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