What Is It With Steve Ballmer And The iPhone?

Ballmer, who once famously scoffed at the iPhone's chances for long-term success, has changed his tune somewhat as the device's popularity has continued to grow. However, Ballmer is still quick to dismiss suggestions that the iPhone could be a threat to the PC.

"Let's face it, the Internet was designed for the PC. The Internet is not designed for the iPhone," Ballmer told the Associated Press earlier this week. "That's why they've got 75,000 applications — they're all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone."

Ballmer, in a Thursday appearance on The Today Show to discuss the Windows 7 launch, was asked by host Matt Lauer whether people might eventually be able to handle all their computing needs on an iPhone as opposed to a PC.

This time, Ballmer chose his words more carefully and said it's simply a matter of user preference. "People need and like bigger screens for reading, for writing, so there's going to be a mix," he told Lauer.

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Last month at Microsoft's private company meeting in Seattle, Ballmer saw an employee taking a photo of him with an iPhone, snatched it away, and pretended to stomp on it, according to a report in TechFlash.

Other Microsoft executives have recently made iPhone-related claims that defy reason. In July at Microsoft's annual Financial Analysts Meeting, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, suggested that Windows Mobile 6.5, a release that has received lukewarm reviews, offers a better Web browsing experience than the iPhone.

"You will have a very rich browsing experience on [Windows Mobile] 6.5 devices that will give you access to more Web sites than you will be able to get to on an iPhone that will work actively and work well. It really is a much better experience," Bach told analysts at the event.

Microsoft isn't the only company that was blindsided by the iPhone, but its response has been slow in coming, in large part due to the fact that Windows Mobile 7 has been slow to arrive. That release, which Microsoft says will put it back in the mobile game, could come as early as April, although it's unclear how long it would take for devices to hit the market.

With Windows 7, Microsoft is playing up the ability for its hardware partners to come up with PC designs that make consumers drool. Until Microsoft gives mobile device partners a cutting edge OS for doing the same, Ballmer will probably continue to hear questions about the iPhone.