Microsoft CEO Ballmer Denies Interest In E-Readers, Says Report
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed interest in his company producing an e-reader, saying during a trip to Europe that PCs will suffice for reading digital books. However, Ballmer also suggested that he would be open to collaborating with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble on digital books. The e-reader space has grown increasingly competitive, with Amazon.com attempting to head off threats from Sony, Plastic Logic and other players.Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that Redmond will not manufacture an e-reader device to compete with Amazon.com's popular Kindle line.
"We have a device for reading. It's the most popular device in the world. It's the PC," Ballmer said at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, according to Reuters. "But no, we are not interested in e-readers ourselves."
However, Ballmer did leave the door cracked for future collaborations with digital booksellers.
The original Kindle features a 6-inch screen. A 9.7-inch-screen model, the Kindle DX, will continue to sell for $489. Over the past few months, Amazon.com has signed agreements with magazine, textbook and newspaper companies for e-content, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. According to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Kindle-related sales bring in roughly 35 percent of the company's book-related revenue.
New competition, however, is emerging on a number of fronts. Sony recently slashed the price points of two of its e-readers, to $199 and $299, in a seeming attempt to undercut the Kindle's pricing. Other companies have begun marketing e-readers that aim at very specific customer segments, including Plastic Logic's upcoming device that will focus on the business market with a large screen and ability to download Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents. Another source of competition could soon come from Apple, which could release a tablet PC sometime in early 2010. Although Apple itself has refused to confirm or deny that such a project is in development, rumors suggest that the company is in talks with various media companies to port their content onto a device, more likely via the iTunes store.
An August research note by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that an Apple tablet PC could come with an integrated 3G wireless connection, potentially allowing the downloading of digital books and other media while on the road. Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 includes multi-touch capabilities that could be conceivably used in a tablet PC. Rumors circulated in August that Dell and Intel were collaborating on an exclusively touch-screen PC due sometime in 2010, in order to take advantage of a tablet market that research firm DisplaySearch estimated would triple from $3.6 billion to $9 billion over the next six years. When previously contacted by eWEEK, Microsoft spokespeople have declined to comment on whether the new operating system will be ported onto a tablet PC. That aside, as with Apple's rumored device, a Microsoft-powered tablet PC could potentially double as an e-reader.