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Ballmer talks competition at Windows Phone 7 launchCNET News senior writer Ina Fried interviews Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer right after the launch of Windows Phone 7 in New York, asking him how the new OS will compete against the iPhone and Android smartphones.
-I'm Ina Fried with CNET here with Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft who just introduced Windows Phone. Steve, you've talked about how Windows Phone is a different kind of phone. What do you mean by that? -Different kind of phone in the sense that we think we can help people get in and out and back to life quickly. It all begins with the Start screen. We see the start screen really brings the set of activities and people and websites that are important to you right to the forefront of the user interface. It starts with being very personal. We have devices in various shapes and forms, keyboards, no keyboards, AMOLED screen, very durable devices, machines that are-- phones that are optimized with surround sound, Dolby sound, so you get a wide variety of choices and yet a consistent delightful user interface that's about you. -Now, for the holiday season, people, really, in the US, will have the choice of two carriers. You guys won't be on CDMA 'til next year. Is that a big deal? Do you think you'll be able to convince consumers they want a different carrier than they might otherwise? -Well, I'm not sure that's sort of our challenge to take on. We're excited to be in partnership with AT&T as we launched today and T-Mobile for this Christmas and we'll look forward to being on the other networks in the future. -One of the things you guys did, even though there is a wide range of choice with these devices, there's actually less variety in terms of you guys set a few parameters. The screen has to be between this and this. Do you guys feel there's an opportunity to have, it sounds like more variety than Apple but perhaps not as much variety and not as much fragmentation as in the Android world? -I think we currently have a lot more variety than Apple has. There's really one choice in the Apple world. Big screen, little screen, we got a lot of choices. I think the problem, if you don't have a minimum kind of standard, the brand means nothing to the user. Our brand means something to the user. It means something to the developer. It implies a certain level of consistency and high quality which I think is important for the Windows Phone. -What do you do on the phone? What are the things that matter the most to you that you're like I wanna do this when I'm using the phone and I don't really wanna do X, Y, or Z. -I do-- There are very little I won't do when I'm on my phone. I certainly do the typical e-mail messaging. I make phone calls, not surprisingly, a lot of them, and I don't want those calls dropped. I actually, kind of fairly active on Facebook. I'm kind of watching what's going on in that world. I do, in fact, travel a lot so the fact that I can kinda take my office with me is important and I can take some videos to watch and music to listen to. It's all great for me, actually, as a mobile person. -Are there things that you think we'll be doing on our phones a couple years from now that we don't do today that you guys wanna be positioned to do well in the future? -I think we're gonna see a continual evolution in the way these things interact. I mean, this will be a projector someday, hold it up or put it down on the kickstand and project. We'll be able to more and more with sensors to capture images and you see what we've done with Xbox Kinect. You can let your mind run wild on kind of what that might be in the context of a mobile device. I see a lot of opportunities. -The phones are getting more and more powerful. Clearly they have the power that a PC had several years ago while PCs have gotten more and more powerful. Do you think there's gonna be a day where most of us for our computing are gonna connect something that size to a keyboard and monitor and call that our computer or do you think the PC keeps getting more and more powerful and holding a role in and of itself? -I think, at the end of the day, we're gonna-- you can't draw big islands. I think there's a lot of things that people love about their PCs that we will take down into smaller screened devices and there's a lot of things you let the smaller screen, the phone devices, that people wanna bring up and the key for us as a participant in both aspects and with a great body of technology is to really kind of span that set of needs. -The question I get asked the most is what is Microsoft thinking about tablets? I mean, clearly you guys have had tablets on the market since 2003. They're a little surprise that the iPad's now been out there almost a year and we haven seen sort of that direct competitor. You said at the financial analyst meeting, "It's priority number one." How long do you think it takes to answer that question? To have something that directly competes-- -Like I said, you'll see a set of things from our partners, essentially around the holiday and then we get an enhancement which I highlighted from Intel which will be very valuable as we get their next generation Oak Trail processors, also, an important part of our road map. -What kinds of things do you think people want to do on a device of that type? Do they want a full PC experience? Do they want just a phone with a big screen? When you think about that. -Yes. People want everything they can do on their PC and more. They want long battery life, yes. They want instant on and they want everything they can do on their PC. They really want all of those things and, today, there's a set of compromises. They want a variety of hardware form factors with a physical keyboard, without a physical keyboard. People really want choice and diversity, I think, in the form factors and, yeah, we're working hard to provide what we think is the solution that people want and I know others are, too, and that's why competition is a great thing. -You've got a few other things you're putting on the holiday shopping list, Kinect, the motion controller for Xbox. Do you think this will really breath new life into the Xbox and do you think it'll attract more people to the Xbox that probably haven't considered a console in the past? -I think the Xbox Kinect and the range of new games that come with it really does change the Xbox from just a video game console really into a TV entertainment center and we'll see that be an important theme. You know, we announced today, with AT&T, that they'd bring their TV service so you can tune live TV and the like from your Xbox, they're U-verse TV Service. There's a lot of great things coming this holiday with Xbox Kinect. -You guys have talked for a long time about bringing together the connected entertainment experience so you should be able to, you know, have that same content, buy it once, have it appear everywhere. How close do you think we're getting to that and how do you feel about where Microsoft is positioned vis-a-vis some of the competitors and sort of bringing that consistent entertainment experience in different places. -Well, with Zune on the Windows Phone, with Zune on the Xbox, with Zune on the PC, with U-verse on the Xbox, with U-verse on the PC, with U-verse on the settop box, and the phone, I think we're getting very, very close. I don't think anybody has really tackled TV very well yet and that's a place where I think we're a little bit in front of the game. -Thanks a lot, Steve, I appreciate it. -Thank you. -For CNET, I'm Ina Fried.