How Ballmer gave his tablets unto Apple

Microsoft’s decision to give Steve Jobs control of tablet sales had less to do with technology, or marketing, and more to do with a civil war which was taking place in Redmond.

According to Cnet, which has been doing some digging, Microsoft’s delightfully understated CEO, Steve “is this a chair I see before me” Ballmer had two groups at Microsoft at each other’s throats pushing competing visions for tablets.

Xbox supremo J Allard wanted a sleek, two-screen tablet called the Courier that users controlled with their finger or a pen which ran a modified version of Windows. However Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft’s Windows division did not want anyone to stuff around with Vole’s operating system.

Sinofsky’s idea was to create a tablet-friendly version of Windows, but that was more than two years away and that would give Jobs total control of the market in the meantime.

Ballmer got on the blower to Bill Gates who met for a few hours with Allard and Entertainment and Devices division President Robbie Bach and two other Courier team members.

Gates found a few holes in Allard’s cunning plans. One of them was how users would get email. Allard, told Gates that everyone who had a Courier would also have a smartphone for email writing and a PC if they wanted to write long letters. He said that Courier users could get email from the Web, Allard said.

Allard’s vision was not to try to replace the PC, but to complement it. They were to use it for content creation. It was a toy for creative people to sketch or draft documents.

Gates packed a sad. In his view, the tablet needed email and Microsoft needed to make shedloads from Outlook. He told his concerns to Ballmer who knifed the project in favour of Sinofsky’s idea of waiting for Windows 8.

This explains why Allard and Bach announced plans to leave Microsoft soon after the incident, though both executives have said their decisions to move on were unrelated to the Courier cancellation.

However it turns out they were right. Rather than creating a touch computing device that might well have launched within a few months of Apple’s iPad. Microsoft management chose a plan which meant it was an also ran.