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Microsoft Cellphones

Ballmer Admits Microsoft Whiffed Big-Time On Smartphones 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the first-step-is-admitting-you-have-a-problem dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "During an executive Q&A at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting on Sept. 19 (video), outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that Windows Phone had a minuscule share of the smartphone market, and expressed regret over his company's inability to capitalize on burgeoning interest in mobile devices. 'I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.' Back in 2007, Ballmer famously denigrated the first-generation iPhone as an expensive toy that would fail to gain significant market share. He was forced to eat his words after the iPhone became a bestseller and ignited a huge market for touch-screen smartphones. Google subsequently plunged into that smartphone arena with Android, which was soon adopted by a variety of hardware manufacturers. While the iPhone (running iOS) and Android carved up the new market between them, Microsoft tried to come up with its own mobile strategy. The result was Windows Phone, which (despite considerable investment on Microsoft's part) continues to lag well behind Android and iOS in the smartphone wars. Even as he focused on discussing Microsoft's financials, Ballmer also couldn't resist taking some swipes at Google, suggesting that the search-engine giant's practices are 'worthy of discussion with competition authority.' Given Microsoft's own rocky history with federal regulators, that's sort of like the pot calling the kettle black; but Ballmer's statement also hints at how, in this new tech environment, Microsoft is very much the underdog when it comes to some of the most popular and lucrative product segments."
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Ballmer Admits Microsoft Whiffed Big-Time On Smartphones

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  • Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:44AM (#44903469)
    MS whiffed when they put balless in charge of anything. He can stop blaming others...
    • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:51AM (#44903539)
      Ballmer is a sales guy. Sales guys look good on paper because they're bringing in the revenue. But they're a disaster in a leadership role. Sales is always based on short-term goals. That's the nature of the job. So sales guys do whatever they have to do to meet their quota or monthly targets or get their commission. It's not in the best interest of the costumer, it's not in the best interest of the company, it's in the best interest of themselves.

      I've worked and consulted for plenty of companies where a sales guy get promoted to the top. It never works out well.

      • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MightyYar (622222) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:12AM (#44903803)

        I disagree that was the problem. The problem was that he made the same mistake that most of us geeks on here make - projection. He thought that people wanted smart phones to be little computers. Most of the commenters on here want the same thing - a little unix box that they can ssh with and such. He led MS down a path of making little pocket computers, complete with Start menus and everything. And you know what? They were more successful than just about any other smart phone. Things looked good... good enough to dismiss the iPhone as a toy when it came out.

        And he was right, it was a toy. But apparently the toy market is a lot bigger than the pocket computer market. It turns out that people wanted a pocket toy, and not a pocket computer. That the toy happens to use a computer to make it so much fun is a technical issue.

        Where Balmer gets blame is how badly MS executed on their toy once it became clear that the market liked the iPhone. Google figured it out IMMEDIATELY, so it's not as if it was too much to expect. Sure, initial Android sets kind of sucked, but they were toys and they were cheap - so people could overlook a lot. And since then, it has gotten quite slick. Microsoft, meanwhile, assumed that kids were the driver and brought out that ridiculous Kin based on CE. Then they tried coming out with a refreshed CE in 6.5, which fooled no one. Finally, after losing out the low-end to Android and the high-end to Apple, they come out with a proper Windows Phone. Even then, while it certainly has it's merits, it is essentially another iPhone/Android and really brings nothing to the table that would make people choose it over the competition. And on top of this, it was still trying to pursue the "charge for software" model, when the chief competition is free!

        Now they finally made the right move in buying a hardware vendor. If they go toe-to-toe with Samsung, I'm not sure they will ever recoup their investment. After all, Samsung is vertically integrated and is a monster in their capacity to turn a small profit on low-end phones. They are going to have to chase Apple (and Samsung) at the high end. I wish them luck!

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Interesting points, but I can't say I agree. Microsoft was not looking to make a Phone a PC, they were looking to dominate the market and abuse their monopoly to shut down competition. That is half of what the Nokia fiasco was and is. MS does not want to be good at tech, they want to "rule" tech with an iron fist. It's that mentality across the board that has lead to disaster after disaster.

          I agree with what you stated, just not that it was the primary issue with Ballmouth and MS.

          Posting AC for modding

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by el cisne (135112)
            Thought I was logged in, sorry. Exactly! They have over time appeared to be outwardly a 'market share protection', 'monopoly sized market share protection' company. Windows is the castle keep. Everything else serves to augment and bolster it's position. That is where the money and the market power come from. All things serve Windows. Even Office is subservient, to help promote and hold Windows share. They are not a technology company, they are a 'market share product protection' company that happens to use
          • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Interesting)

            by XopherMV (575514) * on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:24PM (#44905527) Journal

            Microsoft was not looking to make a Phone a PC

            I worked at Microsoft from 2004-2005. This was before the iPhone or Android phones. Most people had flip-phones. If you wanted a smart phone, you either got a Blackberry or a Windows phone. Those were the most advanced phones on the market. They were around years before Apple thought of getting into the phone business.

            Keep in mind that Microsoft mainly earns its money through the sales of Windows and Office. So, every product they make is engineered to drive the sales of those two products. One of the initial groups I interviewed with at Microsoft were the guys making the Windows phones. (No, I didn't end up working with this group.)

            Yes, they absolutely were attempting to bring the Windows PC experience to the phone. And yes, that was a disaster.

            The problem was that tiny screens don't work well with a Windows type of interface. Users don't like the clutter. Microsoft needed to make the interface transparent and focus on what people actually wanted to do with their phones, which is use applications.

            Hiding the Windows interface doesn't work when you're attempting to promote Windows. Marketing which promotes "Windows on your phone!" doesn't sell phones. I remember thinking during my interview, "what does Windows on my phone actually get me? Why would I want that?" Microsoft itself couldn't adequately answer that question until the iPhone and Android came out and focused on the apps. Even then, Microsoft still screwed up their answer to the iPhone and Android. They simply can't get away from promoting Windows and Office.

            • The Windows phones of that era were unmitigated shite, constantly crashing losing apps and data, and bug fixes never happened. When a new version came out, the customer base was publicly shafted. They are still doing this while Android and IOS ship regular upgrades to their user base (Maybe not in America).

              Many business users tried this technology, and none will risk trying it again.

              MS have yet to learn that customers do not like being publicly slapped in the face with a wet fish!

        • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:49AM (#44904289) Homepage

          Finally, after losing out the low-end to Android and the high-end to Apple, they come out with a proper Windows Phone. Even then, while it certainly has it's merits, it is essentially another iPhone/Android and really brings nothing to the table that would make people choose it over the competition.

          And I think this is a big issue that people overlook: People have a tendency to think in dichotomies, rightly or wrongly, especially regarding issues in which they lack deep knowledge. As a result, markets tend to be perceived in people's minds as a choice between the default/incumbent and the alternative/newcomer. This is in fact part of what has kept Windows in such a dominant position for so long. People are only willing to consider the two options that they were most aware of: commodity Windows machines or Macintoshes.

          The tables are flipped on Microsoft in the mobile market. For all the same reasons Linux has trouble breaking into the desktop, Microsoft is having trouble breaking into phones. People are increasingly seeing their phone purchase as a choice between iPhone and Android, seeing one as the default and the other as the alternative, and people generally aren't looking for a second alternative. If Microsoft wants to succeed, it's not enough to be "as good". They have to be significantly better in ways that people care about, and they need to maintain the advantage few a few years, without allowing Apple and Google to catch up, so that there's time for people's contracts to expire. Good luck with that.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Good luck with that.

            I think what they need to do is pick a niche or a few niches and specialize like crazy to those niches. Be the best in class and get a reputation for being the best in class. Slowly grow from that position.

            Nokia had the right idea with the good cameras in their smart phones, but they got drawn in to the low end, selling the crappy version at Walmart. I suspect both the Nokia and MS cultures are very hung up on growing market-share when what they need to be doing is brand-building and trying to find under-se

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            For all the same reasons Linux has trouble breaking into the desktop, Microsoft is having trouble breaking into phones. People are increasingly seeing their phone purchase as a choice between iPhone and Android, seeing one as the default and the other as the alternative, and people generally aren't looking for a second alternative.

            With the desktop, you really did have two choices: buy a Windows PC or a Mac.

            If Microsoft wants to succeed, it's not enough to be "as good". They have to be significantly better

          • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

            by gallondr00nk (868673) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:48PM (#44905023)

            People have a tendency to think in dichotomies, rightly or wrongly

            Ahh, I see what you did there.

        • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Informative)

          by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:52PM (#44905065) Journal
          The web browser on the iphone was like nothing we had seen before. It actually worked for the vast majority of the web. THAT more then anything else is what drove its adoption. Calling it a toy is just ignorant hyperbole to make your point.
        • I respectfully disagree with your use of the word "toy" when referencing the original iPhone. Apple, like a few others, simply understood the mobile experience users wanted when using a mobile communication device.

          This argument goes beyond an iPhone. We really need to fire up the Way-Back-Machine to 2001 with the release of iTunes and the iPod (remember "Rip Mix Burn"? I sure do!). Apple used their "Software/Hardware" formula to build a truly unique ecosystem that really took off in 2004 with the release of

        • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Interesting)

          by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday September 20, 2013 @01:05PM (#44905265)

          And he was right, it was a toy. But apparently the toy market is a lot bigger than the pocket computer market. It turns out that people wanted a pocket toy, and not a pocket computer. That the toy happens to use a computer to make it so much fun is a technical issue.

          That's the thing that most geeks and MS didn't get. The average consumer does not want a computer much less a pocket computer. They use computers because they have to use them to surf the web and do other things. As soon as someone offered them a product that met most of their needs without being a computer, they bought it. If you want to consider it a toy, go ahead. To consumers, it's not a toy; it's what they wanted. That's why tablets are selling even though you can get a cheap laptop for the same price.

        • I'm old enough to remember what mobile phones used to be like before the iPhone, and old enough to remember Windows CE, the PocketPC, and Microsoft's first foray into tablet computing.

          The fundamental reason why Microsoft failed in the mobile market was because they doggedly tried to shoehorn some scaled-down version of Windows into a mobile device, and the hardware at the time simply did not permit that to happen. Their strategy had always been about leveraging their existing dominance in the OS market, be

    • by danomac (1032160)

      MS whiffed and then they cleared the room. But then afterwards nobody went back in that room to fix it. That's some lasting effects there.

    • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:33AM (#44904065) Homepage Journal

      MS whiffed when they put balless in charge of anything. He can stop blaming others...

      A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.
      - John Burroughs

      Steve's been a failure and has just capped his career. Notice his use of the royal we, deflecting direct blame to the company, not its leader:

      I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.'

      Should be...

      I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when I was so focused on what I had to do around Windows that I wasn't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.'

      • Re:Let's be clear (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mwehle (2491950) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:50PM (#44905031) Homepage

        I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.'

        Should be...

        I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when I was so focused on what I had to do around Windows that I wasn't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.'

        Absolutely. Years ago I was working for Microsoft at the Mountain View campus when Ballmer interrupted his address to a cafeteria full of employees to chastise a guy who had an iPhone, belligerently telling the crowd that we should all practice brand loyalty the way his family did. At the time I was still holding out hope for Windows Mobile, and had a Blackjack in my pocket, but I remember thinking Ballmer was a royal asshole, without a shred of humility and unable to have the common sense to recognize an engineer's choice of superior technology. At the time there were a number of MS employees in the audience with iPhones in their pockets. Ballmer could have made points by admitting the worth of the competition, and trying to rally opposition. Instead he just looked like a chair-throwing lunkhead.

  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:53AM (#44903581)
    Microsoft misread several markets really badly in the early 2000s and present. They had an attitude that they had "won" the entire PC and computing market for now and forever.

    This caused them to grow really complacent and unimaginative and slow to react to market changes.

    But possibly the worst factor was the narrow Microsoft-centric nerdism amongst a good share of the Microsoft faithful that kept eyes closed to very obvious shortcomings in Microsoft's various bungled attempts in the last decade.
    • by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:21AM (#44903905) Homepage

      I've said before that Gates stepping down as CEO was exactly like Ernst Stavro Blofeld stepping down as head of SPECTRE and letting Number Two take the reins. There's a reason why he's called Number Two, and a reason why Blofeld is considered the evil genius.

    • by ilguido (1704434)

      This caused them to grow really complacent and unimaginative and slow to react to market changes.

      Were they ever imaginative and fast to react?

      They inherited a monopoly from IBM, they leveraged that monopoly, but outside of the warm, reassuring PC world, that IBM created, they seem to be astray.

    • I agree 100%, but the issue might be bigger than that: the PC, due to saturation and the advent of FOSS, was beginning to be too mature (read it "too good for the consumer"), so the manufacturers and the software giants have to find something new. If it means saying goodbye to microsoft, fucking up the PC with drm and pushing always connected mobile and a new OS, so be it.

      Microsoft as a company is not yet in trouble, as much as I wish they had never existed. They can reinvent themselves and make money again

  • Is why it makes business sense for Microsoft to be in a market where they have single digit market share and zero prospects of ever being more than a blip compared to Android and iOS.

    Microsoft should focus on the things where it is successful including XBOX and Windows and Office.

    • by DogDude (805747)
      It makes sense because their offering is excellent (most who have used it say "superior", and it's just a matter of time, now. It would be silly for them to walk away at this point.
      • by Valdrax (32670)

        It makes sense because their offering is excellent (most who have used it say "superior"[).]

        This is the first I've heard of that since I don't know anyone with a Windows phone. While I'm unlikely to switch, I'd like to know more. Why is their offering superior?

      • by ragefan (267937)

        It makes sense because their offering is excellent (most who have used it say "superior", and it's just a matter of time, now. It would be silly for them to walk away at this point.

        You know who else thought that... Sony with their BetaMAX product line.

      • You're not serious, right? The overwhelming majority of the market has completely ignored it, and from what I can tell, most of its alleged users are paid shills.

    • by alen (225700)

      because for most people smartphones are taking over the job of windows PC's and more. you can buy a cheapo PC and keep it for many years now where as before you had to upgrade every few years.

      same with ipads. you can do almost everything on an ipad that a PC does short of some games and programming.

      and they are a threat to the MS Office cash cow.

    • Well, I'm not usually one to defend Microsoft, but let's play devil's advocate. If that department is profitable (doubtful right now), then that's a reason to keep it. Even if they're not profitable, MS forced themselves into the games console market, and eventually it started being profitable. I wouldn't say they have zero prospects in the phone business if they actually made a product that stood out as being good. Things can change very quickly in the gadget/tech world. I do kind of wish they'd just becom

      • The XBox division is only profitable in the sense that it no longer needs massive cash injections to keep it alive. It is a long ways from paying off the huge outlay of cash that Microsoft made to push it into the market.

        • by Karlt1 (231423)

          The XBox division is only profitable in the sense that it no longer needs massive cash injections to keep it alive. It is a long ways from paying off the huge outlay of cash that Microsoft made to push it into the market.

          And the Entertainment & Devices division includes the Mac Business Unit which is profitable and helps props up the E&D.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      It makes sense because they previously had a fairly good mobile OS. I had it on my PDA about 10 years back, and it wasn't bad. The problem is that they failed to see the iPhone and Android coming and get a piece of the action.

      Also, realize that they had 0% marketshare before the XBox was released, and now they're doing OK. They just missed one of those crucial moments in time with the mobile market and now they might never catch up.

    • by dunezone (899268)
      > Microsoft should focus on the things where it is successful including XBOX and Windows and Office.

      Microsoft still focuses on those markets, but it has the resources to step out of the box and try to capitalize in other markets. The problem is that they have failed more than succeeded when trying to enter a new market. They were successful with the Xbox but failed with the Zune and on course to fail with the Windows Phone, and Microsoft Surface.

      Now you can enter markets and lose as long as your ca
    • by unixisc (2429386)

      Precisely!!! I've never gotten why they need to be in this market in the first place. And now, to compound things, they're acquiring Nokia, and have more to lose when Windows Phone tanks.

      If anything, they could have built a new model around Windows & Office based services - it would seem that there's a lot of cash to be made there.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:49AM (#44904293) Journal

      It makes sense if that market is at least partially responsible for eroding one of their key markets. While iOS and Android are not completely responsible for the substantial drop in PC sales, the rise of the smart device has played a substantial role. If Microsoft cannot find a way to insert itself into this market, then its long term outlook on the consumer end of the business is cast in substantial doubt.

      It's clear by the introduction of a (heavily crippled) Office variant for Android and iOS that they are ultimately willing to surrender to the temptation to once again put a version of Office on a platform it does not control. It did so with Mac, but Macs have always been bit players so I don't think that represents the kind of shift MS is prepared to pursue now. It's the first sign that the company is prepared to cede market dominance to Android and iOS, and get its piece of the pie by releasing some variant of Office, which is the company's backbone.

      It's still just dipping its toe in the water, but I suspect over the next couple of years you're going to see major shifts in how MS views its consumer offerings. From what I can tell, there is a growing ill sentiment among shareholders to Microsoft just endlessly throwing money at consumer markets and not getting any kind of return. Even the XBox, while it has been in the black on a quarterly basis for the last few quarters, still is years away from paying back the vast investment in capital and R&D that Redmond threw at it.

  • Early 2000s (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kingduct (144865) on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:58AM (#44903641)

    'I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone."

    He referring to the early 2000s when there wasn't a new version of Windows for 6 years?

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Yes. They were focused on their huge push into the server space extending their OS / Office products way up the value chain.

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)

      Yeah, that struck me as odd as well. He's trying to make it sound like he's actually owning up to his mistakes by acting like all of their woes stem from decisions made a decade ago. The truth is that his poor decisions were basically made non-stop the entire time.

    • The modern Windows 6.x core was a big change and improvement over XP. I wouldn't be surprised if it actually took a lot of development resources to build that foundation.
    • Re:Early 2000s (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:11PM (#44904565)

      You seem to assume there wasn't a new version of Windows because Microsoft was doing nothing, rather than the actual reason that the Vista project was a complete disaster that went years over-schedule.

      That's what he's referring to, no doubt. "What we had to do around Windows" was "getting Vista into shippable state".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sootman (158191)

      No, he means the early 2000s when they were working on... uh... Windows Mobile. [wikipedia.org] That's how the missed the, uh, mobile thing.

      In all seriousness, MS whiffed on mobile the same way they ignored the WWW in the early days. Even though they somewhat saw it coming, they badly guessed on the direction. They only did as well as they did because they were in the position to put that little blue 'E' on every desktop out-of-the-box. (Remember when you used to sign up for an ISP and they'd send you a CD with TCP/IP soft

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:58AM (#44903645)

    ...that's what is keeping me from buying into their [eco]system. The cash Microsoft have collected from me over the years should be enough, I believe. The name Microsoft just makes me yawn.

    Anyone feel the same?

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)

      I couldn't care less about the name or brand. I just want products that work well. In the IT industry, Microsoft's ecosystem fits that bill, even if they are quite expensive. I'd love for someone else to come along and actually offer competitive products, but that has less to do with not liking Microsoft and more to do with simply wanting competition in the market. I'm really excited about a few Linux options but those are years away from being viable for my clients, based on my testing.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday September 20, 2013 @10:58AM (#44903649) Homepage

    Microsoft simply failed to recognize that people use phones differently than they use desktop computers. MS started by trying to make a desktop Windows run on a smartphone. That cratered because a UI that works on a desktop is awkward and hard to use on the small screen of a phone. Lack of touchscreen support didn't help one bit. And even after they got that concept, they've continued to try to force people into the Windows ecosystem rather than attempting to fit their phones into the existing ecosystems. People don't care much about Office on their phones beyond e-mail and for personal use Exchange integration is almost irrelevant because most people's e-mail accounts aren't Exchange, they're generic POP3/IMAP4 accounts or GMail. Now Microsoft is left with a minority position and an unwillingness to play in anyone else's sandbox, not to mention having actively torqued off the owner of one of the two biggest sandboxes out there (Google). Is it any wonder they're having a hard time gaining traction?

  • by themushroom (197365) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:09AM (#44903763) Homepage

    There's a long history of businesses saying "nah, not going that way" then finding out they made the wrong choice and missed the boat. Good that Ballmer admits what everyone has known for a long time regarding being late to the smartphone party, how can he not?

    Funny he should take a poke at Google since Bing is... uh, Bing... but to MSFT's credit they took up the mantle to challenge Google at search engine technology. They could have very well said "nah, it's been done, look Yahoo and Alta Vista, ad infinitum, there's no meat on the bone" and left it alone. Which, in many opinions, wouldn't have been that bad a thing to pass on since, well, Bing -- but it's still a revenue stream despite quality. MSFT can't always buy a winner when they can't make a winner.

  • Stay the **** off my phone, it's Windows 8 that should be his biggest regret. As for Windows on my phone, didn't want it, don't need it.
  • Memories fade, but the comments Steve made about the iPhone, where about his misunderstanding that the iPhone as a "consumer product" at stupidly high prices. The iPhone only flourished through the high subsidy model in America (to maintain lock-in to carriers) and some parts of Europe. Leaving them with a model that gives them 40% in America, a third of Europe and no sales anywhere else (A kind description).

    He also overestimated the importance of a keyboard...because of email (in business) on a phone, with

  • This is bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:22AM (#44903929)

    This is a cop out statement if I ever heard of one.

    Just Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Mobile#Windows_Mobile_2003 [wikipedia.org]

    And you will see that at one point Microsoft had 41% of the "smartphone" market at the time. Their only major competitor was RIM.

    I mean Microsoft defined "smartphone", their phones allowed you to run apps, games and multimedia and was the natural evolution of Windows Pocket PC which was also a major player in the early 2000's.

    To say that Microsoft did not invest talent into mobile devices and phones in the early 2000 is pure, unadulterated bullshit.

    Yes, iPhone was a disruptor in the market, but Ballmer simply turned over and gave up on Windows Mobile products. It was 100% his own incompetence as a CEO to maintain a product that had, at one time, a major segment of the market.

    Its like Ballmer is trying to make it sound like he just didn't see the potential for Microsoft to capitalize on phones and was too focused on desktops, and not the bigger reality that Ballmer is just incompetent as a CEO for letting a product that once defined the market at the time slip into irrelevance.

    Ballmer the Blamer, this is going to define him as he wraps up his days at Microsoft.

    • When MS was any kind of notable player in the smartphone/smart device marketplace, it was an incredibly small marketplace. Honestly, other than perhaps acting as some sort of inspiration for Apple, I don't think it had substantial influence on what came later. And frankly, I think the Blackberry was probably a much larger inspiration.

      Ultimately, Apple learned a lot of useful lessons from the monster success that was the original iPod, and then saw how those lessons could be applied to a smartphone. RIM and

    • Windows Mobile failed for other reasons too, reasons that are typical of Microsoft. Windows Mobile had good technology, but the user interface was iffy and software quality was spotty. APIs and strategies kept changing as different groups inside Microsoft jostled for dominance. Windows Mobile tried to tie people to the Microsoft "ecosystem" and integrate with their desktop, but that integration was poor. And third party developers could fix none of this for them because they kept large parts proprietary and

    • by Christophotron (812632) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:19PM (#44904663)
      This is correct. I was a Windows Mobile user from 2006-2010. It was the best mobile platform at the time -- it did more than the competitors. Microsoft let it rot and fade away into obscurity, while the competition got better and better. By the time Microsoft "upgraded" their mobile OS (read: completely EOL'ed and threw away the previous version and replaced it with a completely new, incompatible, less-functional one), Android and IOS had completely taken over the market.

      I was a WM user for two phone-generations and I had no choice but to switch to Android. In 2010, Microsoft simply did not have a viable product anymore, even compared to their old phones, let alone the new Android and iPhones. They started completely over from scratch, breaking all compatibility with previous versions (_twice_, with both WP7 and WP8), way too late in the development cycle to compete with current offerings from competitors. Windows Phone continues to try to catch up to its former self, in features and capability, while Android has gone way beyond that, and continues to improve. Nearly all of the former Windows Mobile developers have switched to Android and will likely never return -- the mindshare loss was devastating.

      But Microsoft has a lot of money to throw at the problem -- they will eventually catch up, and then struggle to regain what they once had.
  • "and expressed regret over his company's inability to capitalize on burgeoning interest in mobile devices"

    should read

    "and expressed regret over his inability to capitalize on burgeoning interest in mobile devices"

    or perhaps even

    "and expressed regret over his inability to capitalize on burgeoning interest in anything"

  • I have always found it astonishing about Microsofts Hard on for search, maybe that incident involving "Destroy Google"; chair throwing is understated, Maybe Ballmer never recovered. Google clearly are aware that search is just one portal on the internet, and real threats are Facebook and Amazon, and has strategies against them, and (limited?) success against them has been hard won. Yet Microsoft have *nothing* in these spaces,

  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:31AM (#44904039) Homepage

    Everyone keeps coming up with suggestions to put them back on top. Everyone just shut up. I like them exactly where they are at. They still provide some competition in the marketplace, which is good. They did, however, get knocked down a few pegs...which is really where we want them at, right? I for one, don't want MS to have a killer phone/tablet. Keep them around, but in the exact spot they are in now: NOT ON TOP.

    • Is there any company which you'd find acceptable at the top?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not really. They must be in constant competition for customers, because that is the only way that we customers can win.

  • Branding problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Larry_Dillon (20347) <dillon.larry@gma ... om minus painter> on Friday September 20, 2013 @11:51AM (#44904331) Homepage

    I think a huge part of their problem is with branding. Apple and Android are seen as cool and sexy whereas Microsoft is perceived as uncool and business-oriented. XBox is the only exception I can think of. The exact same hardware, delivered by a cool, edgy start-up, could have done much better.

    To be fair, I haven't even touched a Windows phone, but my perception is that it's going to try to lock you into MS offerings (Apple does this too) and it will try and keep you from doing cool things if that doesn't somehow make money for MS.

    Is this really true, is this just my perception, or is this the general perception? Bear in mind that first-hand experience (reality) has nothing to do with the perception of those that haven't touched it.

  • Mp3 players,
    Smartphones,
    tablets.

    Three strikes and you are out Balmer...

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:12PM (#44904571) Homepage

    The world basically hates Microsoft. There are tons of reasons for it, but when it comes to new computing devices (that is to say, non-PCs) they do NOT want Microsoft running it because of their horrible experience with Microsoft stuff. It's a discussion which would last until the end of time as to what and who is to blame if the people's experiences were caused by others people and that it's not Microsoft's fault or even if it's just perception which is no longer valid. It doesn't matter. It's like the stock market -- it is what people believe it is and that's the end of the story.

    So when given a choice, people choose "not Microsoft." Not so much that they choose Android or Apple of whatever. It's that they voted "not Microsoft." And I think that says more than enough in a completely clear and understandable way. However, has Microsoft paid any mind to this problem? Have they worked to reverse those problems at all? Once again, opinions will vary, but I'm saying NO. No visible effort at attempting to win the hearts and minds of the users. They already have dominance and all their effort was, in my opinion, coasting and doing just enough to maintain and take advantage of their dominance.

    To this day, one example of Microsoft hubris sticks in my mind the strongest and I just can't get beyond it. Microsoft one day changed their volume licenses of Windows to "upgrade only." This enabled them to sell two copies of Windows for each computer sold. A business who wanted to save money on licensing used to buy enough seats for their users and that was it. But Microsoft just changed the license terms and said "you have to have Windows in order to qualify to use your volume licensed images." When I learned about that, I was just furious. No longer can we save money by telling Dell, "no OS... we'll take care of it." Sell it twice and use it once. Come on!!!

    Not only did they lose the good will of the end users who hate Microsoft for speed, usability and stability reasons, they started taking advantage of the businesses who are their primary source of money.

    So when people have a choice, choosing "not Microsoft" seems like a rational choice.

    • The world basically hates Microsoft. There are tons of reasons for it, ...

      Actually in the end there is one reason the world hates Microsoft and that is because Microsoft has shown such disdain for the world that they don't even deign to hate the world.

      Going back to their first major antitrust move, writing DOS2 so that present versions of Lotus 1-2-3 could not run on it. Thus giving current DOS and Lotus users problems: stick with the old DOS or give up 1-2-3 or wait till there was a DOS2 compatible 1-2-3.

      At every turn Microsoft has shown again and again that they were willing t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 20, 2013 @12:35PM (#44904871)

    I used to work for Microsoft from the mid-90's to the mid-2000's and once again Ballmer engages in the worst kind of revisionist history. The problem wasn't that he didn't "redeploy talent". The problem is that the vision for phone and tablets was WRONG. He can't admit that because that would be admitting that the fault lies at the top, specifically with Gates and himself. A lot of CEO are guilty of that. In earning calls they'll blame their problems on "execution", implying that their strategy is flawless but the peons just can't do anything right.

    Things used to turn out OK at Microsoft because there was a culture that encouraged debate. You could fight for your ideas regardless of rank. It was OK to disagree with your boss, your VP, or even your CEO. Eventually, the ideas that prevailed were mostly right.

    But all that went away during the Ballmer years. The key to success at MS nowadays is to be a yes-man. Starting in 2001-2002 I started noticing that when somebody would disagree with a superior in a meeting the atmosphere would get very awkward. People would stare at their shoes. The whole place felt like soviet Russia. Reports would be embellished at every hierarchical levels (and they multiplied; I was 6 steps away from Gates when I started, 12 steps from Ballmer when i left).

    It's like a soviet factory that has a quota to produce 5000 tractors a year. The line workers would tell their manager that with the parts shortages, they didn't think they could build more than 3000. The manager would tell the plant director that they wouldn't quite hit the quota; maybe they'd build 4500. The director would tell comrade Komissar that he's think they would exceed the quota by 500. The Komissar would report to the party chairman that they'd handily beat the quota and build 6000 tractors. At the end of the year 2000 tractors were built and nobody knew how their predictions could be so off.

     

  • by Lendrick (314723) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:14PM (#44906251) Homepage Journal

    ...that more people are running CyanogenMod on their Android phones than are using Windows phones. And CyanogenMod isn't a picnic to set up if you're a layperson, either.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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