I just read a great article in Forbes where they interview Steve Ballmer.
It’s a pretty nuanced and balanced portrayal of the CEO of Microsoft.
Some choice quotes:
Will Microsoft be disrupted? I don’t know. So far we’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding it. It doesn’t mean we’ve done a perfect job, doesn’t mean there aren’t things of which I’d say, gosh, I wish we had invented that or we were first to this or that or the other thing. But nonetheless we’ve done a pretty amazing job.
The one thing that I think separates Microsoft from a lot of other people is we make bold bets. We’re persistent about them, but we make them. A lot of people won’t make a bold bet. A bold bet doesn’t assure you of winning, but if you make no bold bets you can’t continue to succeed. Our industry doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels forever. I mean, you can milk any great idea. Any idea that turns out to be truly great can be harvested for tens of years. On the other hand, if you want to continue to be great, you’ve got to bet on new things, big, bold bets. It’s in our value statement; you go to our website.
And you’ve got to be patient. I think our patience and the fact that we make bold bets is well understood: Xbox, Bing. Our patience with those bets I think is starting to show some real return in terms of great products.
and he throws in the standard Bing hype:
I don’t know if that was a compliment or not, but nonetheless most most big companies either don’t have the gumption or the resources to make a big bet. We made a big bet on Xbox and I’m glad we did. We made a big bet on Bing, I’m glad we did. Bing hasn’t derived full financial return, but man, we have a product that delivers more relevant results than Google, and is more differentiated for social and for our Facebook partnership, than anything out there.
I love what we’re doing with Windows 8, and it’s a bold bet. We’re reimagining our number one product. That’s cool. But it’s not for the fainthearted. It takes a certain boldness and a certain persistence.
He also clarifies their stance on the Microsoft Surface:
With Surface we’re not opening up new ground in terms of having hardware capability. What we wanted to make sure was that no stone is left unturned in terms of really showing Windows 8 in its most innovative form. With Windows 8 you can get a tablet and a PC in a single package, and I think Surface probably proves that as well as anything.
Our goal is not to compete with hardware partners. The bulk of our Windows volume is going to come from our hardware partners.
The Microsoft Surface statement is interesting.
He makes it sound like Surface is just a reference device that will be one of many devices out there that will run Windows RT. To his credit, that’s a pretty unequivocal clarification but I’m still not sure that I buy it.
It still begs the question, what happens if consumers flock to the Surface at the expense of other OEM’s? Will Microsoft slow down supply to encourage consumers to look elsewhere?
I think not. Time will tell…