Steve Ballmer admits to mobile mistakes but says Nokia, Surface and Windows Phone give Microsoft hope for the future
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted a number of flaws in the company’s mobile strategy during his tenure as CEO, but says the firm is on the right track to ensure it will not be left behind.
Making his first public appearance since retiring to make way for Satya Nadella as the head of Microsoft, Ballmer said that with hindsight he would have done a number of things differently in the past decade.
“In the last ten years, I think it’s fair to say there are things that did not go as well as we intended them to,” Ballmer told the audience at Saïd Business School in Oxford. “We would have a stronger position in the phone market today if I could redo the least ten years.”
Hardware and software
“If I look back in 20-20 hindsight, the thing I regret is not putting the hardware and software together soon enough,” he added, referring to Apple with the iPad and Microsoft’s later strategy with the Microsoft Surface.
“It was almost magical the way the PC came about with an operating system from us and hardware from IBM. There was a little bit of magic too for Android and Samsung coming together. But if you really want to bring a vision to market, it’s helpful to be able to conceive and deliver the hardware and software.”
Ballmer said that the creation of the Microsoft Surface, the continued development of Windows Phone and the pending acquisition of Nokia would ensure a closer integration between devices and the platform and ensure that the company would be behind the curve in the future.
He added that this didn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft would lead the market, but it wouldn’t result in it creating an idea such as the tablet, only to see Apple capitalise and commercialise the concept successfully.
Joachim Kempin, who worked at Microsoft between 1983 and 2002, claims that Microsoft predicted many of the major technological developments in the last decade, including smartphones and tablets, but failed to take advantage, while Bill Gates has also admitted to past mobile mistakes.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile once controlled the second largest share of the smartphone market, second only to Nokia’s Symbian, but despite recent gains made by its Windows Phone siftware, it now lags behind iOS and Android in third place.
Two trick pony
However despite his admission, Ballmer said he was immensely proud of what Microsoft has been able to achieve and called the company a “two-trick pony,” claiming it had both invented the modern PC with Office and brought microprocessor technology into the data centre. He even pointed to the success of Xbox as an additional “half a trick”.
“I’d say we’ve done more tricks than anybody else,” he said, adding that Apple had two tricks, but the likes of Google and Oracle had just one.
Ballmer remains on the board of directors, but said he would not interefere with Microsof’ts new management team and would only offer advice in the remit of his new role.
“I’m a very interested board member. I own four percent of Microsoft. I care a lot about my child and about my investment.”
However he hinted that despite his ongoing devotion to Microsoft, he was enjoying retirement. When asked what the best thing about being immensely wealthy and powerful was, he replied:
“The number one thing I’ve found is that I can play on just about any golf course on the planet and I get a real kick out of that. I’m a lousy golfer, but I really love it. You thought it would be something more cosmic? Nooooo.”
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