Over at Fortune, Jon Fortt reports on a conversation with Tom Gibbons (right), the VP in charge of Microsoft's Specialized Devices & Applications group. SD&A is the MS umbrella that contains the Mac BU, along with projects such as Surface, Windows Embedded and Sync. Yes, Mac folk, we've been saying for years that we're special, and Microsoft agrees -- at least that we're "specialized," which is almost as good. Anyway, Gibbons had some interesting comments about MS plans for the platform of the future.
Gibbons says that for the past week a team of Microsoft engineers has been deep-diving into the SDK with an eye to "understand[ing] what we can bring to the iPhone." In addition to the ActiveSync functionality that's part of the forthcoming 2.0 update to the platform, it seems that MS may have some application-side ambitions for the iPhone as well. Considering that the Mac BU is a tidy and profitable division for Microsoft (Fortt guesstimates Mac app revenues for Microsoft at $350 million with $200M in annual profits, which strikes me as high-side but certainly not out of the realm of possibility), the opportunity to extend desktop productivity dominance to more corners of the mobile space (beyond the existing Windows Mobile installed base) must be quite appealing.
Still, there's another quote from Gibbons that underlines Microsoft's perceptions of the iPhone's impact (emphasis mine): "To the extent that Mac Office customers have functionality that they need in [the iPhone] environment, we're... trying to understand that now." Possibly an honest estimation, maybe a deliberate shading, but anyone who looks at the iPhone market and thinks that Mac users = iPhone owners is operating in a slightly different reality than most of us. Memo to Tom G: Your Windows Office customers are going to want iPhone integration too, and you can take that to the bank.