Steve Ballmer thinks only Microsoft truly competes with Apple

Posted Oct 25, 2015 by James Walker
In an interview this week, the ex-CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer said he believes only his old company and Samsung can truly compete with rival Apple, claiming "nobody else is really trying" anymore.
Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Photo by Barnaby Jeans
Ballmer made the comments in an interview with Bloomberg this week. He initially praised Apple, saying "they've done a great job … they’ve turned it into the most valuable company in the world." The former Microsoft CEO quickly swung his favour back towards his old company though, commending last month's device launch as showing it is the only true competitor to Apple and something that "will give them a good run for their money."
Ballmer said of Apple: "Nobody else is really trying to compete with them anymore, really seriously in hardware. Who is really going after the Mac, who is really going after the iPad. You could basically say Microsoft and Samsung. And Microsoft really is the only one that's got a hardware and software capability. So if there's going to be any competition at all for Apple, it'll come from Microsoft. And I believe in that."
Particular praise was directed at Microsoft's new Surface Book, the convertible premium laptop designed to rival the MacBook Pro by offering over twice the power and the ability to handle any kind of professional task. Ballmer said: "A Surface Book is not either an iMac or an iPad, but it's a new category. It's an innovative category. And the truth of the matter is, who is going to get to those categories first? Microsoft or Apple?"
As it stands, it appears Microsoft is creating categories first. Analysts have praised the company's latest hardware releases and investment in future technologies with devices like the HoloLens holographic headset. Microsoft's stock surged over 10 percent this week as its last-quarter earnings call was published, demonstrating successful growth in every key area of its business except for Lumia mobile devices.
Ballmer was also keen to point out that Apple may not even be here today if it wasn't for an "investment" that Microsoft made in the company back in 1997. The investment was actually required to settle a lawsuit but Ballmer noted the cash was used to fuel the development of Apple's iconic products that have propelled it to the top of Silicon Valley, society and the stock markets.
He said: "I think if you go back to '97 when Steve [Jobs] came back, when they were almost bankrupt, we [Microsoft] made an investment in Apple as part of settling a lawsuit. We, Microsoft, made an investment. In a way you could say that might have been one of the craziest things we ever did. But they've taken the foundation of great innovation, some cash, and they've turned it into the most valuable company in the world."
Earlier in the interview, Ballmer took a stab at the alleged quality of Amazon's working conditions, highlighted in the New York Times this year. Both Microsoft and Amazon have offices in Seattle and several Microsoft employees have jumped ship recently. Ballmer claims they often return shortly after leaving though, saying many people "took a round trip" because Amazon is a place "that people don't want to work at" because "it's just not a great place to do innovative stuff as an engineer."
Since Ballmer left Microsoft last year, handing over to current popular CEO Satya Nadella, he has refrained from heavily commenting on the company. This interview with Bloomberg is therefore an interesting insight into his views on the company's products and services today, indicating Ballmer is supportive of Nadella's leadership and a fan of the Lumia and Surface devices that were launched this month.