In a lengthy interview at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, CEO Steve Ballmer said the company is back in direct competition with Apple thanks to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. For a while it seemed like Microsoft was doing its own thing peacefully contributing to the mobile industry while Apple and Google battled it out, but according to Ballmer, Microsoft is about to kick things into high gear.
“We are trying to make absolutely clear we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple,” he said. Microsoft will apparently work harder to design both the hardware and software of products like Apple does in an effort to improve the user experience. He admitted in the past that Microsoft “ceded some of the boundary between hardware and software innovation” to the Cupertino-based competitor.
When asked about the possibility of making the hardware for the smartphone, Ballmer didn’t necessarily rule it out. “Right now we are working real hard on the Surface. That’s the focus. That’s our core. Look, we’ll see what happens. We have good partners with Nokia, HDC in the phone space. I love what we’ve got going on with the Surface. We are going to focus on Surface and our other Windows 8 Tablet partners and see if we can go make something happen.”
The problem with the Surface though is that Microsoft will only be selling the tablet on microsoft.com and in the few Microsoft retail stores scattered throughout the United States. In order to compete with Apple, Microsoft will have to figure out a much more effective distribution plan than this. Limited buying options for the Surface is presumably to keep peace with hardware vendors designing their own products running Microsoft software.
Ballmer spoke of the advantages the company has in productivity and enterprise, but said Microsoft will challenge all of Apple’s advantages and won’t let any of it go uncontested. “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,” he said.
This new strategy is a very bold approach, but talk is cheap. We’ll have to wait for Microsoft’s moves down the line to see if Ballmer is true to his words.