with Microsoft's vocal chief executive, Steve Ballmer, are always
entertaining. A recent chat with The
Sharon Pian Chan was no exception.In response to a question
about Google CEO Eric Schmidt saying Bing
was Google's chief competitor, and "a well-run, highly
competitive search engine", Mr. Ballmer enthuses, "Welcome
to our world, man. It's a competitive world out there. We're
competing, other guys are going to compete with them. We have good
competitors. Apple is a good competitor, Google is a good competitor,
Oracle is a good competitor, VMware is a good competitor. We partner
with Facebook, but we also compete in some dimensions with them. Hey,
it's OK, just get out there and work. ... We're his best competitor,
and we're a very good competitor and we're going to do a very good
job."While he might be excited to "welcome"
Google to "his" world of search/competition (two things Google seems pretty well acquainted with already), he also talked about a
more sober topic -- Kin. The Kin phone project was a massive
failure, with perhaps under 10,000 handsets sold after millions
in investment and engineering costs.In the interview Mr.
Ballmer admits that Kin was a mess, commenting, "The No. 1
message from Kin is a message of focus. You only get so many things
you can really talk about, communicate, work on with the consumer.
You've got to be bold, you've got to look forward and you've got to
stay focused. Kin was neither -- with 20-20 hindsight -- bold enough
relative to where the market's going, and it just defocused activity
from Windows Phone."While certainly a colorful
character, Mr. Ballmer seems to have a good feel about Microsoft's
most promising upcoming products at least. He states that
Phone 7 or Kinect or IE9
(Internet Explorer 9)" are some of Microsoft's most exciting
upcoming offerings."Mr. Ballmer is also eagerly awaiting
the launch of Windows slates to take on the iPad.When asked
about how long he would stay
with the company, he replies, "I don't know. I'm working
away doing the best job I know how to do. The company continues to
grow. Outside my family, this is my baby. I want to make sure that,
whenever I go, the baby's in great health. It's not a baby, it must
be at least a teenager by now, young adult. I want to make sure the
place is in very good shape."And apparently Mr. Ballmer
has a real Facebook (though there are numerous imposter Ballmer pages
-- 11 by his count). How often does he check his Facebook?
quote: How much does it cost Microsoft to fight across all these different fronts? What is their platform? Windows? Office? Exchange? Bing? Zune? XBox? We shouldn't be surprised their stock has been lifeless for the past decade. They jumped into new markets, seeking growth, hoping to tie one (new) platform to one or more (old) platforms. And not a one seems best in its class anymore. In an era when customers have a choice across each of them.
quote: What you call a "lack of focus" a mature company calls "diversification". To use a simple analogy, if you dig from the same well one day it will dry up. This has happened to Apple a few times.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversification_%28ma...The author of that article is purposely using FUD to stir up the uninformed. Either that, or he's an idiot. He asks what is MS' platform and says none of the products are best in class. MS is no different than Apple, and others (but I know you love Apple):
quote: MS has Windows, Apple has OS XMS has Office, Apple has iWorkMS has Exchange, Apple has MacOS X ServerMS has Bing, Apple has Spotlight (and god knows what else, it changes so often)MS has Zune, Apple has the iPodMS has Xbox, Apple has the iPad/iPhone/iPod
quote: MS may not be best in class in all of them, but it is very successful in most of them, whereas Apple has two successful markets (iPhone/iPod as a music player, iPad/iPhone/iPod as a gaming device, where gaming is a secondary function). Apple has the most risk as it has fewer successful markets.