Ballmer: No on WebKit, yes on app store

In Australia, Microsoft's CEO says Facebook and Apple have "made it easier for developers to distribute their applications." He also elaborates on his browser-rendering views.

Zoe Slocum Fomer Senior editor, CNET News
Zoë Slocum joined CNET in 2003, after two years at a travel start-up. Having managed the Blog Network and served as copy chief, she now edits part-time and serves as a mom full-time.
Zoe Slocum
2 min read

During a trip Down Under, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has had a lot to say. This week in Sydney, Australia, he stated that he isn't interested in wooing Yahoo anymore, he doesn't understand how Google plans to profit from Android, and he has confidence in President-elect Barack Obama's leadership.

And while the expressive executive on Friday also said Microsoft "may look into" using WebKit, the open-source browser-rendering technology used by Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari browsers, he mostly rejected that idea, according to a Computerworld report. Instead, he said the two prominent Microsoft rivals--as well as social network Facebook, in which Microsoft has heavily invested--have something more worthy of mimicking: an application platform.

Despite acknowledging that WebKit's open-source nature is "interesting," Microsoft's chief executive elaborated on why he says the software giant is sticking--at least for now--with its Trident rendering engine for Internet Explorer.

"I think there will continue to be a lot of proprietary innovation by us, and other people, inside the browser itself," he said. "A company like ours needs to have (its own) rendering service. It is important that we have a browser that embraces (Internet) standards but also allows us to have innovative extensions, even before the standards bodies go there."

On serving as a liaison between developers and consumers, Ballmer seems to have a more collaborative view.

"I actually will agree that there's some good work, particularly at Facebook and also with the iPhone, where both of those companies have made it easier for developers to distribute their applications," Ballmer said, referring to Apple's iPhone SDK and App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as the Facebook Platform, which provide independent developers with a way to more easily program, market, and distribute platform-specific software. (For its Ballmer-criticized mobile operating system, Google has introduced the Android Market.)

A key motive of each of these platform initiatives is attracting developer attention, and Microsoft is indeed taking note that the strategy is working. The iPhone software development kit, for example, was immediately picked up by 10,000 developers, and it gained more momentum when Apple dropped a nondisclosure policy for App Store releases.

"They've made it easier to kind of get exposure for your applications," Ballmer told a crowd of developers. "There's not much money being made, but the general concept of giving developers a way not only to get their code distributed, but to really get visibility for the code, is a good idea."

Will Microsoft develop a similar concept for Windows developers? Time will tell.