Microsoft CEO Believes Unicorns Exist, Pigs Fly, & Surface Is the First Tablet Customers Want

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Ballmer with Surface tablet

OK, so the first two parts of the post title may be a little exaggerated, but Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, does apparently believe that the new Microsoft Surface ‘PC tablets’ are coming into a tablet market where nobody thus far has made a tablet device that customers want.

In a recent interview with CNBC he has lots of fun things to say about the competition that the Surface may face in the tablet arena – and he dismisses it out of hand:

I don’t think anybody has done a product that is the product that I see customers wanting …

You can go through the products from all those guys … and none of them has a product that you can really use. Not Apple. Not Google. Not Amazon. Nobody has a product that lets you work and play that can be your tablet and your PC. Not at any price point.

A few things stand out here. Actually, 100 million things stand out for starters – as in, 100 million iPads sold in just 2.5 years. I think a lot of folks would class that as a pretty clear indication of customers wanting something – though apparently not in Ballmer’s world.

Ballmer talks about PC tablets, because of course he and Microsoft are not big fans of the idea of a Post-PC era. And he seems to believe that a PC tablet is what people really want. I think it’s another example of Ballmer and Microsoft being blind to what’s happening in the mobile space. I think MS has been clueless about mobile for years, and Ballmer’s views on the tablet market just show that they still are.

From what I can gather from many early reviews of the Surface RT, it’s the insistence on shoving in the PC interface on top of or underneath or all around the sides of a tablet UI that’s making the device difficult to use.

I also found it funny when watching the CNBC interview that Ballmer seems to think that ‘going to work’ means snapping a keyboard onto the Surface. He does it and acts as if it’s just obvious that now this has become a serious working tablet. Maybe he’s unaware that there are a ton of keyboard and keyboard case options for the iPad – a bit like he missed the news about those 100 million iPads sold, and the news about iPad sales in one quarter this year topping the total PC sales (all models) of any PC manufacturer in the world.

Honestly, I think the Surface is an interesting tablet, and I hope it turns out to be a good tablet and good competition for the iPad and Android tablets, and I know Ballmer has to do his best to pitch the Surface tablets. But seriously, why not do that with a touch of reality thrown in. Why not acknowledge that you’re entering a new market two and half years after the established leader and that it’s a challenge. Why not say it’s a challenge but we think we’ve innovated and we’ve got a great product that’s ready to meet that challenge. You’d think maybe a little touch of reality or even humility might be worth thinking about for a guy who was so quick to write off the iPhone five years ago and say it would never make a dent in the market.

Ballmer’s talk about the Surface being the first tablet device customers really want feels an awful lot like the stupid bragging from Blackberry when they brought out their PlayBook tablet. They ran ads saying ‘Amateur Hour Is Over’ and immediately touted the PlayBook as far better than the iPad. The PlayBook never came close to living up to the boasts and Apple sold more iPads in a handful of days than RIM sold PlayBooks in full quarters.

Maybe Ballmer should’ve waited to see a few sales numbers and reviews before talking so big and writing off the competition.

Image Source: AllThingsD

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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8 thoughts on “Microsoft CEO Believes Unicorns Exist, Pigs Fly, & Surface Is the First Tablet Customers Want

  1. I’d be more inclined to take offense at his shameless promotion of Surface if Apple hadn’t recently done similar things promoting their ‘mini iPad’ as being so much better than far higher specced Android 7” tablets which are cheaper than it ….

    (as it stands his diatribe is just ‘par for the course’ and all of them are at it)

  2. I am a bit awed by this. I never liked the Microsoft Surface from the day it was announced in the making. Everything from their “8″ commercial to the UI displeases me. It’s all just too cluttered for work. If I were to use it as a game social media device maybe it would work, but I wouldn’t get anything done on it in terms of work. However on the other hand, the Apple iPad is clean, crisp and easy to use. I haven’t used my PC much since I got it. It has been easier and more fun to get work done on there. If Windows 8 is where Microsoft is headed..:.I’m getting a Mac next time.

  3. Hey, you guys should be happy about and supportive of any serious competition for i- devices. Expanding the Apple monopoly will just lead to more Maps-type debacles. I’d love for Surface to make them sweat a little, maybe open things up more, and make iPad more generally useful for content and software creation.

    I own an iPad and love it, but in many ways it’s crippled, artificially constrained to suit Apple’s needs over mine. Developers have to go to ridiculous extents to work around the lack of file sharing, etc.

    Ballmer was inarticulately trying to highlight the goal of supporting content creators and business users, in addition to content consumers. For the first time I really hope MS gets it right.

  4. I just don’t get that this guy is still the CEO of Microsoft. I actually was never a fan of the company but to see what they have done (or better not done) in recent years is just sad. Just have a look on the stock chart since he took over. Microsoft, do yourself a favour and get rid of him. Fast. Seriously.

  5. The iPad is great for personal use. But for a real business, it’s very cumbersome unless your company has an app just for employees that interface with that companies programs.

    Things as simple as copying files takes way too many steps on an iPad. It’s an expensive but well done toy.

    I hope win 8 tablets interface better with a windows pc. Most of the world still runs a windows machine.