Steve Ballmer on smartphones “We missed a whole cycle”

Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, was interviewed at the D8 conference yesterday, and spoke widely about their business, including smartphones and tablets.

On smartphones he admitted to having neglected the business, but promised to execute a lot better in the future.

Ballmer: We had a good long-time employee who wanted to retire and he’s going to do so. And it doesn’t make sense to replace him….On the phone side of the business, we learned the value of excellent execution. We were ahead of this game and now we find ourselves No. 5 in the market….We missed a whole cycle. I’ve been quite public about the fact that I’ve made some changes in leadership around our Windows Phone software….We had to do a little clean-up….The excellence in execution is an important part of innovation. We’re driving forward in the phone business….But this is a very dynamic business; the market leaders here have shifted over twice in the past few years…and that’s an opportunity for us. So we’ve got to have great ideas and we’ve got to execute consistently.

On tablets he still felt Windows was where it was at, saying “The bulk of the market is going to stay with general purpose devices.” but did promise to compete in the space.

Walt: Walt talks a bit about Microsoft’s history in tablets. What’s the company doing in this area these days? Are there going to be tablets that look like the iPad that run Windows?

Ballmer: Sure. You’re going to have a range of devices over time that are light and don’t have a keyboard and will run Windows….Depending on what you want, there will be devices that offer a similar experience to Windows….There will be others that will be more customized, more optimized….This will be a real competitive form factor of innovation…we will with out partners drive innovation in form factor. Windows Phone, for example….Apple’s chosen to do this as well.

We noted an article listed what Microsoft needed to do to succeed in mobile, and first on the list was not to be complacent.  In Windows Phone we can certainly feel the sense of urgency in the company, but clearly in the tablet space this is still completely missing. Hopefully Microsoft will catch up before the iPad has an installed based of 50 million devices, like the iPhone has at the moment.

Read the full transcript here.

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