updated 05:15 pm EDT, Thu July 29, 2010
Ballmer says iPad sales make Microsoft uneasy
Developing a Windows-based alternative to the iPad is a "job one urgency" at Microsoft, company chief Steve Ballmer said today during the annual Financial Analysts Meeting. He admitted that Microsoft was uncomfortable with how well iPads were selling and was tuning both its software and hardware partnerships to provide a competitive option. Besides altering Windows 7, it's counting on Intel's Oak Trail Atom platform and plans to push hardware makers "as soon as they are ready."
Ballmer was audibly concerned about Apple's effect and tried to downplay its tablet even as he acknowledged Microsoft needed to participate in the category.
"Apple has done an interesting job," he said. "They've sold more than I'd like them to sell. We think about that. So it's our job to say: we have got to make things happen. Just like we made things happen with netbooks, we have to do that with slates. [...] Not one size fits all. Been to too many meetings with journalists struggling to set up iPads for notes."
The success of the iPad has been a sore point for Microsoft. It has repeatedly tried to force its Tablet PC concepts into the mainstream since 2001 but has mostly been unsuccessful outside of niche work markets, such as doctors and warehouse inventory managers, as well as a handful of home PCs like the HP TouchSmart tm2. UMPC, Origami and other pseudo-handheld concepts pushed by Microsoft have also largely failed out of the market.
PC builders have rarely broken out sales of Windows-based tablet computers, but the figures are believed small enough that Apple may have already passed all PC makers combined in almost four months of iPad availability. In Europe, one month of iPad sales was enough to triple tablet sales for the whole quarter. It's estimated that Windows tablet sales may reach just 1.25 million units through all of 2010 where Apple passed that amount in two months.
Microsoft isn't predicted to bounce back in the near term as HP has relegated its Windows slate to enterprise where Ballmer, and initially HP, had tried to pitch the tablet as a direct iPad competitor for the public. HP is now shifting most of its attention to webOS, where a friendlier interface and longer battery life already exist.