In a memo emailed to his employees Wednesday, also outlining changes resulting from the departure of chief platform and services chief Kevin Johnson, Ballmer cited several areas Microsoft could focus on over the next year. Among his comments were some cryptic details about Apple.
According to Ballmer, “In the competition between Macs and PCs, we beat Apple by 30 to 1, but there is no question that Apple is improving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is limited but comprehensive, whereas our options often require some kind of compromise in the end-user experience. “
Ballmer continued to promise how it would engage with different hardware manufacturers, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, the world’s number one and two computer vendors, respectively. “Today we will change the way we work with hardware manufacturers to ensure that we can provide complete experiences where no compromises need to be made. We will do the same for phones, providing options as we work to create great start-up experiences. to finish “.
Analysts have taken to interpreting Ballmer’s comments, where some are unsure what he meant while others prefer to read between the lines.
According to Rob Helm, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland research company, “If it’s serious, this would be a fundamental change in how they work with manufacturers.
Historically, Microsoft’s role has been minor in deciding what goes in a PC, or on the price of PCs. According to Helm, “Microsoft could have played a bigger role on some key dates; the Tablet PC is one, but it actually requires partners like HP, which could lead to a change in Microsoft’s software designs.”
But the company clearly sees Apple as a risk, even though it still outsells it. According to Helm, and speculating on what could have led Ballmer to announce a fundamental change in PC production, “Apple is making its way in the US, especially in the consumer and high-end markets. They are the same people who could pay for a premium version of Windows, so that may be one reason. “
Allan Krans, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc, was less inclined to interpret Ballmer’s note as a radical change in Microsoft’s strategy. “I don’t think it’s surprising. It’s nothing new.”
Rather than see it as a call for Microsoft to get more involved in hardware design, Krans interpreted the memorandum as an attempt by the company to market its software competitively against Apple in the areas of functionality and experience of use. Krans adds, “He’s not just talking about the software experience, he’s also talking about how Microsoft plans to draw buzz for the platform and why they need to do so in light of the consumer shift.”
During a meeting with Wall Street analysts at Microsoft’s headquarters, Ballmer indicated that the company would increase spending on marketing during fiscal 2009, considering that Microsoft currently spends much less than Apple on promoting its PCs. and smart phones.