Microsoft's Ballmer disses Dropbox as a 'little startup'

With Office 2013 able to save files directly to SkyDrive, Microsoft's CEO dismisses his cloud-based-rival in an interview with BusinessWeek.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
2 min read
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer James Martin/CNET

SkyDrive or Dropbox? That's a decision many people face when seeking online storage. But Steve Ballmer doesn't see much in the way of competition.

In a chat with BusinessWeek published yesterday, Microsoft's head honcho touted his own company's online audience over that of Dropbox.

SkyDrive had more than 200 million users as of October, according to comments from then Windows president Steven Sinofsky. DropBox reached 100 million users in November.

"Well, you've got to remember, 100 million sounds like a pretty small number to me, actually," Ballmer told BusinessWeek. "We've got a lot more Office users. And actually if you even want to go to the cloud, we have a lot of Hotmail and SkyDrive users. I'm not beating on Dropbox. They're a fine little startup and that's great."

Ballmer's cockiness may also stem from the fact that Office 2013 plays nicely with SkyDrive. Officially launched yesterday, Microsoft's latest Office suite lets users save their documents to SkyDrive as easily as they can save them to their local drives. People can also access and edit those documents on a computer without Office installed by using the online Office Web Apps.

But Ballmer has a way of underestimating the competition. In 2007, Microsoft's CEO expressed his opinion on Apple's new iPhone, saying there would be no chance the device would get any significant market share. Ballmer has also attacked Android in the past, saying you need to be a computer scientist to use an Android phone.

Microsoft certainly has a strong online presence in comparison to its flat mobile market share. So Ballmer may feel justified in playing up SkyDrive with its double the number of users of Dropbox.

But he might want to stop dissing his rivals as they have a habit of making him eat his words.

Ballmer was also asked by BusinessWeek about Microsoft Office for the iPad, a product that's been in the rumor mill for the past year. But the CEO remained mum about the possibility of bringing its Office suite to Apple's popular tablet.

"I have nothing to say on that topic," Ballmer said. "We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we'll see what we see in the future."