Is global warming finally reaching the icy tones of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer? Probably not, but some observers see a possible thaw in the relationship between the Seattle software giant and Apple. The latest sign comes from comments by Ballmer praising the App Store.
“Apple’s done a very nice job that allows people to monetize and commercialize their intellectual property,” the head of Microsoft reportedly said in a speech at the University of Washington.
Naturally, such talk elicited speculation akin to Kremlin experts gauging Sino-American relations based on whether Khrushchev appeared on May Day. One Microsoft watcher pegged Ballmer’s comments to mean Bing may become the iPhone’s default search engine. Although such a move had been speculated since January, the rumor was discounted after reports said Apple was being paid $100 million yearly to retain Google as the default.
The newfound interest by Apple and Microsoft to revitalize a once bitter relationship has been put into the context of a divorce.
“Apple is coming off a tough divorce from its young search partner, which is now selling its own touch screen smartphone and has floated the idea of an iPad-like tablet device,” The Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley wrote. Dudley is referring to Google. The Internet giant’s CEO Eric Schmidt once sat on Apple’s board, but resigned after the two companies began competing on so many fronts.
“So perhaps it’s natural Apple is reaching out to an estranged friend from the early days,” Dudley adds. When Dudley asked Ballmer if his favorable App Store comments meant a deal with Apple was in the works, the CEO only smiled and said he couldn’t answer the question.
What’s in it for Microsoft? Windows Mobile is losing ground to Apple’s iPhone, for one. Then there is Google, which Microsoft, as well as Apple sees as a threat.