Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Microsoft's Ballmer Swipes at Google

We can learn at least one thing from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco: When it comes to smartphone competition, Microsoft sees Android as a bigger threat than Apple.

I'm basing that solely on the vitriol that Ballmer leveled at Android (and Google in general) while leaving Apple relatively unscathed. Indeed, he offered faint praise for the iPhone, grouping it along with Windows Phone as a device that feels "good in your hand." His most damning criticism was that the iPhone offers "seas of icons," versus Windows Phone's goal of placing "information front and center."

But he launched an attack on Android. First he said, "You don't need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone," as if you somehow need a Ph.D to use an Android-based device. Then he added, "It is very hard to be excited, for me, about the Android phones," which, well, is exactly what you'd expect the CEO of Microsoft to say under such circumstances.

It makes sense that Ballmer would reserve the bulk of his fire for Android, considering that both Microsoft and Google are following roughly the same strategy in smartphones: Persuade hardware manufacturers to load your software onto as many devices as possible, in a bid to saturate the market. But Android's a dominating platform while Windows Phone, roughly a year after its release, is still struggling for adoption.

At the same time, though, maybe Ballmer should curb some of that ire: The more Android devices sold, the more Microsoft gets paid, thanks to a series of patent-licensing agreements with Android manufacturers.

That Android strategy (Microsoft's alternative for Android manufacturers who refuse to enter into a licensing agreement: an intellectual property lawsuit) is just one piece of Microsoft's larger competitive thrust against Google. During his talk, Ballmer also insisted that, with the release of Office 365 and other cloud-productivity platforms, Microsoft was making more progress against Google in the cloud. "Our ramp rate of sold seats, it's got a nice trajectory," he said, "We've got a highly functional product that's highly available."

He also painted Microsoft as gaining search-engine traction with users despite Google's dominance of the search space. Bing's progress was good "not just for share but for having enough data to continue to improve the product," he said, according to a video of the talk posted on YouTube, "to make search more than just 10 blue links." He sidestepped a moderator question about whether Microsoft would create its own social platform along the lines of Google Plus, suggesting instead that "we're adding what we would call connectivity to our products."

In other words, don't expect this battle to end any time soon.

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Source: http://feeds.ziffdavisenterprise.com/~r/RSS/MicrosoftWatch/~3/S9P1LdE8se0/microsofts_ballmer_swipes_at_google.html

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