Shareholders ask CEO Steve Ballmer: Why can't you be more like Apple?

Microsoft had its annual shareholders meeting on Thursday. And reading the press release (opens in new tab), it sounds like the biggest snoozer ever.

But apparently things were a little different if you actually were there. A shareholder questioned Microsoft CEO (grilled may be a better term) Steve Ballmer on why Microsoft seems so much less cool than, say, Apple, especially when it comes to younger users. (Let's see: Exhibits A, B and C come to mind.) And the quote of the day:

"I'm just wondering why your marketing group can't do something to try to rein in this next generation, because you've got a real bad image out there."

No kidding.

Ballmer's probably as tired of that question as we are. Of course, he's in a slightly better position to do something about it. And simply deflecting talk about Windows phones — which absolutely don't get a fair shake — to Windows 7 and Office 2010 is a cop-out. The people want their phones, sir. They want their apps. They want their music. They want their video. And they want it now.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Microsoft has all the pieces. It's time to put them together and market them smartly. And it's far past time to deliver.

Techflash via Gizmodo

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • I agree with your last statement. WinMo is pretty functional, but when you compare it to the sleekness of iPhone OS or Android, it just seems a bit boring and tired. The new Market is a big step in the right direction, making it so much easier to find and install programs, but MS needs to think beyond just business. Even business people can enjoy a device that does all the business basics and adds a little pizazz besides.
  • When Apple hast 90% marketshare, let's see just how revolutionary they are. Every change Microsoft makes to its product line (at least in the desktop environment) impacts hundreds of millions - not tens of millions like in the case of Apple. That's why I still say that Office 2007 was the biggest GUI update/gamble they've ever had. Not as sexy as some of the other great GUIs they're obviously CAPABLE of doing (Media Center, Xbox, Zune, etc) but it had far greater real world ramifications. What's funny is that in the one environment where Apples DOES have dominant marketshare (digital media - iTunes) they haven't been as revolutionary. Other than new content partnerships, the program is largely unchanged from when the iPod first hit it big. It's funny how that happens when you have a larger user base and have more legacy concerns. The place where Microsoft DOES have an opportunity to really be aggressive and take some risks is in pretty much everything outside the desktop space, particularly consumer electronics. Despite the hardware woes, the Xbox platform as a whole is proof that they can not only succeed, but thrive against stiff competition. IMO they need to leverage that established platform in their other offerings in nearby spaces. They're already starting to tie it in more closely with the Zune. And I've got to think/hope that's the plan on the mobile front as well.
  • msft's consumer product marketing sucks. seemingly msft has no unified advertising strategy for multiple product offerings to different consumer segments. as technology permeates consumer life apple understands how to make it understandable and cool. generally, people age 40+ are still positively disposed toward the msft brand. younger consumers generally think of msft as your father's technology. my guess is msft is organizationally challenged. it is not organized in a way that highlights problems in its divisions fast enough.
  • Well, I contribute Apple's ad campaign success to it's constant MS bashing. The public loves a good fight (VZW - ATT). I say fight fire with fire!!! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
  • I for one am actually glad to not only see the iPhone hit the market, but also that it took control of the market pretty quickly. Microsoft was lazy with their phones. Once they kicked Palm's butt, they didn't have any motivation to keep making it better. Now that iPhone is on the scene, Microsoft is in a prime position to step up and squash the competition. As much as I like rooting for the little guy, I also love watching them get squished by Bill and the boy's. (Anyone remember Netscape...) I honestly think that 6.1 was just another BS step that they were taking, and 6.5 is just to keep us happy. Mobile 7 is going to seriously wow us IMO. Something about Bill and the boy's when they get focused. I actually can't wait to see the battle ensue...
  • Apparently Microsoft has made the mistake of producing products that businesses can rely upon, making a lot of money with that angle, and not having to give a shit (from their core product, anyhow) about people under thirty. If only more companies would make that 'mistake'...
  • Personally I think they blew the whole Windows Mobile devlopment cycle. While they are very functional and at this point pretty stable, they should have released 6.5.1 already and WM7 should have been ready for OEMs by Quarter 1 of next year. They have the talent to design nice interface (e.g. Zune, Xbox, Windows 7, etc.), I just can't understand why they can't get WM7 out the door.
  • Chris Liddell (aka Bill Gates 2.0)
  • Sure MS has the capacity to develop and deploy better UIs, cgeier but they've made nothing but nightmarishly poor product-GUI-planning decisions since they didn't outright fire everyone even remotely associated with the Office Fluid UI/Ribbons disaster. Zune HD is the only product (one might argue also the tertiary aspects of WM6.5) that's currently shipping that's jumped the gap to actual innovation in UI design and, having not seen one, I'm not holding my breath. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bagging on MS here as a _company_; these are decisions that were made in clusters back during an era when doing things in clusters made sense, and the risk was evident that any foulups would take a product cycle or three to wash out of people's mouths. The thing MS seems to understand is that so long as its products provide a route for end-user customization, people are happy. Contrast with RIM/Palm/apple/etc. -even many mainstream linux distros- where the user is either left to resculpt the entire thing or is simply stuck with what is offered. I actually want them to hold WM7 back a ways, so that there's time to integrate as many new technologies and optimize for as many situations and profiles as possible before it gets out there. Wouldn't it be nice in these pissing contests with other phone OSes to have the one that took longer but when it came out could do that much _more_ than everyone else, and demonstrably so? It's hard to shut these bright-eyed hipster stockholder boy geniuses up by explaining what an Exchange setup can do, or how graceful the IRP handling is.
  • uhhhahaha that is fantastic that finally a shareholder asked him what I've wanted to ask for years now. I figured it out myself though, Why spend the recources to make WM cool when you have HTC spending thier money time and resources.
  • uhhhahaha that is fantastic that finally a shareholder asked him what I've wanted to ask for years now. I figured it out myself though, Why spend the recources to make WM cool when you have HTC spending thier money time and resources.
  • The guy who asked Steve this question is retarded. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BE THE SAME?!? If that guy want an answer. Go take a look the ratio of money spent on between R&D marketing from Microsoft and Apple. The Marketing to R&D money-spent ratio for Apple is way above industry standard. While Microsoft is within the industry standard. Do you rather to have a company to spend most of its effort on R&D or rather to have a company to spend most of its money to wrap a bomb as a phone and one day the court order the company to have a big recall and then their stock value skin to the bottom of the chart??? The computer world won't stall if Apple disappeared today, but will screwed up totally if Microsoft disappeared.
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