. Rather than trying to "spoil" the already burgeoning market of tablets, they need to drop a bombshell. They just about managed it with netbooks, but it probably ain't gonna work with tablets / smartbooks.

    Apple understood that mobile computing is different to desktop computing, that although you might use the same underlying OS you need a radically different UI. Shame all they have produced is something for consuming pre-produced media, rather than a real, radically different, portable computer. It's not like they already had one of those at the tail end of the 90's or anything...

    With Android, Google have produced a half-way-decent mobile phone OS that doesn't scale to anything other than mobile phones. Anyone other than the most rabid Android geek using it for a significant amount of time on a tablet is gonna get driven to the iPad. It's like an iPad, but slower, and shitter - once you cut away the phone specifics, it's really poo, especially on the lower end of the hardware scale.

    Chrome might work if you are permanently "connected", but it's still a "desktop" metaphor, for all it's "cloudy" aspirations.

    I predict MS will attempt to make Win7 look a bit like iOS without making any real changes to usability (as per WinCE / Win Mobile). Shame, as they have some killer technologies, and might even have something usable floating around in a skunklabs project somewhere. The main problem with MS at the moment is that Ballmer doesn't have the vision to run a corner shop, let alone a software company.

    1. bygjohn

      Platform for consuming media

      "Shame all they have produced is something for consuming pre-produced media, rather than a real, radically different, portable computer."

      While I would agree with you that iOS devices are currently *mainly* used for pre-produced media consumption (mind you, I think that's a huge market), I think you might find that things are starting to move towards other uses including media creation, witness the plethora of music-making apps (from virtual instruments to matrix synths, sequencers to multitrack recorders, to stuff like the iRig/Amplitude recently reviewed by RegHardware), photo editing/manipulation and painting apps, the mobile iMovie video editor etc.

      Yes, many of these are currently at the novelty/toy level, but some are clearly moving past that or are obviously just at the beginning of where they could go (eg iMovie). It's easy to forget that it's only 3 years since the original iPhone came out and 2 years since the App Store, and only a few months since the iPad came out with all the potential that comes from a physically larger screen. Amid the plethora of me-too junk that unfortunately swamps the App Store, there's some genuinely interesting stuff being developed, and it's getting interesting.

  29. Gordon 10

    Head up his arse

    The CEO equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and going lalalalalalala

  30. John Carter 1

    Why is a software company always talking about hardware?

    There he goes again,

    As soon as the hardware is ready.......

    The hardware is not the problem, it's the software dummy.

    I'm sure HP or Acer would love to know out iPad competitors but windows 7 wearing lipstick is what is holding up the situation.

  31. famousringo

    I'm sure there's a market for Win7 tablets

    The same niche market that has been buying a trickle of bulky Windows-based tablets for the past decade.

    It seems pretty obvious now that the mass market prefers the advantages that come from using a lightweight phone OS designed from the ground up for a touch interface rather than a cut-down desktop OS that adds touch as an afterthought. I don't think Windows will end up as Apple's main competition in this market.

  32. Kobus Botes

    Ballmer said

    "we have everything on our side if we do things really right". Ahhh, but there's the rub: can Microsoft really "do things really right"?

    I'm sure they have the technical and programming ability, but politically I think they are once again on a hiding to nowhere, trying to play catch-up (like it seems their strategy has been for the last couple of years) once again.

    Dissing Android and Chrome - major fail.

    (Onwards the penguins!)

  33. John Armstrong-Millar

    Not a clue

    wow Apple makes good products with software that works .. Who knew??

  34. D@v3

    Does anyone else remember...

    The UMPC project from a couple of years back?

    I saw a couple of promising designs in magazines and tech sites, but they never really seemed to materialize.

    Only place i remember seeing one, was in Terminator Salvation, where John Conner used one to hack in to a Terminator Bike thing, with a handy USB port.

  35. Barry Lane 1

    The question is...

    not so much that Ballmer was wrong, but when has he ever been right?

  36. Kanhef

    Failure to innovate continues

    The Zune was Microsoft's attempt to imitate the iPod, and it failed miserably; this will be no different. Users who want the features of an iPad will buy one, not wait the year or so Microsoft will take to produce a clone, and even longer for a similar marketplace of third-party apps to form. Microsoft cannot survive by continuing to imitate the success of its rivals; they must develop something new, something even better than what anyone makes. They have rarely done this over the last decade, and I expect this trend will continue unless there is a dramatic change in leadership.

    Ballmer's comment about "user familiarity" is ironic, coming from the company that imposed the horrid 'ribbon' interface.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Too late Monkey boy

    Although Microsoft have a history of not being first, but coming later with something better? (different?) I think they have missed the boat here. I don't think they can rest on their corporate desktop laurels anymore.

    The company that Bill built is being dragged down by bean counter Ballmer. It always happens when a bean counter runs a company, especially when those companies have come to prominence through the hard work of inspired founders. Bean counters have no inspiration. It is a bit like Microsoft running a ballet, say swan lake, it might have all the bells and whistles, special effects that one could shake a stick at, but it would have no soul. Ballmer in a Tutu would just ruin it.

    2001 a space idiocy , Monkey boy Ballmer stands in front of the Obelisk of the IPAD, smashing all the chairs he has in a such rage, but learning nothing. Apple are leading the field, and now have the resources to take it. (Until Steve dies, then they are screwed)

    Microsoft need a new leader, someone with an Engineering background!

  38. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Some chilling language from a monopolist

    Okay, they aren't a smartphone monopoly, but they killed Palm...

    Specifically, that your competitor has "sold more than I'd like them to sell" sounds a lot like "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Which was witty when Gore Vidal said it.

    Do you have an iProduct, or would you like to? Then Steve Ballmer hates it, and you. He wants to snatch it out of your hand and lay it on the ground and jump up and down on it. He probably won't do that, but he wants to.

    If you want a picture of a Microsoft future, imagine Steve Ballmer stamping on your iPhone - forever.

    1. Stephen Bungay

      Palm killed Palm...

      "Okay, they aren't a smartphone monopoly, but they killed Palm..."

      I think Palm killed Palm. They lost their product/market focus and drifted off to MS for their O/S. When Palm spun off their OS as a separate division they unwittingly sold half of their product, what made Palm Pilots what they were, the device + the O/S. If Apple spun off iOS and started selling iPhones with Windows on them the iPhone would likewise sink like a stone.

      YAHOO is doing something similar to what Palm did, they are farming their search engine out to M$ bing, loosing their identity in the market place, making themselves irrelevant, IMHO they are giving someone else the keys to their kingdom for a little short-term gain. When they become just a name with nothing behind them, they too will sink into the pages of Internet history.

  39. Rainer

    Didn't they eliminate the "tablet" group some months ago?

    I believe I read an article written by some ex-MSFT exec that basically was one long complaint how f+cked-up the company and its politics were (and probably still are). Among other things, this was one claim of the article.

    (search Google for "Dick Brass")

  40. The BigYin


    HP (plus a few others) etc tried it, had some good ideas, but it didn't really get legs.

    Apple stripped it down, locked it down and made it look good and it just works (so I'm told).

    Then Linux started appearing on more an more units from the more "fringe" OEMs (some iPad rip-offs, some not) and started breeding tablet/tocuh specific distors (Android, MeeGo, Unity etc)

    Now HP et al have started to weigh back in with non-MS units.

    So MS are not basically playing "Whack-a-mole", the problem for MS is that it's the moles who are holding the mallets in this game. Some of these mole may even be holding nothing more than a sharpened stick, but then know where to jab them.

    MS has lost (actually, they never had) the mobile market. It's too fragmented, too varied. Only the ecosystem that Linux fosters can possibly cope with the variations that abound. If MS want to retain any chance, they need to start building cross-platform technologies, applications and services.

    This, of course, goes against everything MS stand for. They cannot tolerate (cannot survive) competition on an equal footing.

  41. alphaxion

    They had an answer to the iPad

    They had a fantastic answer to the iPad - the Courier concept machine we all saw in those renders.

    Then they shitcanned it. Why? Couldn't deliver the OS to power it? Hardware proved too expensive to go into production, similar to how Kinect functionality had to be scaled back?

    If they really want to beat Apple at their own game, resurrect the Courier, get it out the door and watch the sales come in.

    That bit of vaporware was crying out to be brought to market and would have been a real step towards bringing some innovation into the company.

    1. Ian Davies

      The problem with the Courier... that there was no evidence that it really *was* an answer to the iPad. It consisted of an admittedly interesting hardware configuration, but a UI demo that was so clearly put together as a marketing exercise, rather than anything that could actually scale to performing useful tasks on a regular basis.

      Once again, the difference here is that when Apple demos something, it's a *WORKING* something. They've already done all the hard work figuring out how you're actually going to get things done with it by the time they show it to anyone.

  42. b166er


    Disclaimer:I don't care either way.

    It's really is hugely entertaining to watch you all shoot Microsoft down in flames, so first of all, thanks for the laughs.

    Steve Ballmer IS a colossal doofus, however Microsoft continues to be relevant. Examples?

    Xbox, Windows 7, Server 2008 R2, Office Live, Bing, BlueTrack mice, and that's just on the surface. So it really is humorous when you write them off because they're having trouble in the mobile sector.

    I personally don't get the iPad and will have a sportsmans bet that they end up the iFad. (prepares to eat iHat)

    It's too cumbersome to be of any long-term use. Sure, we all want something LIKE that, but it's going to end up on a coffee table at best.

    If Microsoft want to get back into mobile, they need to hurry development of the folding/scrolling screen, because that's where true portable computing nirvana lies.

    1. Tom 79

      If those are the best you can come up with, time for better FUD

      Xbox: I'll agree here, it's got a lot of competition though. It's so far off from their base products, they can' really leverage it to sell their other stuff. They are well past due for a new generation.

      Windows 7: This is what XP should have been. Thanks for releasing shit for 10 years.

      Server 2008 R2: Why? How is it significantly better than 2003? When will it catch up to Linux/Unix in terms of security?

      Office Live: Wut

      Bing: If I wrote a search engine and named it "Plop" would it be relevant?

      BlueTrack mice: Wut

      1. b166er

        Dig deeper

        Windows 7 ties in with 2008 R2, in particular, RemoteFX, to give meaningful 3D acceleration over WAN links and that's just for starters.

        Windows Live (25GB online storage) domain/email hosting/publishing Word\Excel online.

        Bing, compared to what went before is a huge improvement.

        I use my BlueTrack mouse on ANY surface quite happily which is great when travelling/on the couch/in bed.

    2. Keith Doyle

      iPad for the Coffee Table

      That's where I do want my ipad-like device, as a whole-house entertainment/security system control panel. But the iPad isn't it. Actually, MS efforts to get into this market might help things there, though I don't see any way MS themselves will actually benefit from it-- it will be a money pit for them.

      When was the last time MS actually broke some new ground? Apple is constantly doing that, bleeding edge with innovative new products that everyone thinks are going to go down in flames and are often proven wrong. Bill Gates loved to talk about innovation, but I've yet to see any out of MS-- absolutely none of the MS products were creating new markets that everyone thought would go down in flames. Look at MS's most successful products-- Mice, Keyboards, Word Processor, Spreadsheet. See anything new there? You have to have a track record of pioneering in order to succeed like Apple does, and that's a track record that MS not only doesn't have, it doesn't have the cojones to develop either, because it's risky, and requires a fearless true believer or two (such as Apple has in Steve Jobs). MS instead has always tried to be a fast-follower/imitator, stumbling over themselves to get their greedy fingers into markets that other people have launched. In some consumer product areas, late and/or imitation equals dead.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    The sooner our bosses stop filling our office computers with MicroShit stuff, the sooner MS will curl up and die.

    ...and I can't wait to be rid of the bloated, buggy security risk that they call an operating system.

    1. F111F

      Inertia Wins for the Moment

      Excellent point there. Unfortunately, many companies/government agencies move along by inertia and continue to buy from the same vendor despite better choices/prices out there. The USAF is a prime example. Their Standard Desktop Model is based on supporting (controlling) a Windows OS. When someone (my company) tries to bring in an innovative product that works great otherwise, it hits a giant roadblock with the SDM and requires constant attention by IT personnel to keep it functional. So, that forces buys of MS/Windows just to avoid the hassle of never-ending IT support.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    I hate anything MS

    ""You will get a lot of cacophony, people do things with other operating systems, but we have the application base, we have the user familiarity, we have ......." the bit Ballache never said..."no idea what we're doing"

    I suppose he proposes his hardware 'partners' reverse engineer an iPad, put cheap, off the shelf components in it, and of course a bloody huge heat sink to dissipate the usual temperatures anything running windows belt's out, and within a week, will have ground to a halt...not forgetting, battery life will be about half hour at the max. The we will have a genuine offering from Microshit that will compete....except by the time they do that, the market will have once again moved on.

    The sooner this monolithhic dinosaur is extinct, the better. The only innovation from them has been been to steal their original OS, kill all competition and that which you cannot kill, purchase and then leave to wither and die.

    Mine's the flame retardant one.

  45. ColonelClaw

    Almost beginning to feel sorry for MS shareholders

    "we have the user familiarity, we have everything on our side if we do things really right,"

    Right then, that's Microsoft fucked.

    How does this guy manage to hold onto his job again? He must have missed every single technology trend in the last 10 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost beginning to feel sorry for MS shareholders

      And that's why I sold all my MS stock about six months ago. It's clear Ballmer's not up to the job, and the Board doesn't have the balls to fire him.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love Microsoft

    I love microsoft products and I look forward to a tablet device from their partners that boots in less than 2 minutes... sorry, have I missed the point?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait... I just figured it out

    It's all a grand plan by Bill G. to pull a Stevie (Jobs):

    Let Ballmer run the company into the ground, Billy makes a triumphant reappearance, comes up with a new business model that's incidental to the old software business (some sort of genetics technology, for example), creates a new device and marketplace (the iGeneSplicer and the iGeneStore) and resurrects the company to its past glory. Brilliant!

  48. Gareth Gouldstone
    Gates Horns

    MS's bad decisions are not new ...

    ... their first operating system was Xenix - and they sold it to (old)SCO.

  49. Stephen Bungay

    The more things change...

    ... the more they stay the same. Take this snippet;

    "Ballmer also dismissed Google's Android and Chrome OS, the new threats to Windows on mobile. Android's growing fastest of all the smartphone operating systems while OEMs are buying into Android and Chrome on tablets."

    Ballmer dismisses Android much like he dismissed the Apple offerings, he can't seem to learn from the past. Then there's this;

    "You will get a lot of cacophony, people do things with other operating systems, but we have the application base, we have the user familiarity, we have everything on our side if we do things really right," Ballmer told Wall Street's troops.

    Yes, but you do NOT have the innovative or creative spark you need to pull a major creative effort needed to create products like the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, if you did you would not now be copying Apple!

  50. Combat Wombat

    Step 1 to success

    Fire Ballmer !

    The guy is a clueless tool.

    Say you fire him in an ironic manner, say duct taped to a chair, which is fired from a catapult and aiming him to land in a pile of unsold Zune's and boxes of Windows Vista.

    Get someone who knows what the hell they are doing, can fix the management culture at Microsoft and cleanse the massive pile of middle managers there with fire.

  51. Doug 3
    Thumb Down

    fitting an elephant in ballet slippers - fail

    they only "have the applications" if they can fit that elephant called Windows, into the required ballet slippers called a mobile tablet. We've not heard anything about Windows 7 running on ARM yet and only of Intel CPU's so they also have the CPU power consumption going against them. The next thing we'll see is a spinning hard disk in Microsoft's response to the iPad like we saw Windows XP based netbooks stuffed with more CPU and a fat power hungry spinning disk.

    That "we have the applications" part is what tells me that as always, Windows is all they've got and so their solution is to try and fit that elephant into ballet slippers. They'll put out some great demo's and sell a few to the die-hard Windows fanbois but that's about it. Maybe sell it with a 3-pack of battery packs and a really fast swap-out and charging mechanism.

    thumbs down because it will be yet another Microsoft product to take a dive.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we have everything on our side if we do things really right"


  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't want iPad, want tablet PC

    Poor Steve, he screams up and down to get more stuff stuffed into every product and then Apple manages to undercut it all by giving users less and convincing them to love it.

    I don't want an iPad, I want more; I want a computer in a tablet form factor.

    If all I wanted was a screen to browse the web (less), I would buy one of the cheap chinese tablets.

    Trying to be more like Apple is going to lead MS down a bad path, if users wanted MS Windows to be like MacOS, Apple would have had a much larger market share over the last decade.

  54. The Unexpected Bill

    The Windows Mobile Team doesn't get it...

    Funny, I was talking about this last night with someone. Microsoft's Windows Mobile team doesn't get it...either that or they seem to be habitually incapable of producing a product that really *could* knock people's socks off. I have used Windows Mobile since it was marketed under the Windows CE name and I remember when the first devices came to market, with their monochrome displays and pretty limited (only by today's standards) hardware. A few years later, I bought a Compaq Aero 2150, and through some very twisted pathways, ended up with a 2180 which was identical but had more RAM. And at some point, I moved to a later version of Windows CE (3?) by installing a new ROM package. I well recall thinking that this was a good start, but there was so much "cool" factor to this thing that wasn't being taken advantage of. The operating system upgrade helped, but I found the new UI so irksome that I pulled it and went back to the original CE 2.11 release even though it lacked many features.

    At some point I followed the bandwagon to a Toshiba E740, which was stellar hardware let down by Toshiba's incompetence in terms of supporting it and willingness to *lie* to their customer base outright, as well as an operating system that was severely non-optimized for the processor and didn't run well at all in the best of circumstances.

    Today I have an HP Jornada 680 H/PC that I putter with from time to time. It's both of a thoughtful and well engineered device if you don't mind the fact that it is pretty much stuck in 1999 forever and wasn't blessed with a very accurate digitizer for the stylus inputs. HP eventually forgot the Jornada altogether in favor of the iPaq from Compaq.

    This underscores the first problem. Microsoft needs to step up to the plate and stop placing operating system upgrades for these devices in the hands of the OEM, who would seemingly much rather sell you a new device as opposed to improving the one you have and maybe making a few bucks in the process. Apple supported the initial iTouch units through several operating systems and left them with a reasonable, working OS that's still quite viable. Google's Android is open, and can--so far as I know--even be shoehorned into devices where the manufacturer doesn't plan to support the latest revision.

    The second problem (hinted at above) is that each of devices left me wanting. They all could have been so much more than they were. I don't know about Android, but the iTouch platform really hasn't left me with that feeling. It's very slick.

    Windows Mobile is clunky by comparison to practically anything. I worked with a Windows Mobile smartphone from HTC the other day. I don't recall what model it was, but it was no more than a few months old. Its owner came to me saying that the camera application wouldn't open, that it was complaining about being out of memory and asking if they'd like to close some programs. (Sysadmins to be should heed the warning here, and never let on that they know anything about anything beyond the company computers--because otherwise you will end up troubleshooting electrical, plumbing, HVAC, telephone, typewriter and other problems...basically anything because "surely that must involve a computer" or some equally twisted form of logic that is known only to the using classes.)

    This was, of course, a complete crash landing. The phone's software couldn't close the applications itself and simply had gotten stuck. But that's not the point nor the focus of my ire.

    My question is, why was the user EVER asked a question like this? If Windows Mobile was truly as slick and streamlined as Steve Ballmer says he wants it to be, it would never have asked a question like this to start with. Instead, it would have known that the appropriate thing to do was to look at the stack of running applications, apply an algorithm--probably based on a "last used time" sort--and quietly close a few of the programs, saving work as needed. If the program was smart, it could even save its whole state and come back like the user had never left it behind. Or maybe even, you know, shift the allocation of working memory to application memory as Windows CE has done from the outset.

    So the only alternative was to do a soft reset. I can't remember the time I've had to soft-reset any phone, smart or dumb! And of course, the phone took no less than several minutes to boot up all the way, but that's where the story should end.

    Microsoft needs to spend a lot less time engaged in pitiful copying of their competitors. I believe they've got the brains and talent needed to do it (and I have good reasons *for* believing that) if they only can get their act together.

    Whew! My fingers need a break...! (Why do I end up typing these screeds, anyway? I guess I just can't help myself. Thank you, nevertheless, El Reg readers and mods for putting up my emergence one more time...)

  55. Keith Doyle

    Should be pretty entertaining...

    Ballmer thinks that he can just throw money (or chairs) at the problem. How clue-deprived can you get? You have to have something that Apple has that MS just doesn't-- appliance device cred-- where ease of use, aesthetics, and solid end-user testing and debugging trumps everything else.. MS has never had that, always a clumsy imitation of Apple products, and late-in-the-game to boot, which business had no real problem with since they aren't terribly interested in aesthetics or ease-of-use or bleeding edge. But individual users (the ones that buy the iPhone and iPad) DO care about that, and MS has a long history of missing the boat on that repeatedly, whether under Ballmer or Gates, both just don't get that and never have...

    So the results ought to be, as usual, hilarious...

  56. adam hartung

    managing partner

    Microsoft is so deeply entrenched in trying to defend its desktop/laptop business that it has missed all the market shifts to other ways of getting the job done. Their market sensing is horrible, and their tablet project is another effort to try defending the Windows 7 business rather than giving customers what they really want.

  57. Daniel 1

    Good old 'Fester'

    Steve Balmer is very much what Robert Scoble would be like if you gave him a multibillion dollar company to play with. If he's into it, it's irrelevant; if he's pumping it as the future, it won't fly; if he says it's hot, turn your attention to something else... and if he derides it, buy shares in it.

    Balmer is the kind of man who can cause a product to wilt, simply by looking at it, and this is why he can't perceive the problem. Rather like our British Monarch (who wanders the earth thinking that the whole world smells of fresh paint) Balmer travels about believing that everything exists in a state of festering shit because it's always shit where he's standing. It's a reality-distortion field, within which mediocrity and failure have always been a perfectly acceptable route to promotion.

    Balmer: what is he good for? Well, you could stand him in a corner and stick a light bulb in his mouth.

  58. Dest

    Always Good For A Laugh

    The only people who like and respect Steve Ballmer are the people that he pays like him and respect him.

    Well there are always those who are envious of his money but as a likable and charismatic person he is not.

    He is loud and obnoxious and does look like a Uncle Fester look alike.

    He is full of nothing but bluster and asinine statements and opinions which he expresses without hesitation like the filter between his mouth and his brain is not functioning properly 95%of the time.

    He jumps around and acts like a complete buffoon during his "motivational speeches" which are no longer allowed to be recorded or seen by the public because they are so outrageous and in such poor taste.

    (I have known people who work at Microsoft)

    Now this is not the kind of person who should be the public image for any company let alone a company like Microsoft.

    I don't care how intelligent or crafty they think he is.

    And this person (that nobody likes) is the image that everyone sees when they think of Microsoft now.

    And yet they are perplexed as to why most people hate Microsoft?

    Forget all of their numerous failures for the moment.

    Forget the perception of abject greed and their Machiavellian business tactics for the moment.

    Look at the person who is representing the company!

    That is the image of Microsoft that people see and equate the company with.

    Sorry but that is the truth.

    The problem with Microsoft is Steve Ballmer and that is not going to change until he is no longer there because people have already formed their opinions.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Always Good For A Laugh

      I'm glad you formatted your comment in this way.

      It makes it much easier to fully absorb each point.

      And lends every sentence a certain.


      To my mind.

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