Ballmer: Microsoft should have entered tablet market earlier

Ballmer: Microsoft should have entered tablet market earlier

Summary: The Microsoft chief has acknowledged that his company is somewhat behind Apple when it comes to 'innovating on the seam between software and hardware'.


Microsoft supremo Steve Ballmer has admitted at a shareholder meeting that the company is late to the tablet party, although he also expressed confidence in the Surface's chances.

Steve Ballmer
Image: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The Windows 8-based Surface RT is the first personal computer that Microsoft itself produces and sells. It came out a month ago, more than two and a half years after Apple released the first iPad.

According to a Reuters account of the Wednesday meeting, Ballmer was asked why Microsoft had fallen so far behind Apple.

"We're innovating on the seam between software and hardware... Maybe we should have done that earlier," Ballmer said, adding that he felt "pretty good about [Microsoft's] level of innovation".

The Microsoft chief executive also spoke of a "sea of upside" for the company in the tablet market. This is unsurprising as, although Windows 7 had some touch-friendly features and some manufacturers did make slates based on that version of the OS, it did not make any significant inroads into the tablet market.

Microsoft has not yet revealed sales figures for the Surface RT, which has received mixed reviews. The company said a few days ago that it was committed to supporting the device for the next four years.

Topics: Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Wrong answer

    I think Ballmer and MSFT are on the wrong track ... and still don't understand why they are losing in some quarters.

    All this 'innovating on the seam between hardware and software' is corporate crap. Save it for Wall Street and shareholder meetings: they like heaps of crap. On a 'sea of upside' ... what a load of b******s.

    MSFT's cultural problem is that they don't understand the word CONSUMER. Apple does and so ... has more money than the US Government. Frightening.

    Here's a list for MSFT to ponder:
    - no Media Centre in Windows 8: do customers watch video?

    - no Start menu; constant thrusting to METRO; etc: are you worried at all about what ordinary people or your loyal supporters actually want? It seems not, despite vociferous feedback.

    - Surface RT is fabulous ... but you can't run all your old Windows stuff and the Office bundle is only for non-business efforts i.e. nobody wants it.

    I could go on and on an on. Sometimes I do.
    Ballmer needs to 'wake up smarter' and alter the culture off a big chunk of his company or he will lose slowly.
    • You got no clue

      Sorry but you seem to talk rubbish

      - No Media Centre in Windows 8? Strange - I have three computers at home with Windows 8 AND Media Center. I suppose I must be dreaming... ;-) And as a side note.. I have Windows 8 Enterprise on my laptop, which actually has not the Media Center option. And do you know what? I have just watched video on it. Works just perfectly. So get your facts straigth.

      - No Start menu. Yeah you are right ordinary people really want that. So all those 130 million sold iPads (which have no Start menu) are bought by computer experts? Explain again why not having a start menu is ok on iOS and Android tablets, but is not ok on a Windows tablet?

      - If you dont like Rt dont buy it. I have good friends who wanted an iPad but needed Windows software. So they bought the Acer Iconia W510. The great thing with windows 8 tablets is that you got choice.

      And finally... they sold 40 million copies of Windows 8 the first month, seems like at least a couple of users wanted it enough to pay for it... ;-)
      • iPads have the OS X style dock

        ...and as such carry forward a well established UI paradigm well known to Apple customers. So any blah blah blah about start menus is just silly.

        Windows 8 is supposed to be.... well, not to put too fine a point on it... Windows. I don't know why some find it surprising that others feel Windows should, I daresay, offer a Windows-like experience?
        • +1

          And MS really needs to dump Ballmer... You can translate what Ballmer just said into one thing... It takes MS 2.5 years to copy Apple.

          The problem MS has with that is the same failue that everyone else has when trying to copy Apple, They try to copy a tech device and not the quality, service, and support.
    • johnfenjackson@...

      Yo said " no Media Centre in Windows 8: do customers watch video?"

      Answer: they watch it on their AppleTV device! :D
      • @PogoBlue

        Actually nobody is watching AppleTV.

        Everybody is watching video on Roku or Netflix. :D
        • Don't forget the XBOX.

          70 Million in circulation which is probably more than Roku or Apple TV combined.

        • The only reason

          I want an Apple TV box - in addition to my Roku box - is so I can stream my iTunes purchases to my TV.
          • Why spend a truck full of money....

            When other companies offer less ugly boxes at a better price. Try Western Digital for one.
      • Apple TV?


        It's the Biggest Apple flop since the "Lisa", no wait, since the Pippen, no wait, the wait MacIntosh wait the G4 wait the Apple wait... the wait the Hockey puck wait iPod wait, wait, the Buttonless iPod wait, iPod Hi-Fi, wait Final Cut Pro wait, I have it...... since the First Generation of Apple TV!
        LOL. What a stable of Flops.
    • I Agree.

      Microsoft is all about marketing and "forcing" themselves on the public. They are doing it with the TV show NCIS Los Angeles. The show is interesting, but it is also a one hour informercial for Microsoft products. When you watch an actor place a cell phone call, how often do they show you a close up of the screen and menu operation? NCIS does, they want to make sure the audience sees it's a Windows phone. Now they are featuring (you guessed it), Surface tables and the detachable keyboard used by the IT people. ( It's absolutely silly to try to watch the show and see such botched up commercialism forced down your throat (if you watch closely, the actors even have funny expressions when they have to demonstrate the Microsoft products). Other shows go out of their way to disguise logos and identifiers on the products.
      • And competition doesn't do this?

        Sorry, but if you pay close attention a number of TV shows are commercials for tech products. MS isn't the only company doing this. Apple is right...10 years ago you didn't see this sort of thing. Corporate America is once again forcing itself upon all of us.
      • That's not the only show.

        Watch Grimm and pay close attention to the iPhones used by everyone. While they don't go out of their way to show that it is an iPhone they don't take pains to disquise logos and indentifiers either.
      • It's OK for corporate America to show up on TV.

        Why wouldn't it? Or do you prefer Chinese, Japanese, or any other country's products front and center?
        And it boggles my mind anyone claims it's "forced" on them. You realize you don't even need to own a TV let alone watch that particular show, right?
        I love THAT METAL SHOW on VH1Classic, and one season, or two they were sponsored in part by budweiser and beers on the set. Those Bastards! I hate Budweiser.

        It started years and years ago in movies when coke and pepsi brands started to replace the generic "no name" products actors drank. Then Budweiser etc. etc. It actually brought a realism to movies we never had. It was so much better than watching movies wondering if they were made in some warped dimension where all products were not allowed to have a label or logo.
        What's wrong with that? I"d rather see a healthy American corporate scene than a struggling one, woudn't you? Or again, are you rooting against the U.S. and its' capitalist economic framework? Would you really prefer socialism and TV and radio and web be filled with public announcements paid for by YOU. I'm sick of the last 4 years as it is, the major morning radio in this area has been stuffed with .gov commercials.
        I'm sure your perception the actors have funny expressions, they've dealt with product placement their entire careers. That's just you projecting your thoughts onto them and perceiving something that isn't there. that is actually sad on your part Joe, to be this troubled by it. If it were Droid equipment you've think it was "cool".
    • Just proved a point.

      You say Windows 8 has no media centre. This just proves you have not used Windows 8.
    • Wrong!

      You start talking trash when you don't even have the facts. Windows 8 plays media fine. It doesn't support DVD playback, but VLC Player takes care of that. The Start Screen works perfectly so what's the fuss about the missing menu? You can always pin your favorite Desktop Apps to the Task Bar (Faster access than start menu) and rock the Start Screen for everything else. You can access the start screen in as many clicks as pulling up the start menu. Yes Surface RT is fabulous and your right that it can't run X86 apps, but that's a limitation of the ARM architecture. Can you run X86 apps on an I-pad or Android device? Nope...same limitation. Surface RT is more of a companion device like I-pad and Android. Maybe you can follow your own advice and "wake up smarter".
      • Re: Windows 8 playing DVD's


        The fact that you have to add a third party software (VLC) in order to do it just proves the point that MS is not concerned with the customer's needs.

        As to the rest of your fanboy support for Windows 8, you are off base on that also. Metro is a mess, does not play well with legacy software and the desktop, and is ugly. As to the Surface RT being perfectly fine because you can't run X86 apps on an iPad, that is totally illogical and misses the point again.

        Of course, nothing I could say will ever convince you that MS and W8 isn't perfect.

        Have a nice day (playing with Metro apps featuring advertisements),

      • I hope this is satire.

        I sincerely hope Mr. Sharp's reply is satire, an argument meant to be taken quite the opposite of seriously.
      • Are you serious

        So, Microsoft, the company that forces everyone to use only their very own technology sends people to use an open-source player like VLC?

        Because they can't shell the money necessary to properly license codecs? So that you can have the best out-of-box experience using only great Microsoft software.
    • So then the lines of people...

      ...that I actually saw with my own two eyes who went to the Microsoft Stores to purchase Surface RT systems were a halucination?

      Also Windows 8 supports video playback, it just doesn't have Media Center as an active component, however if you go to this link you can get a free PID that will activate Media Center in Windows 8 (available until January 31st). Once February 1st comes, you'll have to pay for the addon. Go to the link below and scroll down to see the free offer.