Ballmer: I was wrong about the iPhone

Back in 2007, after Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPhone, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was asked what he thought of the device. The first comments he made were to mock the pricing of the handset. He also said that the phone wouldn't appeal to business customers because it didn't come with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Ballmer said that without the physical QWERTY, the iPhone would not be a very good device for emailing.

Now, nearly ten years later, Ballmer admits that he was wrong. He also says that he should have moved earlier to push Microsoft into hardware. Ballmer said that after he pushed for Surface, the board wasn't totally behind the project. After Microsoft took a massive write down thanks to the poor sales generated by the Surface RT, the company eventually hit pay dirt with the Surface Pro. Microsoft founder Bill Gates didn't share Ballmer's eventual support for hardware, which led to a breakdown in the relationship between the pair.

Ballmer's initial critique of the iPhone turned out to be way off base. "We have great Windows Mobile devices in the market today," Ballmer said back in 2007. While Ballmer ticked off the features of the "capable" Motorola Q, the executive did the same exact thing that BlackBerry chiefs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis did when the iPhone was unveiled. They played down and underestimated the advantages of the touchscreen interface found on the iPhone. And that has led both Microsoft and BlackBerry to become more and more irrelevant in the smartphone industry.

source: Bloomberg via MacRumors

Related phones

  • Display 3.5 inches
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  • Camera 2 MP (Single camera)
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  • Storage 16GB,
  • Battery 1400 mAh
  • OS iOS 3.x



53. Edubarca

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 16, 2010

I still prefer the QWERTY keyboard. Touch keyboards are difficult to use, they are activated with just anything and they make you do lots of operations you don't want to do. They are now almost universally used due to LOW COST OF PRODUCTION. QWERTYs have more parts, more labour but are far much more reliable and easy to use.

49. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

Man admits he was wrong. Gotta respect that. Just imagine if some of the comment posters here would do that once in a while?

46. deleon629 unregistered

In other news, Stephen Hawkins admitted earlier today that, quote, "Water is wet..."

39. aljololzz

Posts: 85; Member since: Nov 07, 2016


33. jeroome86

Posts: 2314; Member since: Apr 12, 2012

What we need is a IT expert to explain the facts. Anyone know someone in the IT field?

35. kiko007

Posts: 7526; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

He's here.......and full of vigour at that! His spelling errors aren't even all that bad today......

38. Subie

Posts: 2476; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Lol, your right!

18. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

He had a blue screen error.

16. Ironboned

Posts: 77; Member since: Jun 16, 2016

Shut up iPhonearena, just drop paying these stupid Apple bulls**ts

24. darkkjedii

Posts: 31816; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I see why you only have 28 posts.

15. MartyK

Posts: 1045; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Microsoft error was quite simple. Bad OS! Every time you had a problem, you had to pull the battery out to reset that trash. We complaint millions of time to that company and they ignore us. So here comes Android, wasn't as smooth as Apple at first, however wasn't crashing like Windows mobile. That's what kill Microsoft!

12. EC112987

Posts: 1216; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

I respect anyone who can admit that theyrE wrong. Now a bit off topic but I'm impressed with Apple. Say what you want about apple but they get s**t done!! Dropped my iPhone 7plus last night and broke the screen...walked into apple this morning and walked out with a new phone. I appreciate reliability.

21. xocomaox

Posts: 208; Member since: Dec 14, 2015

Except it was not free (Even with AppleCare they charge for broken screens) and your "new phone" is actually not new, but refurbished. Although all parts you can touch are new. So motherboard, memory, camera module etc can and WILL be refurbished.

29. EC112987

Posts: 1216; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

I know that but it's better than a broken screen

51. xocomaox

Posts: 208; Member since: Dec 14, 2015

I fully agree, but this should not impress you. You paid $160 for that replacement phone, unless you somehow got AppleCare for free. I would consider this customer service average.

8. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Based on your piece, Bill Gates never wanted Microsoft to be a hardware company. There is more money in software. Because every hardware will always need software in order to work. And software is always for the most part, cheaper, easier to upgrade and has less overhead. You take one disk with Windows and you can make millions of copies at hardly any cost. You cost is the price of a blank disk which was then less than $.10 each and the price to have it shipped, which also back them was very cheap. Gates was OK with things like mice and keyboards, because these things are cheap in cost. Have no overhead attached. Gave them something to strictly make to work with Windows and Office. Fast forward and you see right out the box, Microsoft made lots of hardware mistakes because it wasn't their forteit. At $500 back then, the iPhone was pricey. Apple hadn't done anything no one else had done. All they did was use a full screen device. But considering the short-comings it had out the box, I laughed too and still am. When the iPhone first came out, carriers weren't really subsidizing phones. You had to walk in the door with the money. So he was right into thinking it wouldn't sell and the first model didn't sell very well either. The iPhone didn't sell well until the 3GS. Because at that time, carriers did open up subsidizing the hardware to make it easier for their users to buy it. That stalled the sales for 2 years and gave other options like Android to appear and prevent Apple from haing a lockdown on the mobile market. Microsoft was still stubborn, but then rushed to compete with garbage. Windows Phone 7 was just Windows Mobile 6.5 with a new skin. All the things MS was based for liek not having copy/paste, wasnt even mentioned when the iPhone appeared without it and couldnt record video either. Much hasnt changed on that front either. But here are the facts though. Microsoft is better when they are fighting from behind, because when you are last, you have nothing to lose. With the iPhone dropping in sales, this is an open door for Microsoft to pull out all stops and get back in this game. If they can make a mobile phone, with Intel chips, that can run full desktop apps, have it were you can dock and attach any display and plug in a mouse and keyboard, iOS will really fall and Android will feel a huge pince and start to lose users. Because with devices like the Surface already here, a full windows tablet for less than an iPad, with a better slew of real apps, for those who need it and if MS can pull off getting devs on board...this could be the 2nd coming of the king. Ballmer wasn't fast enough to see the trend, Bill was against setting a hardware trend. Now that the trend has been set, its time for MS to do what they do best. If the Surface is an idea of what they can do, Apple is in serious trouble. I didn't find it to be a capable enough phone until the iPhone 4.

11. kiko007

Posts: 7526; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

OMFG.......please stop talking like you have any evidence to the claim that MSFT is even working on mobile hardware. You know what......just stop talking....

28. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Last time I checked, the Microsoft Surface is "mobile" hardware. But see how ignorant you choose to be? It is a tablet. Right? aren't tablets mobile? Oh and I guess the fact someone showed a prototype of a "Surface" phone, wasn't enough either? Oh and the fact that the Microsoft Lumia is their phone. Even though it was made for them by Nokia, to which they owned at the time? The fact they make a Windows Phone operating system, would surely give them a foundation to build such a device on? Thinsg like Windows Continuum?! yOu think that was only developed on a Windows PC and not tested on some prototype in-house before being given to OEM's? This is all the proof I need. Now do you have any proof otherwise? NOPE! You just have a big pie-hole and nothing more! Dude you are ignorant. Oh and stop thumbing up your own posts. That's even more ignorant.

13. Subie

Posts: 2476; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Good post Techie! One thing I would disagree on is this line "If the Surface is an idea of what they can do, Apple is in serious trouble" With the success of the iPad Pro so far, as well as Apples' popularity I doubt they're in serious trouble from Microsoft... I also don't think there's anything laughable about the iPhone as you also state.

31. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

You're trying to compare the success of a product, that has been on the market since 2010 to one that on'es be out 4 years? Also, Surface sales have continued to rise with Microosft as of PA's last article havign 16% of the pie. iPad sales have been going down since the iPad Air. Sure the ipad Pro does outsell the SP3/4. But again, the devices were meant for different consumers. I have both. But the apps I use are available on both. There is nothing the iPad can't do my Surface can't. But my surface does many things my iPad can't. This biggest issue for me with the iPad, is Apple's support for their own technologies vs using open standards. So I just bought a new TV. My Surface can connect directly to it with no issue. For the iPad I have to buy stupid dongle. Default apps, full customization. X86 at my fingertips when I need it. And I have support for mobile apps too. Sure I wish desv would have supported the mobile side of Windows. I like using the quick apps when I dont want to use web browsers, or when I dont need full desktop UI applications. But for the apps I use, my SP4 does a very good job. I only use my iPad to play older games. Which I also have on my SP$ using emulators. But sometimes I want to play the updated versions. The iPad is utterly useless. I only have it, because I dont have an iPhone and I have $1000 in apps and media that even though my media works on Android, the apps do not. I have no other other way of using them. That's what I love about Windows, because even on Windows 10, all my XP, and Windows 7 apps work and I have Windows 9x installed as a VM. Try that with an iPad. The iPad is good for watching movies and playing kiddie games. It is not a productivity device. It can do some thing that are productive very well. Whether its better vs Windows is up for debate, but is your personal preference. I just honestly thing, ARM devices are to limited and they tend to be boring. And that's true for me with both apple, Android and even when Microsoft tried Windows for ARM.

36. Subie

Posts: 2476; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

If it's my money I'd buy the Surface Pro too, but that in no way negates my thoughts in post 13.

47. lyndon420

Posts: 6949; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Wow spend an obscene amount of time on your replies. That's passion

6. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Greatly underestimated Apple's marketing ability, no question there.

7. kiko007

Posts: 7526; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

"Greatly underestimated Apple's marketing ability, no question there." The first iPhone didn't sell all that well. It was the concept that changed the mobile space at the time. I get hating on anything iPhone is basically a tool of acceptance here, but don't be daft.

17. Acdc1a

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

It was and is marketing and Steve was right. In theory, who would spend $500 on a cell phone when Windows Mobile phones ran $99 and did more. Were it not for the marketing and people's acceptance it could have went in a completely different direction. It didn't help that Windows Mobile was clunky.

19. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

I like how you take what I said as 'hating anything iPhone' when it couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, it didn't sell well initially, quite common with brand new products, but if you keep up the marketing, the talk about it, your product sells better? Apple are great at that, marketing. But many seem to see the products as a gift from god or similar, when they are, products, products that in fact all the while have had many competitors that have outdone Apple's products. But having a product better then Apple's products does not mean it will sell better or people will leave the iPhone for it, that is where marketing and service comes in, And Apple does great marketing, and great service (in the US, service internationally is not so hot) So yeah, when it comes to it, Marketing is what won Apple's position with the iPhone, however it is entirely still possible that outside of US, those two things are not in any way the same, as what it is inside US, just food for thought.

22. BobbyDigital

Posts: 2127; Member since: May 29, 2014

But he's correct though. The iPhone's vast popularity is from matketing. Not from the devices features. I get that you pull up your skirt for anything Apple related but don't be daft.

4. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 975; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

SO many people and companies mocked it when it first arrived (and still do), but the popularity of the iPhone is still incredible all these years later.

3. ctdog4748

Posts: 797; Member since: Mar 05, 2016

I give him credit for admitting his error.

9. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Too bad Steve Jobs isn't that good of a person. As evil as peopel claimed Ballmer and Gates are, they are still here with us, driving and fighting. Both remain on the board and commited to keeping the company relevant with what they do best. I only wish they get some young minds in the company who are ready to take Ms to the next level. The next level would me, to move Windows from using storage. Let's move Windows to a ROM, that would require firmware upgrades and lets move on to HUD UI's and thats make Windows more touch friendly.

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