Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the non-niche smartphone market (via Michael Arrington and TechCrunch):
I’ll call anything that’s under about 50 million a year niche. And I’ll call anything that’s north of 300 million a year non-niche. PC’s are not niche devices. Part of the reason I think they’re non-niche devices is, multiple people can manufacture them, they all interoperate, they work together, etc. TVs are not niche. You know, there’s more than, well over 300 million of those sold a year. They interoperate in that case mostly based on standards, but with some innovation. Phones are not niche. The categories where, I think, a single player can control a large percentage of the volume are the smaller categories.
Michael, there’s a journalist technique called the follow up question. Have you heard of it?
What about devices which sell between 50-million and 300-million a year? Outside of Windows, does Microsoft have any experience other than niche? Are smartphones a niche of phones? And, how does Microsoft’s mobile strategy fit in with phones, niche or otherwise, since Windows Mobile sales are going down, not up?
Our basic play with our software is to try and be super high volume. So I think you can have an Apple in the phone business, or a RIM, and they can do very well, but when 1.3 billion phones a year are all smart, the software that’s gonna be most popular in those phones is gonna be software that’s sold by somebody who doesn’t make their own phone.
I’m having trouble following. Microsoft wants to be super high volume, yet the iPhone, decidedly a niche smartphone, outsells Windows Mobile smartphones in units and revenue and applications. And why is it that the software that is most popular must be sold by somebody who doesn’t make a phone? Is it that way now? No.
Come on, Mr. Arrington, ask Mr. Ballmer a follow up question.
MA: The Zune HD: A hit. Seems to be a great device. Still haven’t had my hands on one. Do you have one on you right now?
SB: I don’t actually.
I’m serious. There are a lot of questions that real journalists would like to ask of Microsoft’s CEO. Instead of following trends, fads, and buzzwords, why not ask Mr. Ballmer why Microsoft’s Zune has not competed well against Apple’s iPod line? Or, why have Windows Mobile sales fallen in light of the acknowledged strategy of being a non-niche player?
MA: Would Twitter fit with your technology platforms and distribution?
SB: Twitter’d be great, yeah. I mean, not that we’re talking about buying Twitter… I mean, the Twitter guys want to stay independent, that’s great. Using – making Twitter an asset to one of our businesses, that would be the real question for us, how does it fit, but obviously, yknow, they’ve got a lot of kind of buzz and interest at this stage, but, no, I think they’re fiercely, uh, committed to staying independent, which, which I respect.
Oh, wait. I see. Twitter would be a good fit with Microsoft’s businesses because it loses money, too. Got it. Thanks.