Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is bordering on obsessive when it comes to Apple these days, or at least that’s the way he comes off in these excerpts from an interview with the CRN trade publication at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.

“But we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested to Apple],” shouted Ballmer, according to the CRN story. “Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch.”

Exhibit A is Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, which breaks with tradition as the Redmond company gets into the hardware business, adopting a page from the Apple playbook. Speaking at the event, Ballmer set the target at “a few million” Surface computers sold in the first year.

So what about a Microsoft-developed phone? The company has downplayed that possibility in recent weeks, but Ballmer was more coy in response to the CRN question. From the article …

When asked if Microsoft might make its own smartphone, Ballmer paused and then replied: “Right now we are working real hard on the Surface. That’s the focus. That’s our core. Look, we’ll see what happens. We have good partners with Nokia, [HTC] in the phone space. I love what we’ve got going on with the Surface. We are going to focus on Surface and our other Windows 8 Tablet partners and see if we can go make something happen.”

Microsoft is walking a fine line at the conference this week as it tries to show partners the cool stuff it has in the works, trying to convince them that it’s on the cutting edge, but at the same time assuring them that the company won’t step on their toes.

The Microsoft partner conference today turned its attention to areas including Windows Server and Windows Phone, recapping the company’s recent announcements. See the WPC site for more.

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  • Persei

    Kudos to Steve for remaining committed to bolstering Microsoft’s industry-leading position in operating systems, productivity software, back-end analytics, home video games, and full-featured tablet computers with new endeavors to accelerate gains in mobile phones.

    • GoThoughtfulOrGoHome

      Say pal, annual reviews locked down a couple of weeks ago, so you can’t include this in your review.

      So, please leave the “rah rah” rehash of the press release/company line behind and either post something thoughtful or don’t post at all.

      And it’s not just you, it’s all these rah rah posts. They don’t add anything and just take up space. You can be positive, but be thoughtful. How do you think Surface is changing the game? Why is taking Apple head on the right way to go? Stuff like that.

      But everyone, enough of the “Yay us”, “Kudos to the leadership” and all that.

      • Persei

        We will not apologise for being positive or optimistic.

        • ItsThoughtfullnessNotTone

          No, don’t apologize for being positive or optimistic. But do apologize for not being thoughtful.

          Your post ads absolutely nothing to the discussion. There’s no thought in it. It may as well be a copy/paste of a press release.

          Like I said: if you think this is all good, tell us WHY. Why do you think this is a good strategy. Why do you think these products are so good.

          • Persei

            We will not apologise as we have not failed to be thoughtful. Thought goes into every one of our posts.

            Thank you for expressing your opinion, but at this point we must request that you cease commenting on our posts and that you return to the topic at hand, which is the resurgent product portfolio of the new Microsoft.

            These products represent not knee-jerk reactions to competitors but leapfrogs over them. No other tablet device does even a small fraction of what Microsoft Surface does (i.e., run the millions of PC applications on which billions of customers rely). No other mobile phone does what Windows Phone 8 does with its smooth workflows and its innovative Metro interface. No other online gaming service does what Xbox Live and its 40 million members across Xbox 360, PC, Windows Phone, and soon Microsoft Surface offers. No other peripheral offers the fluidity of motion afforded by Kinect, Microsoft’s revolutionary “controller-free controller” that has kept Xbox 360 outselling the competition and returning record profits.

            These products and services are not “challenges” to others; rather, they set a new quality bar for others to attempt to surpass. Of course, bolstering this effort is Microsoft’s continued dominance in the home and office computing markets, selling the software that runs some 95% of the 500 million personal computers that will be sold this year.

            We hope that you appreciate this explanation of Microsoft’s product strategy and the fruit we expect to be harvested from the seeds that have been sown.

          • That’sWhatI’mSaying

            And that’s what I mean about thoughtful. Thank you.

          • guest

            Microsoft PR hard at work here.

  • guest

    More evidence that Ballmer is delusional, should be fired, and perhaps institutionalized as well. He already lost to Apple on his watch. In every way conceivable: Revenue, profit, market cap, investor confidence, growth, reputation, competitive positioning for the future, developer mind share, employee satisfaction, etc. He lost to them in music (twice), in two of the most important markets for the future: phones and tablets, despite a decade head start (exacerbated by Ballmer’s initial arrogance and dismissal of Apple’s chances for success both times). Even Windows has lost share to OS X every quarter since Vista. There’s not a single head-to-head battle against Apple since 2000 where MS hasn’t either lost outright, or at least lost share.

    Fire Steve. Fire the board. Start over.

  • BlaineMillet

    If Microsoft hasn’t done it by now, when they have billions of dollars in cash, what makes you think it will happen now or in the future. One thing is certain, if you keep doing what you are doing with the same leadership and expect different results, you are kidding yourself. David has slayed Goliath. Get over it and look at the situation in a different light and don’t play “catch up” – figure out a way to play “leap frog” and move ahead – just don’t see it in the cards with current leadership. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be built into the DNA of Microsoft and if you look at the numbers in area of growth, profitability, and others during Steve’s time in office, they aren’t impressive, they are dismal. But that doesn’t mean it is “game over”- just means it’s time to look at the problem with a different set of eyes and opportunities. When they start hiring different people with different mindsets to challenge what is going on currently, hope will be restored. As long as they continue hiring and building a workforce like the one they have, don’t expect anything exciting out of Redmond.

    I am a business and leading edge strategy person for companies and have worked in small and Fortune 100 companies – this isn’t a new problem but someone has to step up and recognize it as what it is and stop trying to dress up the pig – time to take a different direction. I think innovatively, creatively, look at problems from a different perspective for companies every day and use innovative tools like social media to help build a groundswell for companies. When I interact with “Softies” they tell me I don’t get it…maybe it is actually the other way around????

  • Bob

    In other news, Napoleon says Waterloo was just a setback and vows to lead his troops to victory against the Duke of Wellington next time.

  • Ray Burt

    For those interested in Some Data: AAPL net income & profit margin vs. MSFT net income & profit margin since Ballmer became CEO:,id:MSFT,calc:profit_margin,,id:AAPL,type:company,calc:profit_margin,,id:MSFT,type:company,calc:net_income,,id:AAPL,type:company,calc:net_income&zoom=&startDate=9/30/2002&endDate=7/11/2012&format=real&recessions=false

  • Ray Burt

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