Ballmers iPhone stunt could hurt Microsoft long-term

Just about a week ago news came out that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a strong reaction to an employee who tried to take his picture using an iPhone. At the company meeting in Safeco field, an employee was trying to take his picture when Ballmer grabbed the device, said a few remarks about it, and then pretended to stomp it into the ground.

Anybody who has ever seen Ballmer speak knows that he is a passionate guy. While most people can appreciate the passion and enthusiasm that he brings to the table, there are times when this can bite you. I think this was one of those times. Let me explain...

Prior to last week, Microsoft had actually made some inroads on the iPhone with the release of the SeaDragon and Microsoft Tag apps. While I would not consider these everyday-use type apps, they were a pretty clear step in embracing the iPhone platform and utilizing it strengths. I played with the SeaDragon app quite a bit and it really is a perfect marriage of the two technologies (e.g. pinching to zoom on the large images, etc).

In my eyes those inroads have now been left be left to rot as a result of Ballmers actions. Think about it this way, say you are a Microsoftie who has a great idea for an app which really showcases a Microsoft technology, would you be willing to stand up in front of Ballmer and pitch the idea? That idea had better be an incredibly good one with a ton of potential otherwise...

Who does this really hurt? Search. Contrary to what many people believed, Microsoft has really made a big comeback in the Search space with Bing. In fact it was this past August that Bing surpassed 10% marketshare which is a pretty big milestone in its growth along with a nice month over month improvement. Currently desktop search dominates the market, but anyone with a little bit of foresight will tell you that mobile search is and will continue to be a big growth area in the near future. Unfortunately, Bing's presence in the mobile market (particularly the iPhone) is...shall we say...weak. Yeah, they have a mobile site, but thats about it. Unlike Google and Yahoo!, Bing has no search app as far as I can tell. Furthermore you can't even set Bing to your default search engine (Google/Yahoo! are currently the only options).

Now if your Bing fighting for each point of marketshare, dumping tons of money on the "search overload" ads, why not get a few developers together and have them make a Bing iPhone app? One word, Ballmer.


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