Ballmer: “The Internet is not designed for the iPhone”

Thu, Oct 22, 2009


In a recent AP articleabout today’s release of Windows 7, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had an interesting answer in response to a question about whether or not smartphones “could unseat PC’s as the technology of choice for on-the-go consumers.

Let’s face it, the Internet was designed for the PC. The Internet is not designed for the iPhone.  That’s why they’ve got 75,000 applications — they’re all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone.

I think this quote encapsulates everything that’s backwards about Microsoft’s mobile strategy.  Sure, the Internet was designed for the PC and not the iPhone, but Apple was able to design the iPhone forthe Internet.  There’s no denying that the web browsing experience on the iPhone, when first released, was years ahead of the competition.  And if you think about it, the first worthy competitor to Safari on the iPhone didn’t come along until the Palm Pre surfaced a few months ago.

It’s easy to sit back, as Microsoft has done with every Windows Mobile browser, and casually decide that the Internet simply isn’t built for mobile devices with small screens.  It’s a lot harder to take a look at the Internet and actually figure out and engineer a way to best transfer the desktop browsing experience into a small device like the iPhone.  Apple, to its credit, sat down and figured out a way.

Also, Ballmer’s quote about 75,000 applications trying to make the Internet decent on the iPhone is strange, if not downright idiotic.  Is Ballmer really that oblivious to the utility provided by innumerable iPhone apps, or is he just toeing the Microsoft line and blindly labeling every single iPhone app as useless?  Who knows, but we’d like to think that Ballmer is smart enough to realize the importance of mobile app stores in the burgeoning smartphone war.  Then again, Microsoft’s mobile app strategy leaves a lot to be desired, so maybe we’re giving Ballmer too much credit.

As we’ve said before, it’s better to acknowledge a competing product’s strengths and work to improve your own devices as opposed to ignorantly dismissing every product that isn’t yours as being irrelevant.


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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Peter Says:

    When Ballmer bashes a competitors product, he’s scared. He doesn’t have time to bash something that is already known to be bad. So, the best investment advice is this: When Ballmer bashes, buy.

    On the other hand, when Jobs jeers a product, he’s probably working on an alternative. Investment advice: Jobs jeers conceal ideas.

  2. pt Says:

    The web was designed to be device-agnostic, which is what makes Ballmer’s statement even more ignorant. Also, if you see him, let him know that the internet is not the same as the web.

  3. Jim Says:

    Technically, the Internet was never designed for Explorer either. So what is his point?

  4. Tom B Says:

    Why do they keep this guy? Is everyone on MSFT’s Board secretly shorting all their MSFT positions?

  5. Noibs Says:

    Think about the famous “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials.

    Balmer **IS** the PC.

    Seriously, I agree with Tom B. How can the Microsoft board tolerate this guy? What’s Microsoft done after Bill Gates stepped down? If this was the NFL, he would be gone in a New York minute.

  6. mt Says:

    The iPhone was designed for users. Microsoft should remember that too.

  7. D9 Says:

    Noibs: That would be a Washington minute in the NFL these days!

    Microsoft’s modus operandi has always been to take or copy something completely then spin it as their own while also spinning that any threat is inferior, regardless of fact or relevance.

    This is just classic MS spin….Ballmer would give 2/3 of his manhood to have had the iPhone first.


  8. Peter Says:

    Actually, I do think Ballmer has a point.

    I see lots of iPhone apps that are glorified web pages. They get their data from the Internet and display it on the phone. You can do this with a web page.

    As an example, I use to check the traffic on my iPhone. It behaves just like an iPhone app running on my phone. It can get my position from the GPS and show me the traffic situation where I am. It supports pinching to zoom in and out of the map.

    There are a bunch of newsreaders that don’t do anything but display the news which is retrieved from the web. Pizza Hut has an App for ordering pizzas–all it does is submit it via the Internet. Bank of America has an App to allow you to do online banking. Does it do anything worthwhile without an Internet connection? No. Then why not make it a web app?

    Don’t get me wrong–there are lots of clever apps that wouldn’t work as a web page. There are lots of handy little apps that, while they could be done as a web page, it’s ridiculous to make them such (“What tip should I give the waitress? Let me connect to the Internet and find out…”)

    But I see more and more Apps that seem to just be a way to promote a particular web site.

  9. StevieB Says:

    Ballmer is a genius! The PC is but an appendage of a man that is everything to all…..

  10. Steve Says:

    What Ballmer is doing is pretty clear actually. Microsoft’s monopoly exists on the PC market which is of course dominated by Microsoft. Microsoft is trying to make a link between the internet and Microsoft. Similarly, by acknowledging the iPhone has 75,000 apps (when it has over 85,000), Ballmer is suggesting this is in place of having millions of viable web pages. The problem with Ballmer’s logic is that every iPhone app isn’t just a substitute for a web site (though some are).

    The more telling issue here is that Ballmer’s response to a generic “smart phone” question was met with an iPhone specific response. Ballmer has basically acknowledged that when it comes to smart phones, the iPhone is the only clear threat and concern. Thanks for validating the iPhone for us Steve!

  11. Gino Says:

    I hope they never fire this guy and he never quits. He’s the best thing Apple has at Microsoft.

  12. -hh Says:

    “Let’s face it, the Internet was designed for the PC. ”

    Really? My recollection is that it was around for roughly a decade before even the first DOS PC even shipped.

    And then when Mosaic shipped…its first iteration wasn’t even on Windows. Or DOS.


  13. AdamC Says:


    By your reply you had disproved Ballmer’s point that the internet is not for the smartphones. Notice how flawlessly the apps interface with the internet. And his Freudian slip by mentioning the iPhone betrayed his fear of the it.

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