Steve Ballmer should limit his worries to Microsoft and his advice to his employees. Last week the Microsoft CEO reportedly had the audacity to suggest that Apple "become more like Microsoft," and loosen the bonds between Apple hardware and software. Is he really that clueless? Surely he's aware that it's the marriage between hardware and Mac OS X that allows Apple build the best, most intuitive computers and smartphones in the world.

According to an article on CNet News the comments came during an interview conducted by a Ziff Davis reporter at the Churchill Club, a Silicon Valley non-profit for CEOs and other mucky-mucks.

Ballmer prognosticated that Apple, Nokia and Blackberry-maker Research in Motion all will lose share as the market expands over the next five years "because they design their own proprietary hardware and tie it closely to their software."Never mind that it's those ties that permit the devices to deliver features that people want and need.

If anything, Microsoft's Monkey Boy could learn a thing or two from Apple about how to build reliable software with features people really want, rather than to bloating their systems with useless capabilities that no one asked for and will probably never use. Windows Mobile is about as easy to use as a graphing calculator.

If you can stomach it, here's a video of Ballmer speaking at the Churchill Club mostly about search. It's worth watching just to see him take a ribbing about the failed yahoo acquisition.

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I am Technical Editor of the [url=]CRN Test Center[/url], a kind of computer-centric "Consumer Reports" for retailers and VARs ([url=][/url]). I bought my first computer in 1980, an Atari 800. In addition to adventure games like Zork, I also played with the hardware, dabbling with ROM dumps and mods to the 810 disk drive. That's also where I learned BASIC programming. After 1984, I moved to PCs, clones and NetWare, and then to Apple IIs and Macs until around 1990. In July of that year I got my first job at a publishing company, supporting about 25 Mac users (including the staff of "MacWeek").

Between '06 and '09 I was editor of [URL=]ST&P[/URL], a software testing trade magazine. I also wrote a software [URL=]Test & QA [/URL]newsletter, and was chairman of the [url=]Software Test & Performance conference[/url].

scru 909

We're sorry Bill Gates. We learned our lesson. Now could you please come back?

When it comes down to it, he is half right. Companies are trying to make devices more universal (see googles android project and all the other mobile linux projects in development), history has showed us that people get sick of proprietary hardware.

With that said, Apple already knows this. Apple is breaking it's hardware and software up on their PC lines by using intel based hardware. You can install windows or linux on any recent Mac (linux on most of the old ones too). What they need to do to protect themselves, and what I think they are working towards now, is to make a more universal system but fine-tune their products to work together. If you can install Mac on any PC and Windows on any Mac, people who want Apple hardware will still use mac because it's tuned to it and people who want Mac software will still buy Apple hardware because it lets them utilize all the features.

Right now I'm installing OSX on a PC, Mac's not fond of people doing that but you can if you're careful. I think what Balmer meant (or at least should have meant) is that now that they've made the Intel switch they put themselves in a market where they have to compete with Apple on the same hardware, and they need to make the best of it and try to take advantage of the market.

Thanks for the comments. When a software maker (such as Apple) gives up control of the hardware, it also gives up the ability to control the user experience. It is precisely this control (along with lots of people who really "get" the intuitive UI thing) that makes Apple products so user friendly. Microsoft lacks both control of the hardware and IMHO an understanding of what makes an interface easy to use. Apple's just better at it, and part of that "betterness" is a direct result of their control of the hardware.