Microsoft’s Ballmer Tries To Steal Apple’s Tablet Thunder

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to suggest that Microsoft is coming back from an economically devastating 2009

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his 6 Jan. keynote address at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to detail some of Microsoft’s ongoing initiatives heading into 2010, push the Windows-based ecosystem, and demonstrate a tablet PC from Hewlett-Packard.

During the keynote, Ballmer referred to 2009 as a year of “economic turbulence,” implicitly acknowledging how the economic recession mauled Microsoft’s bottom line. However, he went on to describe his company as “bullish in terms of the long-term prospects of our industry.”

Ballmer used much of the presentation to highlight several of 2009’s high-profile Microsoft releases, including Bing, the company’s search engine, and Windows 7, which he termed “the fastest-selling operating system in history” upon its release on 22 Oct.

Early analyst reports suggested that Windows 7 was indeed selling well, with a 5 Nov. research note from the NPD Group suggesting that U.S. sales of Windows 7 boxed software had exceeded Windows Vista sales by 234 percent during the respective operating systems’ first days of release. That same report found that PC sales rose 95 percent between the weeks before and after Windows 7’s release.

However, Windows 7’s longer-term prospects are more at the mercy of larger factors. In an 23 Oct. earnings call, Microsoft executives indicated that sales of Windows 7 would be heavily dependent on the health of PC shipments in 2010 and beyond. A handful of research firms have suggested that Windows 7 will drive a generalised tech refresh sometime in either 2010 or later, as businesses and consumers use the impetus of a new operating system to replace aging PCs. On the eve of the Windows 7 launch, some 80 percent of all commercial PCs continued to use Windows XP, according to a report by research firm Forrester.

Ballmer also used the keynote to praise Bing, which he said had 11 million users. In a backhand swipe to Bing nemesis Google, he said the search engine was “not just trying to provide people with a list of links; we want to understand user intent and anticipate what users are really looking for.”

Echoing words from a speech in June 2009, when he termed Bing “the little engine that could,” Ballmer said that Microsoft’s foray into search represented “the beginning of a long journey, but we think we’re off to a good start.”

In the coming year, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard will team for search and Web portal applications, with Bing becoming “the default search engine on Hewlett-Packard PCs in 42 countries around the world,” according to Ballmer.


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