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Businesses Handhelds Microsoft Apple Technology

Steve Ballmer: We Won't Be Out-Innovated By Apple Anymore 610

An anonymous reader tips an article about comments from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer regarding Microsoft's attitude toward Apple. It seems Microsoft is tired of being behind the curve in most areas of the tech market, and will be trying very hard to prevent Apple and other companies from beating them to the punch in the future. From the article: "In a recent interview, Ballmer explained that the company had ceded innovations in hardware and software to Apple, but that the-times-they-are-a-'changin. 'We are trying to make absolutely clear we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple,' Ballmer explained. 'Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch.' ... An admirable goal, but it's fair to argue that attempting to innovate everywhere results in innovation nowhere. A big part of the reason Apple has been so successful is that they devote the bulk of their attention to only a few select market areas. By trying to innovate everywhere, so to speak, Microsoft runs the continued risk of spreading itself too thin and not really having a fundamental impact in any one market."
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Steve Ballmer: We Won't Be Out-Innovated By Apple Anymore

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  • by the computer guy nex ( 916959 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:05PM (#40606519) []

    "Well, we are the most focused company that I know of, or have read of, or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose, so that we can deliver the best products in the world. In fact, the table that each of you are sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, and yet Apple’s revenue last year was over $40 billion. I think the only other company that could say that is an oil company."

    Microsoft is too large and unfocused to sustain innovation. They will continue to be fast followers, and still make plenty of money doing it.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:09PM (#40606567) Journal
    If Ballmer thinks that his problem is being 'out-innovated' by Apple, his attempt to respond is going to be about as effectual as a fish out of water.

    Apple doesn't really do innovation as much as they do polished, decisive, takes on things that were previously relegated to niche status or mediocrity. They've also shown a historical willingness to murder even their popular products in order to introduce something that they like better(ipod mini being the most notable recent example: killed at the height of its popularity in favor of more expensive and lower-capacity flash-based products, because rotating media were deemed sufficiently inelegant.

    If 'innovation' were the problem, Microsoft could trivially bury Apple in wacky stuff coming out of MS research. As it is, though, they can't even refrain from eating any of their own young that don't play nicely enough with Windows/Office, and they have a veritable talent for squandering even the technical superiority areas that they do have by making them too expensive or too complex for individual users(eg. MS had volume shadow copy in full working order since server 2003, and has substantial clout in terms of getting OEMs to build things, plus an embedded OS to license to them for the purpose. So why is it that they let Apple beat them to releasing a usable-by-morons home backup system(based on a rather more primitive and hacky architecture) 4 years later?)
  • Re:Sorry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:14PM (#40606649)
    Balmer is tacitly admitting that the previous policy was to have Apple innovate, then copy them.
  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:14PM (#40606661)
    I completely agree. The way they have things set up, it's a race to be that top 1 in 10 not to go out on a limb and risk being label as the loser. Stick with what you know, make sure you only color inside the lines, refine something that worked in the past (or for someone else). But come up with wildly new ideas and get them out the door? Nobody is signing up for that.

    I know why they have this system in place, but it's so completely misguided them up to now that I don't know if they could recover from it (from a "OK, from now on we innovate!" perspective) even if they ditched it tomorrow.

  • Re:cool story bro (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:36PM (#40606943) Homepage Journal

    Obvious troll, but many may think it fact. You're wrong on desktops and servers, by a large margin.

    On desktops...MS still rules.

    But, from my anecdotal experience...with BIG systems, many of them even on the Federal the server rooms, these days it is largely RHEL.

    The general consensus I get from any existing or new project is..."Windows does not belong in the server room". Most of what I'm seeing lately is VMWare and RHEL and Oracle in the server rooms.

  • Re:cool story bro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:37PM (#40606949)

    Walk inside a public place these days. What do you see? Lots of Apples. Lots of coders (and not civilians in the US, anyway) run Linux on their desktops. I know, heresy.

    Civilians usually don't run non-Windows stuff. Go onto a HS or university campus. What do you see? A sea of Apples. Microsoft has improved their stuff, don't get me wrong. But while Apple was paying deep attention to detail, Microsoft was pandering to Standard and Poor. I'm not a fanboi; I do not use Apple stuff. But I have a deep respect for Apple engineering and their ability to hypnotize their customers.

    Microsoft has statistically ceded share in almost all categories. I got modded as troll. The truth is painful, especially during lovefests like the Microsoft Partner Conference, being held this week in Toronto. Microsoft typically finds ways to pound down criticism as their lovefest pounds fists on podiums. Ballmer has let his organization and his customers down, IMHO. He's allowed a variety of holes to be broken with the concrete hammers of success and innovation, sparse sometimes, as it is. Kool aid. With sugar.

  • Re:cool story bro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @04:58PM (#40607235)

    Just did. No blushing.

    Then I went to the corner coffee shop. Nineteen Macs, two Dell notebooks, one huge whomping HP running Vista. The Point of Sale system they use is Linux running something on KDE.

    Really, you need to get out.

  • Re:cool story bro (Score:3, Interesting)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @05:11PM (#40607385)

    But that's FUD. Microsoft Office works well on Macs. No one complains EVER when I send them one from LibreOffice. They can't be told form the original-- and NEVER has a document not opened or looked funny.

    So you can share with about anything; Microsoft Office doesn't have document dominion anymore.

  • MS brought us the optical mouse, the original tablet PC, smartphones that were document-compatible with the desktop, MS Bob, and thousands of other innovations; some of which caught on, some of which vanished into the mists of time.

    The problem is not that MS doesn't innovate with technologies, it's that they don't innovate in sales, marketing or production. They seem unwilling to be the pig in any enterprise, and would rather be the chicken.

    Remember, when a CEO talks innovation, they're usually not talking technical innovation. Where does Apple innovate? In design and marketing.
    This is actually a problem, because all those things you mentioned, from SCP, Xerox, NCSA and Winternals/Sysinternals are cases where MS took a risk on producing and marketing someone else's innovation. With stuff coming out of their own labs, that rarely happens (the MS optical mouse being one of the few exceptions) because there's no push (someone can say "see that great product X over there? We could buy that and make money off of it!" but the MS culture wouldn't get people behind "Lab Y has come up with this really neat tech -- if we give it to this design team, they might be able to produce a wonderful product we can make money off of!").

  • by Mabhatter ( 126906 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @05:39PM (#40607727)

    But there are only so many customers of that stuff. Microsoft has failed to build any of that into CONSUMER devices. Microsoft wants $100+ checks per user for each of those...

    If no CONSUMERS have the tools, there are no kids out there doing great stuff... That aren't tied to some company payroll. Even if kids were out there, consumer devices would compete with the enterprise devices where the big checks get written.

    Microsoft made the CHOICE to be an INSTITUTIONAL sales organization, not a consumer one a decade ago. They wanted the fat steady checks from 1000 PCs at a time, or from selling tools to developers, websites, etc... Those tools are now SO EXPENSIVE that there is little GROWTH for $100,000 solutions.

    Apple lost the business and school market a decade ago. They had to make due selling to EACH PERSON, not just winning one boss with 1000 workers over.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @09:32PM (#40609797) Journal

    Hmmm...personally I'd put Steve-O at a solid 3 myself, just look at all the companies he has thrown money at either buying outright or trying to use to buy his way into a market that doesn't want them. See Zune, Kin, Nokia, for examples.

    The sad part is they are going classic cargo cult usability, where they think they can ape something and then recreate its success without asking WHY, why is it like this? The answer is simple: NOBODY and I mean NOBODY buys Windows because they like MSFT, they buy it because they have a bazillion third party X86 programs they want/need to run. this is completely the opposite of Apple, where big products like iTunes are owned by Apple. Also Apple has for the most part kept iOS and OSX separate entities, you don't see them throwing teeny tiny desktops onto iPhones like MSFT did for years, nor do you see them making OSX a single tasking phone OS which is the current meme at MSFT.

    In the end if Ballmer is to have a snowball's chance in hell in the mobile market he does NOT need to be aping apple, which will never ever work, what he instead needs to do is go crawling to Intel and AMD and beg their asses for chips that will work well in phones and tablets. Because without X86 support MSFT is well and truly fucked, and ironically its because "Devevlopers developers developers" who got tired of MSFT changing their fucking mind with regards to direction every 5 damned minutes (.NET? Silverlight? HTML V5?) are completely ignoring them for iOS and Android. And I don't think all the aping of Apple in the world is gonna get those devs back MSFT,not a chance.

  • Re:Hmmm ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @10:02PM (#40609965) Journal

    sure Windows 8 is taking a risk.

    Booting windows has always been a risk.

    a risk to your data, a risk to . . .

    Practice safe computing: always draw a pentium around your computer before launching windows or otherwise trafficking in demons :)


  • by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @10:33PM (#40610181) Journal
    Small agile units backed by all that research and cash could be very very disruptive.

    And that is why this will never, ever, ever happen. Internal fiefdoms are jealously guarded at Microsoft.

    "It's why we suck!"(tm)
  • by raddan ( 519638 ) * on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @11:39PM (#40610547)
    That's not true. The Kinect camera hardware was developed by someone else, but the software (the real brains) was developed by Microsoft Research and then moved into a product group. Kinect-like technology is a big research focus for MSR.

    I am currently doing an internship at Microsoft Research. There are a huge number of very innovative things on the horizon (which, sadly, I can't talk about), and Microsoft has gathered one of the most talented groups of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Note that I have never been a fan of Microsoft-- I conscientiously avoided their software for a long time. I've been a BSD/Linux person for more than a decade and a Mac person since the late 1980's, and I prefer to write code in more traditionally UNIX languages: Ruby, C, Scala, etc. But I've had the pleasure of working with F# (basically ML, also developed by MSR) on top of the .NET CLR while I've been at MSR, and I am quite impressed. It's a shame that Microsoft doesn't develop this stuff for UNIX.

    I don't think Ballmer is blowing smoke, because from my standpoint, there's a lot going on here. While it's true that many of the things developed don't become products, the technology is very often integrated into existing products, without fanfare. The Windows fault-tolerant heap, for example, was developed at MSR for Linux, rejected by the Linux community (because it was not "incremental"), and then eventually ported to Windows. Many improvements that make Visual Studio a pleasure to use come from MSR. And, whether you think this is worthwhile or not-- MSR generates a huge number of very good research papers. Apple produces zero, although it does share some code (e.g., WebKit and LLVM). Google produces a handful and shares very little code (e.g., MapReduce and FlumeJava were never released, although they were reverse-engineered by people at Yahoo).

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard