I know Ballmer's going to take a lot of flak for this comment from today's CNN article:
Do you have an iPod?
No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children--in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.
Though perhaps an offhand comment, I assume it's not a joke.
I think Steve needs to step back and listen to some of his employees. Maybe they really do know quite a bit that Steve doesn't. Let's see...
Last February's Wired article "Hide your iPod, Here Comes Bill" reveals that Steve Ballmer is in the minority:
"About 80 percent of Microsoft employees who have a portable music player have an iPod," said one source, a high-level manager who asked to remain anonymous. "It's pretty staggering."
So concerned is management, owning an iPod at Microsoft is beginning to become impolitic, the manager said. Employees are hiding their iPods by swapping the telltale white headphones for a less conspicuous pair.
A year later, it seems management is not only concerned, but positively paranoid. Many Microsoft employees see things differently than Steve and Bill. Tom Harpel, a Microsoft Employee who is not hiding his headphones, understands why understanding competing products can be empowering:
Yes, I use a Mac. I love using a Mac. Yes, I carry an iPod. I don't love it, but it works pretty well. I have a TiVo today, but I'm sure I'll be adding a Media Center to my living room sometime in the next year.
I like toys. I like gadgets. Every product out there tries to use technology to solve a problem. It's fun and enlightening to try stuff out, to try to understand how each company approaches problem solving differently. Using competitor's products is one way to get at that understanding.
Today in Paul Kedrosky's Blog, Robert Scoble also had no hesitation in his open-mindedness about the competition: