Microsoft CEO Ballmer on why Apple is thriving

“Kevin Johnson, the president of [Microsoft’s online] division, suddenly and surprisingly resigned late Wednesday, taking over Juniper Networks, and leaving Microsoft’s online business in more disarray than it was already in,” Jim Goldman reports or CNBC.

In a memo to Microsoft employees addressing Johnson’s departure and competition with Google, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also mentions Apple, pointing out that “Microsoft outsells Apple 30 to 1, but elevates the competition to a new level,” Goldman reports. “He writes: ‘In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience. Today, we’re changing the way we work with hardware vendors to ensure that we can provide complete experiences with absolutely no compromises. We’ll do the same with phones—providing choice as we work to create great end-to-end experiences.'”

Goldman writes, “It’s an interesting take on Microsoft’s position in the marketplace as it relates to Apple. Microsoft is indeed losing marketshare to Apple (2.5 million Macs a quarter start to add up!) because of all the well-documented problems and challenges with Windows Vista. But rather than focus on Vista’s shortcomings, Ballmer spotlights the strengths of the Mac.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JES42” for the heads up.]

How “narrow” is a platform that is a much better choice for the vast majority of personal computer users who are not short-sightedly shackled to some Windows-only app? That is really the only reason to run Windows and, if that’s the only reason why people run your OS, then you’d better keep developers from writing native versions of their apps for Mac (which, as market share increases have a funny way of promoting, they are doing in droves) or you’ve got absolutely nothing. For example, if Autodesk came out with a good, sound working Mac version of AutoCAD today, Apple would own the architecture market by next week. Architecture firms don’t pick Windows because it’s better, they’re stuck with it for now. The same for the real estate industry, etc.

Furthermore, there is no way that Microsoft “can provide complete experiences with absolutely no compromises.” Not unless they dump the HPs and Dells of the world and adopt Apple’s vertical integration model (control of the whole widget) and begin producing their own PC hardware. Too many cooks in the kitchen otherwise. Even if Microsoft did that, they’d still be stuck with a bloated, legacy-ridden, mess of an OS. And industrial designers the caliber of Jonathan Ive do not grow on trees. If Microsoft made Windows PCs, they’d end up with another Zune. There really is no good news for Microsoft. They don’t have the leadership, they don’t have a culture of innovation, and they don’t have the winning model. All they have are the vestiges of an illegally-constructed monopoly that they can no longer leverage indiscriminately to run roughshod over the tech industry.

The exact same points above work for iPhone vs. a fleet of clunky, junky Windows Mobile devices from every Tom, Dick, and Harry hardware maker. Just like they worked for iPod vs. Apple’s roadkill who all used to use the now-defunct PlaysForSure for their clunky, junky now-defunct MP3 players. Vertical integration trumps horizontal when it comes the end user experience and, drumroll please… end user experience is all that really matters.

Someday the world will look back on the period where Microsoft dominated personal computing as an unfortunate, wasteful mistake. The Dark Ages of Personal Computing is finally drawing to a close. The Apple renaissance is at hand!

Ballmer’s full memo is here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Rainy Day” for the heads up.]


  1. @Shadow
    That’s what I’m saying. Where the hell does he get 30 to 1 from? It looks to me like we’re closing in on just 10 to 1. Keep Ballmer in and we’ll get to 50% sometime in the next decade.

  2. Macromancer

    At least it makes people FEEL like they have a choice, when they really don’t, and that’s all that matters.

    That’s funny, because that’s exactly what’s wrong with the politics in the USA right now. You have two rightwing viewpoints arguing intensely within a narrow range of opinions and everyone sees this and thinks that issues are being “debated”, when in fact it’s just the status quo with fireworks. People think there is lively discussion, when it is in fact narrowly controlled noisy obfuscation.

  3. With iWork, Apple has slowly been preparing itself for the day when there is no more feminist software for the Mac. (By feminist software, I mean Ms Word, Ms Excel, Ms PowerPoint, and so on.)

  4. Either it’s an end-to-end experience or there is choice.

    Unless MSFT develops mandatory reference platforms and endows them with software that works in a uniform way across those platforms, Ballmer’s Johnny Come Lately half-assed commitment to end-to-end user experience is a waste of the electrons that were used to transmit around Microsoft’s Empire of Mediocrity.

    If you go to and look at the posts by MSFT personnel, you get a flavour for what it’s like to work for Microsoft – yet another management re-org and yet re-visioning of MSFT’s role in the world developed by a man who isn’t smart enough to use anti-perspirant is hardly likely to do anything to improve Ballmer’s rating amongst his troops which is about as average as it can get.

    The problem for Microsoft is that it can’t work out what it wants to be: software behemoth? online services giant? advertising leviathan? Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

    Even worse, it can’t work out how to get to where it wants to go: complete end-to-end experience? So-called partnerships? Internal creativity? Acquisition of second-string players? Commitment to open standards? Extinguishing competition and denigrating the open source movement?.

    I do hope that someone ultimately puts Ballmer out of Microsoft’s misery, but not for four or five years or so.

  5. @Harvey

    I agree – I think though MS is between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t support apple with their office suite then it would be viewed as predatory action by a monopoly. It they do support it then they are just feeding apple’s growth.

  6. Ballmer is just making an excuse for their continuing failure.

    XBox and Zune are in the Apple model and they haven’t made a blue bean of profit for Microsoft…

    Down the toilet it goes methinks.

  7. I don’t agree with MDN that if Microsoft adopted a vertically integrated model like Apple and produced Microsoft-branded computers we’d suddenly see Apple quality coming out of Redmond. Remember Microsoft is responsible for the vertically-integrated, Microsoft-branded X-Box, and those things have an absolutely astounding failure rate (red ring of death anyone?) and sound like a running hairdryer (and throw off about as much heat).

    As Steve Jobs said in that famous mid-1990s interview, the real problem with Microsoft is that they have absolutely no taste.

  8. Two things. First, when Ballmer (who is the ugliest SOB ever to be a CEO) mentions “narrow”, he is speaking of hardware, not the experience. Basically he means that you can install any one of 500 graphics cards. On macs, you don’t have nearly that many choices. Basically, what he should have said is “we cater to both the high and and the cheap POS end, however, mac only caters to the high end. We want to do both, but with the user experience mac users enjoy”.

    Second, as far as MDN’s note, the real estate industry can start shifting over to mac (as a Realtor who uses a Mac full time). I won’t ever use windows for Real Estate again. The company, Real Estate Success Tools builds the best realtor business management software. It’s built in FileMaker and it works in all OS’s with unlimited users attached. If you are in real estate, go to and get their software, it’s well worth it. Hopefully, the software makers for title and mortgage industry follows suit, and we can all drop the window POS’s.

  9. @pDK

    The good news is I think BALDmer really believes what he is saying. I hope he never finds out the true numbers until it is too late. That should be in about 3 years I would guess.



  10. Looks like the seat is starting to get a little warm for Uncle Fester.

    The Yahoo hostile takeover has dragged on all year, and it wasn’t the answer ANYWAY. Now the co-architect of that strategy has bailed (or was pushed, as the case may be). They just lost $488M(!!) in 90 days trying to execute that strategy. Ballmer finally has to acknowledge that Apple has a good end-to-end user experience that M$ does not. The money that M$ has to blow in such large amounts in one business quarter STILL COMES FROM Winblows and Office.

    Wall Street is starting to shine the spotlight on the leadership that got Micro-Sloth into this mess. That’s actually good AND bad at the same time. It’s good that Ballmer is about to get exposed as the overpaid charlatan CEO, luckiest dorm-room assignment recipient in the history of business, but it may be bad for us as Apple fan/users.

    What if M$ did what Apple did and bring in someone of competence and vision who orders that every ongoing project at M$ be paraded in front of him and instruct them to justify their existence or be eliminated? What if M$ then cut all legacy ties to their old OS and finally built a modern, 21st century OS with security, open standards, and ease of use as the priorities? What would actual COMPETITION instead of copycatting coming out of Redmond look like?

    We’ll never know ’cause I just woke up.

    Never mind!

    Olmecmystic ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”cool smile” style=”border:0;” />

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.