Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had some tough words for rival Apple in a recent interview

Microsoft and Apple have been going at each other ever since Bill Gates and Steve Jobs trade jabs back in the DOS/Apple IIe days.  Since then, the competition between two of the electronics industry's biggest players has been no less heated.

For much of the last decade, Apple has been on a comeback campaign gaining a virtual monopoly in the MP3 player market, and seeing resurgence in computer and OS sales.  Microsoft, meanwhile, after seeing a ringing success with Windows XP, struggled due to perception problems with Vista, much of which were influenced largely by misconceptions and misinformation -- some of which was spread by Apple.

Now, the tables have turned.  In the face of a new recession, Microsoft's Windows 7 is looking increasingly good, as are the $500 netbook systems that are planned for it.  Meanwhile Apple, whose CEO Steve Jobs recently said that his firm didn't know how to make a $500 computer that wasn't "a piece of junk" has seen the sales for some of its pricey products fall.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, known for his candid, if at times outspoken comments, was fast to attack Apple in a recent interview.  He blasts in a recently released webcast, "Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction.  The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be."

The comment, which suggests the difference between PC and Macs is as superficial as a logo is sure to have more than a few Apple supporters riled. 

Mr. Ballmer has a history of taking jabs at Apple, whether deserved or undeserved.  He once famously commented in 2007 that the iPhone had "no chance" of gaining a significant market share.  Of course, history shows that about a year later, the iPhone became the best-selling smartphone in America and continues to be a top seller. 

While it certainly seems Mr. Ballmer is onto something when it comes to Apple's slumping sales, it might be a bit early to count them out just yet.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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