With some businesses today, it's not enough that you succeed- others must fail. And nothing could be truer of that mindset than with Microsoft. Steve Ballmer recently showed this clearly through a comment he made about Apple's iPad. Basically, the comment boiled down to this: we measure our success by how badly you do, not by how well we do.
Ballmer's actual comment regarding the iPad was this: "Apple has done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out, and in which they've… they sold certainly more than I'd like them to sell, let me just be clear about that".
Notice what he didn't say: not "we'd like to sell more", but essentially "they're selling too many". That's a sad commentary on your business by any measure.
Ballmer couldn't bring himself to say, "The iPad is a great device and people love it. Apple did a fantastic job with it." Noooo. That's because when you suck, it's hard to praise the competition.
Obviously, Steve Ballmer would do a happy dance if Apple wasn't so darn successful. But he doesn't get it. The reason Apple is successful comes from many things, but two key items are that they make devices people want, and that it doesn't take them two decades to get a product to market. When was the last time Microsoft made something you really, really wanted?
Admit it: Apple makes cool stuff. I'm not a fan of Apple nor do I own any Apple products, but it's undeniable that a lot of people like what Apple does, both in the hardware and software arenas. And there's a reason for that: compare almost anything Apple makes to the stuff Microsoft makes and you'll laugh.
The Zune versus the iPod? Please. The Zune is an embarassing piece of junk. How many people have you seen using or raving about their Zune? That's right, none.
The Kin versus the iPhone? Don't make me laugh. Besides, Microsoft bungled the Kin so badly that it was pulled off the market after less than two months. You couldn't buy a Kin even if you wanted to. And no one wants to.
Ballmer seems utterly incapable of getting his company to do anything genuinely new or innovative. By all appearances he looks for what other companies are succeeding in doing, and then flogs the Microsoft rank and file to copy it. By doing business this way he guarantees that Microsoft will forever be behind the curve.
Ask yourself this: when was the last time that Microsoft opened up or lead the way into a new market segment? When was the last time that Microsoft truly innovated rather than following someone else's lead? The answer is, not within living memory.
Microsoft is desperately trying to develop an iPad-like device. Ballmer has stated that it's "job one urgency" to get some kind of tablet running Windows into production. And by the time their half-baked, poorly thought-out clunker hits the shelves, no one will care. They'll be using whatever Apple came up with in the year or two it took Microsoft to push their "iPad killer" out the door.