This week, before a crowd of market analysts, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got a chance to vent his spleen at Apple. He stated that their market share may have “ticked up a little” this year, but he maintained that the growth was basically a “rounding error”. I'm not sure I'd call Apple's best June sales quarter in history a rounding error, but Mr. Ballmer obviously has a different concept of money than the rest of us. Just look at the Bing advertising budget.
The rest of his speech contained similar rhetoric, but there were some gems buried in the anti-Apple vitriol. For one thing, Ballmer's rant about Netbooks is a priceless piece of comedy;
“A year ago, the world was still mostly talking about a thing called a MID. Don't know what a MID is, really never knew what a MID was...”
An MID is a mobile Internet device. Most of them are extremely expensive folding/tablet computers that are just a little too large to fit into a pocket. MIDs were indeed all the rage for while, but they never really took off thanks to the netbook. People weren't willing to spend $1500 on an MID when they could get a more-functional netbook for $300. Apparently, though, Ballmer considers MIDs and netbooks to be basically the same thing.
“A MID was a netbook. And when they first shipped, people said, oh, this is this, this is something brand new, this is blah, blah, blah. And they shipped with Linux, and blah, blah, blah, blah. We now know what a MID is. And we now know a MID is a netbook, and what's a netbook? A netbook is a PC.”
While I have issues with his terminology, I can't deny Ballmer's basic conclusion. Gadgets like netbooks are where PC manufacturers can really shine. Apple is never going to bring us $300 machines capable of handling all of our portable computing needs. The netbook market is one place I doubt Apple will ever be able to make inroads in, unless they manage to release that iTablet of theirs in the sub-$500 price range.
Despite how lightly he viewed Apple's success this quarter, Ballmer made it clear that he had no intention of letting their market grab continue. He alluded to a bevy of new Windows 7 Machines coming out this holiday season that would finally allow Microsoft to compete with Apple in the flashy, fancy computer market.
"At least when Apple attacks us, the primary attack that comes from Apple is, 'Hey, at the end of the day, we have the coolest hardware.' When you see the hardware, the PC designs that will come out this Christmas with Windows 7, I think that conventional wisdom can begin to really change.”
It seems likely to me that the new computers Ballmer was alluding to were CULVs. The first wave of this new breed of notebook are due out this Fall and holiday season. They combine low price with battery life, simplicity, and compact size. The rise of CULV notebooks could give Apple's MacBook line a run for their money, especially in this recession economy.