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Cold-water treatment for Ballmer on Windows Mobile

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If Steve Ballmer loves one group of people more than developers, it's Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) - except when he's gently threatening them, of course.

No wonder Microsoft's chief executive was willing to play the fool, slapping a Windows Home Server sticker on his forehead on stage during this week's MVP conference, according to Tweets from the event.

It was back down to earth with a bump shortly after, though, as Ballmer was put on the spot during a separate customer conference over the company's painful mobile strategy.

Chris Kemp, chief information officer of NASA's Ames Research Center, broke it down for Ballmer when he asked how he could realistically stand behind Windows Mobile when his employees are bringing iPhones and Androids in to work. Kemp pinned Ballmer down at Microsoft's Public Sector CIO Summit in Redmond, Washington, after the MVP event on Wednesday.

"In your presentation you put Windows Mobile right in the center there, but it was a phone that doesn't work in America and an operating system that you haven't released. I'm wondering what your commitment is to continuing to get newer versions of the operating system in our hands so that we don't have to fight this battle on the ground," Kemp reportedly asked.

Ballmer was forced to concede the up-coming version of Windows Mobile, version 6.5, will fall short of what the company should be delivering in the face of the iPhone and Android.

"We have a significant release coming this year. Not the full release we wanted to have this year, but we have a significant release coming this year with Windows Mobile 6.5," Ballmer replied.

Ballmer was forced into a fallback position, talking of problems as "opportunities".

"There's opportunities for us to accelerate our execution in this area, and we've done a lot of work to really make sure we have a team that's going to be able to accelerate."

Scrambling further, Ballmer fell back on how Windows Mobile devices outsold the iPhone last year. While this is correct, it's worth noting the iPhone only began full international availability midway through last year so it's not surprising Windows Mobile out shipped the iPhone. ®

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