In an open letter to shareholders Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave a few hints at what the company’s product roadmap will look like over the next year.In short, Microsoft’s product strategy suddenly sounds very Apple-like.
Ballmer makes it clear Microsoft is no longer just a software and services company. It now makes software, services, and the hardware all that stuff runs on.
Just like Apple.
Ballmer plays it down in his letter by repeatedly reassuring hardware partners that Microsoft remains committed to them. But this letter marks a major shift in Microsoft’s thinking that we first got a taste of when it announced the Surface tablet in June. Microsoft, a company that has historically relied on other companies to make Windows hardware, is now taking matters into its own hands. In addition to the Surface, Microsoft has the Xbox, which will also tie into Windows 8 products and services. There are also rumblings that Microsoft will release its own smartphone next year.
Here’s the key paragraph from Ballmer’s letter:
We will continue to work with a vast ecosystem of partners to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones. We do this because our customers want great choices and we believe there is no way one size suits over 1.3 billion Windows users around the world. There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface. In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we’ll build in services people want. Further, as we develop and update our consumer services, we’ll do so in ways that take full advantage of hardware advances, that complement one another and that unify all the devices people use daily. So right out of the box, a customer will get a stunning device that is connected to unique communications, productivity and entertainment services from Microsoft as well as access to great services and applications from our partners and developers around the world.
“Specific devices for specific purposes.”
“Seamless experiences across hardware, software and services.”
The only un-Apple theme in Ballmer’s letter is his continued commitment to hardware partners who make Windows devices. Don’t be surprised if that language disappears in Ballmer’s letter next year as Microsoft comes to terms with the importance of tying hardware, software, and services together.