Steve Ballmer's blustery promise to take on Apple head-to-head makes for a great sound bite, but as with many of the Microsoft CEO's public statements, there's more bluster than truth to it.
In an interview with CRN at Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, Ballmer vowed:
"We are trying to make absolutely clear we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple. We are not. No space uncovered that is Apple's."
He then pointed out a number of advantages that Microsoft has over Apple, including enterprise management and server structure in the enterprise. Those advantages, of course, have nothing to do with the areas where Apple has the big advantage over Microsoft, consumer smartphones and tablets.
To make his point clear that he intends to challenge Apple there as well, he shouted:
"But we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested to Apple]. Not the consumer cloud. Not hardware-software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch."
Someone might want to point out to Ballmer that it's essentially already happened, and on his watch. During his tenure, Apple launched the iPhone and the iPad, and has dominated mobile computing, while Microsoft has been left behind.
And also, some time on his watch, the total number of Apple devices, including iPhones and iPads, will likely outsell the total number of Windows devices.
The likelihood of Microsoft catching Apple in mobile are very slim, no matter what Ballmer shouts. Ballmer's bluster is part of his shtick, and people have learned to discount it. But it's getting to be old. Microsoft doesn't need a blustery leader to lead it into the uncertain mobile market, it needs one with a clear vision. And all the shouting Ballmer does won't change that.