Microsoft's Big Tablet Dilemma Illustrated In Two Steve Ballmer Quotes

Steve Ballmer surface

Photo: AP

Is Steve Ballmer contradicting himself about the Surface tablet?Horace Dediu of Asymco notes two Ballmer quotes that show the tightrope he’s being forced to walk now that Microsoft is building its own hardware.

In an interview with CRN, Ballmer is asked about Microsoft doing a phone, and he says, “Right now we are working real hard on the Surface. That’s the focus. That’s our core.”

But speaking to a room of Microsoft partners, Ballmer downplayed the Surface, saying, “Surface is just a design point. It will have a distinct place in what’s a broad Windows ecosystem.”

Arguably, the first quote is about the Surface being Microsoft’s “focus” in relation to a smartphone. However, in that same interview he said Microsoft wouldn’t let any piece of “hardware-software” innovation go to Apple.

This is in a nutshell is the problem with Microsoft’s Surface plan. It wants to build an incredible tablet that sells well, but it doesn’t want to annoy its hardware partners.

At some point Microsoft will have to make a decision. Either go all-in on the Surface or put it to the side. We think it would be smarter for Microsoft to go all-in on the Surface. It can let its partners continue to make PCs. They can also release their own tablets. They just have to make a tablet that’s better than Microsoft.

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