Microsoft CEO Ballmer: Devices, devices, devices!

Microsoft CEO Ballmer: Devices, devices, devices!

Summary: In case you didn't get the memo -- or CEO Steve Ballmer's latest shareholder letter -- Microsoft officially is a devices and services company now.


Microsoft really wants to make sure its shareholders, customers, partners and competitiors realize it's not just a big software company any more.


In an October 9 letter to shareholders, part of Microsoft's just-released fiscal 2012 annual report, CEO Steve Ballmer repeated his new "devices and services company" mantra to drive it home.

Ballmer hasn't (yet) chanted "devices, devices, devices" in front of any public or private audiences (that we know of, at least) in the way he once infamously chanted "developers, developers, developers."

But Ballmer told The Seattle Times a few weeks back that Microsoft can and should be considered a devices and services company. The latest Ballmer shareholder letter re-emphasizes that message.

From the letter:

"Last year in this letter I said that over time, the full value of our software will be seen and felt in how people use devices and services at work and in their personal lives. This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves — as a devices and services company. It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses. The work we have accomplished in the past year and the roadmap in front of us brings this to life."

The Ballmer shareholder letter also claimed again that Microsoft is still counting on its partners to produce business and consumer devices and hardware that customers want. But it's clear Microsoft isn't getting into the hardware game on a lark or just to incent its OEMs to make more well-designed products, as some company watchers and partners have said.

Ballmer noted that, going forward, Microsoft plans to continue to focus on the development of "new form factors that have increasingly natural ways to use them including touch, gestures and speech."

Along with the Xbox, the Microsoft Surface -- which Microsoft described as "a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices" in its latest proxy statement (also released today) -- are here to stay and seemingly will include more products as part of the family.

Update: ZDNet's Ed Bott, in crystal ball mode back in July of this year, predicted a good bit of this Microsoft services/device  (r)evolution.

Topics: Cloud, Consumerization, Smartphones, Tablets, PCs, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I can picture Monkey Boy...

    ...dancing around on stage chanting it now. I'm the kind of guy who would absolutely buy Microsoft hardware with Signature Plus images for my enterprise ... as long as the hardware is quality.

    I love their mice and keyboards, but I won't lie that I've had just as many duds and wins. I'm still carrying around 2 Wireless Explorer 8000 mice, because I dislike all of their newer mice. Them or me will go to Heaven (digital or otherwise) before I give them up.

    And let's not forget Xbox 360 had its fair share of issues before it got the hardware stabilized, so I hope they learned a lot from that lesson. Of course, the Zune devices were excellent in quality even if they weren't excellent in execution in the market.

    If they're "all in", they better be ready for some hefty challenges.
  • Finally

    Great, those guys at Microsoft are finally getting serious.

    They will either become one of the devices companies around, or will die quick and painful death (along with all who blindly trusted them). In any case, good news.

    It was amazing to read all the articles about how Microsoft is doing all this to "show OEMs".
    Best of all, those OEMs will finally come to understand there is life beyond Windows.
    • OEM's won't abandon Windows

      It would be the same as abandoning customers and sales.

      What are they going to do, make their own OS? Or go with Linux? Both options have proven that end users aren't interested in that approach.
      NoMore MicrosoftEver
      • Re: OEM's won't abandon Windows

        They will if they can't make a profit from it. Acer and Lenovo are down under 2% net margins, and HP is already down into negative territory. Compare HTC, which people keep saying is in trouble, yet still has a relatively decent 6% margin on its Android business. If that's what "trouble" looks like, the PC makers would prefer it to their "success"!
        • If they cannot make a profit from it?

          It is the only reason they are in business.
          If Acer and Lenovo decided to abandon Windows based PC's for Android/Linux based systems, then customers will defect to companies like Dell and HP, which would allow them to raise their prices a bit to make them more profitable.

          Lenovo and Acer are down 2% not because people do not want Windows based systems, they are down as people do not want their Windows based system. There is so much competition that they are force to lower prices and squeek out margins.

          If they thought they could survive without Windows, then they would have already discarded it a long time ago. The fact that they have not shows the flaws in your reasoning that people buy on hardware alone, the OS not being a consideration.
          John Zern
          • Re: they are down as people do not want their Windows based system.

            Since HP is in an even worse state and losing money, it must follow that it should abandon the PC business altogether, then.
    • …Or not.

      @danbi wrote, “Best of all, those OEMs will finally come to understand there is life beyond Windows.”

      For some of them, yes. As a source of profits, the Windows franchise has essentially evaporated at Dell and HP, and they have moved onto services and big iron-style servers that are just as likely to run linux as Windows.

      Others will retreat to making Android and other tablets, despite the desperate unprofitability of the Playbook, the Touchpad, the Xoom, the Nexus, the Fire…

      Doesn't sound like much of a life to me. Sounds like they'll be forced to abandon the ship, a guarantee that potential Microsoft phone, tablet, laptop and desktop customers will soon be hearing “Buy our [Android/Whatever] Gadget” from preferred vendors.
      • Yah, because..

        Linux has shown such an innovative view of the future, such that it developed it's own hardware devices like decent phones (without copying Apple, LOL), or gaming platforms, or 3 dimensional sensors such as the Kinect, or even touchscreen, or gesture based mice, or digitizers.. Oh, wait... that stuff is innovated by real, paid developers, and later mimicked by the ilk of Linux naysayers such as yourself, to later claim there is an issue with the patent system (cuz you got NOTHING to patent), never the fault of followers/copiers, but rather cast aspersions upon actual leaders. Ass.
  • Microsoft CEO Ballmer: Devices, devices, devices!

    We can only hope to hear his devices devices devices chant. When he did that with the developers developers it was marketing genius. Everyone talked about it and it got the Microsoft-developer connection into full swing. Hoping to try out the Microsoft Surface device when its released.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • End of Microsoft...slow but certain

    Microsoft is a software has no expertise or sense in any other area. If it moves out of software it is just one of many other device companies out there, many of whom know what they are doing in theat area. Personally I would fire Ballmer for that decision, because it will mean the end of Microsoft. He is desytroying their brand. It make take a long time, but that is their end.
    • "Microsoft is a software company"

      "Microsoft is a software has no expertise or sense in any other area..." --- ehhhmmm XBox 360? You remember, that gaming system that has trounced the competition? Or maybe you forgot?
    • They want to be Apple

      MS can see the writing on the wall and is trying to turn them selves into Apple. The problem is they are such an uncreative company with a vision-less CEO at the helm it will be hard to follow Apple.
      • Most companies are not very creative.

        Even Apple is not very creative. Steve was creative, not so much Apple. Yes Apple has brilliant people but Steve was the creative genius.

        It is the same with many companies.
    • Right, and Amazon is only a book store

      And newspaper companies clinging to paper is only right and proper, since it's their only expertise. Google should never have dabbled in areas other than search engines. Unfortunately, Microsoft also has no... Xbox... I mean zero... Natural Keyboard & Explorer Mouse... seriously nothing... Kinect... Sidewinder joystick... that was popular, remotely successful, or garnering of great... (more?)... praise... (yup)... ever.
  • Fix it first

    Ballmer and his ilk need to fix the security and problems before expanding like this. Their reach exceeds their grasp.
    George Schwarz
    • You mean like all the security issues

      in iOS, OSX, Linux, Chrome etc. Or maybe your bias only points at Microsoft. Nice trolling though.
  • Screwdriver in the eye

    MS can't help but shove the screwdriver in the eye. Why abandon a system that 90% of people use? I don't mind a new os that integrates seamlessly with my desktop OS but I'll be waiting for windows 9 or finally buy a mac before I shift. I have work to do, must be nice to be able to waste a few days (minimum) getting used to a new OS. Yeah, we all have tablets (mostly ipads) and I still have my pc at work - because that is my workhorse. My interface needs to be intuitive and easy to habituate to, cool is for playtime. MS is losing at playtime so they destroyed the workhorse? Well I like Windows 7, and can only hope MS stays around long enough to make a Windows 9 which is more like Windows 7 than 8. I may buy a tablet with windows 8 as long as it works seamlessly with Win 7. I planned to use it as a true slate on/off note pad - that seconds as... everything. I hope they don't frak that up! If not I guess I will finally join the Apple cult.
  • that is infact a good direction...

    for them as well as the consumers... the PC industry as we see today was created and is dominated by MS, there is no question or doubt on that... how was this industry formed and how did it flourish is the fact we have to consider. It was their strategy to deliver the same experience via multiple vendors and that remains an unbeaten territory till now, and will continue to be so. But when the trend changed towards more of engineered systems, they felt the pressure, mainly due to their partners letting them down with poor experiences and Intel's power bloated products adding insult to injury. So as the leader who drives the industry they had to step in and lead the way.. and they have done so in great style... this will force the OEMs to be more innovative and competitive in their offerings...

    And then one day, consolidation will start coming in (it's very near, may be within an year or so) and the trend will move more towards the PC style business, what it was like to begin with; with OEMs dropping their stupid clones with sheep skin on it and relying more on the industry standard, consistent, quality experience.

    Its a Sine wave...
  • devices vs. software only

    It seems to be a sign of the times (faster, faster, faster) in which a company cannot just develop an operating system and then wait for the world to pick it up from there and fulfill the dreams they had in mind while developing it. Don't just look at Apple for verification of this, look at Google. The Nexus 7 tablet is a good example, and in that light Google has made a very wise choice in creating that unit and getting them out there at the right price. Microsoft will benefit from going this route and would hurt themselves if they refused to do so.
  • Win8 is a win opportunity for the innovative

    Samsung and Nokia are moving into what will be the future platform from which to innovate. When Ballmer says "the development of "new form factors that have increasingly natural ways to use them including touch, gestures and speech", it opens the door for anyone willing to develop using those features. It's the future and it's fluid.