updated 12:35 pm EDT, Thu June 3, 2010
Microsoft CEO disagrees with Jobs on tablet future
Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer took on claims of a looming post-PC era by Steve Jobs at the D8 conference with a view that the Apple CEO was fundamentally wrong. Ballmer denied that PCs were going to disappear and instead said they would "evolve" into smaller designs, some of which would be tablet designs. There would always be a need for a general purpose device, he said, and Jobs' metaphor that computers will only be "trucks" for heavy-duty work was flawed as it assumed PCs wouldn't change.
"Windows machines will not be trucks," Ballmer said.
He added that the iPad was very much a PC but painted it as inferior, citing an example of someone trying to take notes with Apple's device at a meeting. "That was interesting," he said. He did, however, agree that Apple and Microsoft would eventually "run into each other."
Microsoft's Ray Ozzie said any tablets of the sort would still be secondary devices, such as living room appliances, but that people needed both something to create content as well as to consume it. Ballmer, in turn, pointed to Apple's modest comptuer market share and that, if Apple thought Macs were going away, Windows PCs would still be there. Apple's post-PC notion was seen more as marketing than reality.
Jobs' assertions that styluses were problems also weren't quite correct, Ballmer noted. Microsoft would support all methods of input, including fingers, but some still wanted to take notes and draw, where a pen-like input worked best.
On smartphones, the CEO admitted that Windows Phone had "missed a whole cycle" and that some of the corporate shakeups were meant to help catch up. In contrast to his views in 2007, where he thought the iPhone had "no chance," Ballmer saw Apple as having done a good job of "coming from nowhere" and that it did the "best" with its Safari web browser. Apps are the publicly recognized part of the iPhone, he said, but the web was the iPhone's real strong point.
Android he saw as a "real competitor" in phones but wasn't clear on tablets or on the wisdom of having both Android and Chrome OS; Ozzie jumped in and said Android was the conservative entry where Chrome OS was the guess that the web would be the future.