Microsoft Chief Steve Ballmer – Now He’s Got Nokia on His Side
The papers are full of Nokia’s alliance with Microsoft. The general flavour of most of the coverage is summed up by the headline in the paper version of the Telegraph today:
Ailing Nokia pins its hopes on Microsoft tie-up.
Nokia’s new Chief Executive reckons they are standing on a burning platform and contemplating jumping into the icy waters to save themselves.
And yet, of the two partners, it is arguably Microsoft who need this tie-up more than Nokia. Nokia is still the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer, with a 28 percent market share last time I looked. Their position at the cheaper end of the mobile phone market is even stronger. Yes, they are losing ground, but they still come into this alliance with a strong position.
Microsoft, by contrast, are an also-ran in mobile phones. They have a new mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone, but their market share of the smartphone market is a paltry 7 percent, and they have had difficulty finding any significant mobile manufacturer to user their software.
While Microsoft’s market share is low, that has been coming off their previous, much weaker, software. The new operating system has received good reviews, and now they have a strong manufacturer who will adopt it. Until now, Nokia’s Symbian operating system has been their biggest rival in this market; now Symbian will disappear.
This is clearly a bad day for Google, whose Android system was also in the running to power Nokia’s new phones.
It is a really bad day for Apple. They have always struggled to make headway in the personal computer market against the Microsoft stranglehold, and now their strong position in the mobile phone market is under threat, both from Google and now from this new Microsoft / Nokia alliance.
This deal isn’t about jumping off burning platforms into icy waters. Think instead of a Microsoft bridgehead into Apple’s territory.
You should never under-estimate Microsoft, as IBM, Lotus and countless others have found to their cost. Their age-old rivalry with Apple has just taken a turn in Microsoft’s favour.
Research in Motion (who make the Blackberry) accused Apple of having a “reality distortion field”, and Steve Jobs of Apple said:
I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for a third software platform after iOS and Android.
That’s iOS by Apple, and Android by Google of course.
A great comment on that article is worth quoting:
Apple try and make people believe that they are worse off in life by buying their products and not downloading apps to flick pieces of paper into a bin, or pour beer out of an imaginary glass whilst it makes a glugging sound; or one of the thousands of other completely useless applications available…
Microsoft don’t make ‘cool & sexy products’, they make products that work and do the job you want of them, no matter which way you hold the keyboard).
While all this excitement is going on, Microsoft have quietly launched Windows Phone 7. In the past Microsoft have not been competitive in the mobile devices market. But they are quietly and with little fanfare improving their offering.
We have seen this happen with so many different Microsoft products before – the classic being Excel, which started life way behind Lotus 123 (remember that?) but gradually drew ahead in features and eventually ground Lotus into the dust.
This is the Microsoft way. Microsoft are not cool. But they are the world’s most formidable computer company. They will sneak up behind a market leader, systematically out-develop them, and then eat their lunch.
Remember when Pepsi were cool? Coca-cola were so scared of Pepsi’s rise that they changed the recipe of Coke, and had to backtrack after angry consumer protests. Now Pepsi isn’t cool any more and it has faded away.
In the long run, coolness is no foundation for a serious company.
Why did I write this post? Well, it’s just an excuse really to once again show this video of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Cool it isn’t. Immortal it is. How could anyone prefer Steve Jobs?
A Microsoft executive, Simon Aldous, has been quoted as saying that “what we’ve tried to do with Windows 7…is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics”.
He was slapped down by another Microsoft spokesman, Brandon LeBlanc, on a blog, who said that his comments were “inaccurate and uninformed”.
In fairness, Mr Aldous did go on to say that Windows 7 is “built on that very stable core Vista technology, which is far more stable than the current Mac platform, for instance”. But I guess he’ll be answering some awkward questions in the office today.
I do hope Microsoft aren’t too hard on him. It is very refreshing when an executive cracks open the corporate monolith like that, and reminds us that even the mighty Microsoft is composed of human beings. I’m quite sure that, if anything, it will have helped rather than hurt Microsoft’s image in the wider world.