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PDC 2010 Steve Ballmer pitched for cloud, phones, tablets, and HTML 5 at PDC on Thursday, but he made one thing clear: Windows and the PC remain central to Microsoft.

The Microsoft CEO prowled the PDC stage, spitting out stats: 350 million new PCs sold in the last year and 240 million licenses of the year-old Windows 7.

HTML5 is the glue that binds devices and services across the planet, Ballmer said in a surprise Microsoft coming out in favor of the mark-up language. Just one thing: "At Microsoft this starts with Windows - Windows PCs.. the PC is the number-one smart device on the planet today."

"There is innovation going on. You will see a range of new form factors this holiday season, after the holiday season and next year - netbooks, tablets that build on ink and touch support built into every copy of Windows 7."

HTML5 becomes the front-end to PCs and other devices, according to Ballmer.

"It's not all the core that'll get written but it's a way of allowing... a level of innovation between the front end and back end even as people con to invest in a new front end."

2010 has been the year of HTML5 thanks to Apple CEO Steve Jobs' cheerleading of the spec as an alternative to Adobe Systems' Flash, whihc is barred from iPhones and iPads. It's not clear what Ballmer's endorsement means for Microsoft's Silverlight player, which - like Adobe's Flash - is struggling to justify its position.

Not so PC thinking

Ballmer's keynote could be seen as a riposte to Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's out-going chief software architect.

Ozzie, charged with leading Microsoft's software vision for four years, used his blog this week to "imagine a post-PC world". He said Microsoft had become a victim of its success with Windows and advised the company to continue evolving and to move on from the PC.

Despite the "we're all in on the PC" message, Ballmer also used PDC to promote the devices and services that Ozzie discussed.

Ballmer pitched Windows Phone 7, officially launched this month by only just rolling out on phones from carriers in Europe and the US.

"We are entering a market where there's a lot of activity," he said, adding he believed Microsoft had "really nailed" a phone that is "really different."

"It looks different, acts different, has all the diversity hardware people look for yet has all the coherence from the user experience standpoint and from the developer standpoint," he said.

Azure

Then he went on to the cloud. Microsoft announced new pricing and delivered previously promised tools on Windows Azure. The new Extra Small Windows Azure Instance is priced at $0.05 per compute hour.

The move comes after cloud mind- and market-share leader Amazon, which Azure has struggled to undercut, again lowered the bar: you can run one micro instance of the Elastic Computer Cloud on Linux for a year at no charge starting on November 1. Users will get Elastic Load Balancing and AWS data transfer with their free micro instance. The price for Amazon's cheapest Linux offering had been $0.02 per hour.

Microsoft also delivered pre-configured instances of Windows Azure unveiled at PDC 2009. Windows Azure Virtual Machine Role lets you run an instance of Windows Server 2008 R2 in the Azure cloud, potentially simplifying the task of moving your apps to Azure. And there's Server Application Virtualization, for transferring application images to Azure. ®

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