Steve Ballmer: iPad Just Another PC, Google’s Dual-OS Approach Ridiculous

In what was the most entertaining interview here at the D8 conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was more than ready to talk about his two biggest competitors: Apple and Google. When it comes to the iPad, Ballmer disagreed with Steve Jobs’ earlier comments during the show on PCs being the equivalent of trucks that will be needed less and less over time. Instead, he said that tablets are just PCs with a different form factor.

Ballmer got most animated when discussing Google Android and Chrome. He said the search giant’s approach is incoherent and ridiculous and actually hurts the ecosystem they’re trying to create. And during the same interview chief software architect Ray Ozzie called Google out on privacy by saying that Microsoft Windows and Office users by not having to worry about whether someone is snooping on their keystrokes. (Yikes.) Check out all the highlights below

On Cloud vs. Client Computing: Ozzie wants devices to be more appliance like. You want to buy it, log in, and light it up. Applications will feel more cached than installed. Ballmer says that there’s nothing bad about the cloud. We need to work harder and work smarter during this transition.

On Syncing and Privacy: Ozzie says sync is tough because we’re spreading ourselves all over the web. Need to agree as industry how to handle this repository. User should be in control of their identity. But Ballmer said that it’s difficult from a UI standout to share some things but not others. Ballmer says that Microsoft doesn’t have business model that’s dependent on users. Ozzie says Microsoft users don’t have to wonder whether the company is snooping on their keystrokes. (Swipe at Google.)

Are Tablets Killing PCs? Ballmer says I think people are going to be using PCs for many, many users to come, but they will shift in form factor. The real question is what’s a PC. Windows machines will not be trucks. The question is what are you going to push. A guy tried to take notes with his iPad in a meeting with me yesterday. That was fun.

You’ll have a range of devices over time that you like that don’t have a keyboard. There will be people who want the familiar look of Windows. But there will be plenty of cases where things where will be more customized and we see opportunities for optimization. There will be a lot of competition around that.

Ballmer says that we’ll say more bifurcation in devices like tablets (work and play). Ozzie says we need to drive out complexity. And we can simplify things over time. Consumption experiences are subtractive. These are not separate categories. Our cars will get smaller and sleeker, but they’re still cars.

On Android Tablets: A lot of our partners tried Linux a year ago in netbooks and look how that turned out. We’ll do what it takes in the market.

On Smart Phone Competition: We missed a whole cycle. We infused new talent. We had to do a little clean up. The excellence in execution is an important part of innovation. The fact that the market is dynamic is an opportunity. RIM is a good competitor and they’re 60 to 70 percent consumer. We all have our challenges. Right now they have less robustness but people who want to communicate vigorously choose them. Nokia is knocking it out of the part overseas but have virtually zero share here but also trying to get their software act together.

Apple has a done a good job of coming out of nowhere. They have a following. They’ve done the best job on the browser. The Internet is designed for the PC and then re-optimized for mobile. The fact

On Google: Android is a real competitor in phones. On larger screen devices who knows but they need to prove themselves in the market. I don’t understand why they have two (mobile) operating systems. I don’t get it. The other guy is not coherent. (Rozzie says it’s a bet on the cloud). Having two things is not an aid in getting coherence in your ecosystem.

On Bing: We’re up form 8 percent to 11 market share. But still have a long way to go. Demographics also very good and overindex with younger audiences. Have our work cut out for us against a very large behemoth.

On Stylus vs. Touch: We’ll support a number of different modalities. I believe people do want to take the things we do today in the physical world with paper and replicate that. Ozzie says we have a lot of learning to do when it comes to software. And with Natal you’ll have different ways of interacting.

On Security and China: Nothing to be shocked about with China situation and that professional thieves would want to hack. Didn’t find that amazing. Best way to make a difference in China and constructively participate was to stay in the country.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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