Reports: Ballmer Says Microsoft Not Done with Hardware
In words that shouldn’t surprise anyone, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) chief executive Steve Ballmer, speaking at an IT industry event in Santa Clara, Calif., indicated that the software-turned-hardware maker’s newly minted Surface tablet isn’t likely to be the last hardware device the company builds, according to published reports.
Ballmer allowed that although Microsoft isn’t headed into assembly line production on whatever hardware device strikes its fancy, the vendor won’t shy away from exploring suitable opportunities. Indeed, Surface may be but the first in what could become a steady flow of mobile devices Microsoft ultimately produces, in so doing altering the company’s legacy profile from software and services to fully embracing mobile hardware.
“Do I anticipate that partners of ours will build the lion’s share of all Windows devices over the next five years? The answer is, absolutely,” Ballmer said. “With that said, it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft.”
With Surface — Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware market on sale for some three weeks — yet to make Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) nervous for the fortunes of its iPad and iPad Mini estates, Ballmer’s here-we-come hardware comments probably shouldn’t be received with too much alarm by the vendor’s Windows OEMs, some of which, Acer and Lenovo to name but two prominent players, didn’t much take a liking to Surface from the get go.
Reports surfaced a few weeks ago that Microsoft already was fiddling with designs for its own branded Windows Phone smartphone, although the vendor hasn’t commented one way or the other. Were Microsoft to produce its own smartphone, tap dancing its way past potentially disgruntled Windows Phone OEMs shouldn’t faze the company considering it already has a model for how to do so with the Surface tablet. A case in point comes from AdDuplex, an ad tracking firm, whose data shows Surface as the most popular Windows 8/RT tablet but not Microsoft as the leading Windows 8/RT tablet manufacturer.
What seems clear is that Microsoft likely is enamored with Apple’s model for tightly managing not only software but also hardware designs, ostensibly to produce better products to drive and define the market. It would be quite naive to expect Microsoft, whose history revolves around controlling markets, to shun additional hardware device opportunities, given the green light of its Surface experience to date.