Jun 10

Battle of the Steves

"PCs in greater and greater number"

Probably the last thing this world needs is a demonstration of the difference between Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer. Nonetheless, we got a pretty good one at the D8 Conference.

One of Jobs’ more interesting moments was his view of the PC’s future. He noted that trucks were largely replaced by cars only when cars sprouted consumer amenities. We still need trucks, but not for as many things. Similarly, we will continue to need PCs, but not for as many things. Tablet-like devices will just make most things so much easier.

Seems pretty obvious.

Then comes Ballmer’s interview. His duty, of course, is to disagree with Jobs. Hearing Mossberg’s summary of Jobs’ statement, Ballmer jumps in. “People will be using PCs in greater and greater number for many years to come,” he says, but “I think PCs will continue to shift in form factors.” He goes on talking about changes in “semiconductor infrastructure” (now he’s talking our language) to support Windows in different devices, and so on.

Aha. So iPads won’t rule the world. PCs will still be around, but in a different form. Mossberg presses Ballmer by asking if the iPad is actually a PC by this argument, to which Ballmer says, “of course it is.”

So what’s Ballmer’s point again? He’s basically just agreed with Jobs that future devices will take different forms than conventional PCs. He’s just insisting that we continue to call them PCs. Now that’s leadership.

Personally, I wish politicians and corporate executives would learn that being human is more important than disagreeing with their competitors. Ballmer would score more points if he simply said, “I don’t disagree with what Steve Jobs said on this stage. New devices will obviously take over many of the PC’s functions, and Microsoft is working hard to build this future.” He could always hope nobody mentions the now-abandoned Courier project.

My point is that disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing is conventional, uninspiring and pointless. If Microsoft wants to help build the future, they’re not going to do it by clinging to words like “PC.”

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  • sfmitch


    Ballmer just talks in circles using as many buzzwords as he can and only stops after he thinks he must have made a point after talking for so long.

  • Paul

    I admit, I haven’t watched the video. But I’m not getting this whole conflict. The way I read it is we have to get over this “I’m a Mac I’m a PC” thing. A PC is a personal computer whether powered/created by Apple or Microsoft/Intel, Android, PalmOS etc. The old Wintel/Apple lines no longer exist, hey even Apple is ending their “I’m a Mac/PC” ad campaign.

    I think this is a made-up conflict. And I don’t think Steve Ballmer sees a conflict either.

  • @Paul, if you don’t think there’s a major difference between the products you’ve mentioned, you’ve got more serious problems than you’re willing to admit.

  • i think we’re missing a major communications point here … Steve Jobs, like so many of us, translate PC to mean Personal Computer … Ballmer & co translates it to mean Private Cashflow …

    seen in that light, his statements make perfect sense …

  • Scott

    I’d suggest you watch the video Paul. I think it will become clear as to what Ken was saying.

    Ken, you’re right on with this. It was like he was saying it just to try and be different, but essentially proved Job’s point.