Steve Ballmer doesn't give Google much credit, but he also apparently doesn't look in the mirror very often.
Steve Ballmer must be on crack. Or something. In a fascinating interview with the Financial Times, Ballmer has the cheek to call Google a one-trick pony (this from the company that has only managed two break-out successes so far), can't seem to come to grips with the fact that he hasn't budged his stock price in eight years, and takes solace in the fact that the company only has "one way to go, and it's up, baby, up, up, up, up, up!"
Please pass the vial, Ballmer.
One place where he comes down to earth is in his admission that he hasn't figured out how to compete with open source:
I've got to tell you, in every - other than the battle with Open Source, every other competitor, I love being able to come into a room and saying we're better and we're cheaper. We're going to try to say we're better and we're cheaper basically.
In the case of Linux vs. Windows, anyway, Microsoft is neither better nor cheaper. In its other products, too, it's losing that argument.
But it's really in deriding Google that Ballmer looks ridiculous. When asked about Google, he opines:
I mean, come on. They have one product. It's been the same for five years - and they have Gmail now, but they have one product that makes all their money, and it hasn't changed in five years.
I mean, they have a gestalt, but gestalt is gestalt. Let's talk about the reality. The reality is one product makes 98 percent of all of their money, search.
Pot, meet kettle. As the Wall Street Journal noted in response to this Ballmer comment, "The definition of death, in corporate America, is believing you don't have any competition. The definition of being in a coma may be underestimating that competition." Ballmer even said that Microsoft has only had two hits - Office and Windows - in the interview.
It is true that Google has had one big hit - search - to date. But this isn't an argument for Microsoft to make and then rest on its laurels. Bill Gates can riff on how great Microsoft is as an executor, but it has been at the Internet for a decade now with nothing to show for it.
Microsoft is still a powerful company. But if it continues to fritter away its power on dead-ends and lame products it is going to find that a decade of milking Windows and Office to the detriment of its future won't continue to hold water on Wall Street.