The Most Bizarre Steve Ballmerism Ever is a Doozy

Steve Ballmer

A Ballmerism Gone Mad

Every once in awhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outdoes himself with a doozy of what I call a Ballmerism. That's when he makes a statement that departs so far from known facts that we just shake our head and wonder who buys the nonsense.

Recently, as reported by CNET, Steve Ballmer made a pitch for "2-in-1" devices at the Microsoft Build Conference. These are hybrid devices, both a tablet and a PC. The idea is that you only need one device, with its keyboard, like the Microsoft Surface. This is in contrast to Apple's philosophy: a tablet is a whole new animal.

Here is Mr. Ballmer's statement:

How many of us have gone to a meeting with somebody who brought a tablet and then when it comes time to actually take notes, writes them down on pencil and paper. Or can't get at the spreadsheet...or try to use it in terminal emulator mode...or take [a long time] to set up and turn their tablet into something that approximates a PC."

The answer is, actually, not many. The reason is that tablet customers are a lot smarter about how to use their devices than Mr. Ballmer would like his own customers to believe. If he can get them to buy into the idea that tablets are just too hard to use in meetings, perhaps the Surface, which runs Windows and MS Office, will sell better.

This is a classic, zany Ballmerism: say something that makes you look incredibly stupid to the opposing camp, and say it in earnest, and maybe some of the people in your own camp, out of sheer contrariness, will have something to seize upon and believe.

The Possible Origin of Ballmerisms

I think Ballmerisms may originate in the sayings of Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs made us feel smart. His acerbic observations of the computer industry were spot on, and they helped us understand the essence of a technical facet of our lives. And they polarized. Apple customers woud eat them up and Microsoft customers would moan.

A Ballmerism is the other side of the coin. Apple and probably Google fans groan [Editor's note: I laugh. Out loud. - Editor]. Microsoft customers and partners have a sound bite to hang their hat on. The only problem is that Steve Ballmer is no Steve Jobs, and his apparent understanding of the industry is so misguided and agenda-driven that there is grave concern, in smart circles, about his fitness to lead.

iPad Customers Are Smart

When your goal is to perpetuate MS Office, and Office runs in Windows, your tablets are going to look like notebooks with keyboards. But that's not what the tablet revolution, the Post-PC era, is all about.

Over 120 million iPad customers have found, amongst the hundreds of thousands of native iPad apps, tools that meet their needs for business. Few are frustrated with their iPad in a business meeting and reach for pen and paper. Peter Tamte, developer of Projectbook (now Notesuite) for iOS has thousands of customers who are pressing that app into the very kind of service Mr. Ballmer says is difficult on a tablet. And few lament that they don't have MS Excel before them in a meeting. That train has left the station.

This was a truly bizarre Ballmerism because we know that it's driven by an agenda that has already failed. It was a beating-a-dead-horse Ballmerism, the very worst kind.