The Seattle Times just published an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer where he talks about a number of topics, including Microsoft’s “sexiness”, its future as a “devices and services” company, and the “big challenge” of ratcheting up Windows Phone sales.
Ballmer in particular said a couple of quite interesting things about the Microsoft Surface. First, Seattle Times reporter Janet Tu asked him about competing with the iPad:
Q: The iPad has the largest share of the tablet market, but its soft spot, it seems to me, is the price.With the Surface, are you planning to compete with the iPad on price or on features?
A: We haven’t announced pricing. I think we have a very competitive product from the features perspective. …
I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. … (When) people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper.
If you look at the bulk of the PC market, it would run between, say, probably $300 to about $700 or $800. That’s the sweet spot.
Ballmer certainly isn’t sounding like he’s getting ready to push a $199 Surface, in fact, he says when “people offer cheaper, they do less”. Microsoft is positioning Windows 8 and the Surface to do more, so is this a hint that we should expect prices on the higher end of that “sweet spot” scale?
Later, Tu asks Ballmer about the future of the company:
I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, (but) you’ll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company. Which is a little different. Software powers devices and software powers these cloud services, but it’s a different form of delivery….
Doesn’t mean we have to make every device. I don’t want you to leap to that conclusion. We’ll have partners who make devices with our software in it and our services built in. … We’re going to be a leader at that.
Again, is Ballmer hinting that Microsoft is planning on doing quite a bit more than just dabbling in the devices business? Do you expect Microsoft to be known as a “devices and services” company?
Ballmer also pulled a couple of Nokia Lumia 920s out of his pocket, acknowledging the “big challenge” ahead, and admitting to being “a very small player”, but remains positive:
So I think our point of view on user interface, the great work that our hardware vendors are doing and the integration with Windows should help ratchet us up.
There’s quite a bit more in the interview, be sure to check it out