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Ballmer and Softies sacrifice sleep to catch iPad

'Job-one urgency'

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FAM Microsoft's chief executive has come very close to telling investors he screwed up after years of writing off, belittling and underestimated Apple's potential success in touch-based computing.

Steve Ballmer told Wall Street he's under no illusion about Apple's success with the iPad and iPhone, and Microsoft's number-one priority is now to deliver touch-based computing pads running Windows 7 and that people want.

Microsoft's CEO said Apple has sold more iPads and iPhones than he'd liked and he's suffering sleepless nights in the race to catch up. So are the Softies. That's as good as admitting you know you misjudged the competition with a promise you're now committed to catching up.

"We've got a push right now, right now with our hardware partner. Some of you will say: 'When? When?' As soon as they are ready, they will be shipping as soon as they are ready," Ballmer told Microsoft's annual Financial Analysts Meeting (FAM) in Redmond, Washington.

"It is job-one urgency around here, nobody's sleeping at this point. So we are working with those partners, not just to deliver something, but to deliver products that people really want to go buy."

Ballmer said Apple had done an: "Interesting job of putting together synthesis and putting a product out in which they've sold more than I'd like them to sell - let me just be clear about that. We think about that, we think about that in competitive sense."

Microsoft's got the applications, refinements in ink technology, and it's working with hardware partners turning Windows 7 to pads, the CEO said. He hinted at Windows 7 tablets on Intel's Sandy Bridge family of low-power, multi-core processors with integrated GPU in the new year.

He tried to re-assert the supremacy of the PC as a general computing device, saying people struggled with their iPads for typing.

Ballmer also dismissed Google's Android and Chrome OS, the new threats to Windows on mobile. Android's growing fastest of all the smartphone operating systems while OEMs are buying into Android and Chrome on tablets.

"You will get a lot of cacophony, people do things with other operating systems, but we have the application base, we have the user familiarity, we have everything on our side if we do things really right," Ballmer told Wall Street's troops.

Ballmer should be careful. That's the kind of careful competitive analysis that helped open the door to Apple's touch-based computing effort with the iPhone and that led to the success of the iPad despite the existing availability of Windows tablets for consumers, business types and developers. ®

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