Printed from

Ballmer: Apple can't control the phone market

updated 08:45 am EDT, Fri September 25, 2009

Ballmer on Apple's role in phone field

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said in an interview late Thursday that Apple is unlikely to ever control the smartphone market the way it does portable media players. The executive argued that the sheer scale of the phone market, which could amount to almost 1.3 billion devices this year, made it impossible for any one hardware company to take control. Apple's lead in media players was possible only because it participated in a niche, he added, and the company has usually never had more than a niche position in larger markets.

"I'll call anything that's under about 50 million a year niche," Ballmer told TechCrunch. "And I'll call anything that's north of 300 million a year non-niche. PCs are not niche devices... Phones are not niche. The categories where, I think, a single player can control a large percentage of the volume are the smaller categories. What does Apple sell every year of iPods: 30 million, order of magnitude, something like that... But when you get these categories that are 300 million, 500 million, a billion, a billion-five a year, the truth of the matter is you're gonna want multiple points of manufacture, with a lot of innovation around it whether it's [the] supply chain, for geographic diversity... when 1.3 billion phones a year are all smart, the software that's gonna be most popular in those phones is gonna be software that's sold by somebody who don't make their own phone."

He used the explanation to dismiss rumors that Microsoft will offer its own phones, although this has been contradicted by mutliple leaks of handsets made by Sharp that would have Microsoft branding.

Microsoft has so far had little success with its existing strategy. Windows Mobile's practical market share so far hasn't increased and has been facing pressure from Google's competing Android platform. The company has seen its strongest hardware partner, HTC, turn more of its attention to Android and may switch more than half of its lineup to the competing platform next year. Palm has also recently confirmed it has no more plans to produce Windows Mobile phones, and i-mate has shut down at least temporarily following financial troubles.

Apple has just a small fraction of the total cellphone market but is the third-place smartphone maker just behind RIM, which also has its own closed hardware and software platform. Nokia has the largest market share of the group and is using the device-independent Symbian platform, but its share has been declining in recent quarters.

By Electronista Staff


  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002


    there's that word again


    "the software that’s gonna be most popular in those phones is gonna be software that’s sold by somebody who don’t make their own phone."

    so, come along all you hardware kids and jump on the Windows Mobile wagon, it'll play for sure, until we come out with our own phone and leave you behind...

  1. Lebensmuede

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006


    Good luck, Monkey Boy!

    Just because there's something out there that you're not in control of...

  1. slider

    Mac Elite

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Monkey Boy

    When Ballmer speaks...... Oh look, another iPhone. Er, What was I saying.

  1. DanielSw

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2009


    Irrefutable logic

    Apple can't control the phone market . . . because they aren't controlling it, yet. . . and because WE want to control it . . . WE get to because we're. . . uhhhhh . . . BIG!!!

    Sounds like a child arguing with another child at a playground.

  1. phillymjs

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2000


    I've had 3 WinMo phones...

    ...and they all sucked, hard. The latest one is a month old, has nothing running on it other than the factory preloaded stuff, and it is a miserable experience trying to use it. It's slow, it ignores commands and generally drives me crazy.

    IME, "software that’s sold by somebody who don’t make their own phone" is a losing proposition.

  1. lorca2770

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2008



    I wonder if the petrified rear end smell of his office is affecting his brain. Oh boy boy, what a complex of inferiority !!!
    The biggest case of mental diarrhea ever seen in the business world

  1. Foe Hammer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2005


    Microsoft: We Can't Control Ballmer

    We're sorry world, but we really do want to improve our products and start making good ones. But we just can't control this Ballmer guy.

    Just when we think he's been abducted by aliens, checked into a mental facility, or taken an extended leave of absence so he can compete on Dancing With The Stars, this ape-like creature with the punditry acumen of a neaderthal (still frozen) pops back up in the media, makes a few asinine (to be kind) comments about technology, products and markets, and then vanishes again. And his blubbering in particular doesn't exactly have a great track record. Boy do we know. Every day we have to wonder exactly he what has on ol' Bill. Documents? Tape recordings? Photographs? But we have to do what he says. We have no choice. If you only knew what it was like. Believe us, you wouldn't believe us.

    So again, we're sorry everybody. As we say at our secret What-Are-We-Going-To-Do-About-The-B-Problem meetings, at Microsoft tech-savvy leaders with a vision are like lions with highly accurate crystal balls: we don't have any of them on the payroll either.

  1. outdo13

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2007


    Depends What "Control" Means

    An individual shareholder of a public corporation can "effectively" control that corporation with much less than 50% ownership. Apple has the intellectual control of the music, phone, and PC markets.

    Before Mac, all was command-prompt, but not now. Before iPods, the music industry wasn't concerned about digital distributions, except for piracy. And now, the entire cell phone industry is tripping over itself on developing multi-touch units.

    And, in all that time, Apple is getting a price premium and controlling its own destiny. Something Microsoft lost the ability to do in the PC realm when it couldn't manage its security, and has never had it anywhere else. For being the CEO of the largest software company on earth, Mr. Ballmer has a large insecurity about his ability to perform against little Apple.

  1. cgkaide

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2001



    What a he the Joe Biden of the electronics industry? I know he totes the party line, but to be wrong so many times causes the credibility to go down like a Zune.

  1. sgirard

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2005


    I love Ballmer.

    Steve Ballmer, April 29, 2007:

    "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance," said Ballmer. "It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get."

    This is the kind of stuff that keeps Apple motivated. Just imagine Ballmer quotes pinned to cubicle walls and in offices all over Infinite Loop. Keep em coming, Steve.

Login Here

Not a member of the MacNN forums? Register now for free.


Network Headlines


Most Popular


Recent Reviews

Seagate Wireless

It seems like no matter how much internal storage is included today's mobile devices, we, as users, will always find a way to fill the ...

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Android, 10.1-inch)

Lenovo is building a bigger name for itself year after year, including its devices expanding beyond desktop computers. The company's l ...

Brother HL-L8250CDN Color Laser Printer

When it comes to selecting a printer, the process is not exactly something most people put a lot of thought into. Printers are often t ...



Most Commented


Popular News