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Says that his company is about to step up their efforts

It's no secret that Microsoft's tablet efforts are somewhat of a mess right now. After scrapping its much anticipated Courier concept, Bill Gates assured Microsoft's fans that his company hadn't given up on tablets -- but that didn't stop several key players from the tablet team from jumping ship.

Now Microsoft is left staring at Apple's fiscal third quarter, which featured sales of 3.27 million iPads.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer commented on a recent call to analysts [DOCX], "Apple has done an interesting job of putting together a synthesis and putting a product out, and in which they've -- they sold certainly 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."

Ballmer made it clear that his company is not interested in pursuing a separate OS for tablets like Apple (the iPad uses a variant of the same tweaked and stripped down version of OS X found in the iPad).  He states, "We’re coming.  We’re coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows."

Windows tablets will soon get a boost from Intel's upcoming
Oak Trail low power CPU that's perfect for mobile applications, according to Ballmer.  Oak Trail is Intel's name for its upcoming successor to the Atom series of processors which will launch in early 2011.  Among other things it features full 1080p video and HDMI support, all while reportedly cutting power consumption 50 percent.

Ballmer insists that Windows tablets are just around the river bend, stating, "Some of you will say, well, when? When? And I say, As soon as they're ready. They'll be shipping as soon as they are ready. And it is job one urgency around here."

The real question, though, might be -- who?  ASUS has already ditched Windows CE for Linux in its smaller upcoming tablet (the larger 12.1" still presumably uses Windows 7) and HP is using webOS from recently acquired Palm instead of Windows 7.  That leaves a handful of other players -- MSI, Lenovo, Acer, and Dell (among others).  However, some of those -- like Dell -- are considering instead jumping ship to Google's Android OS.

At this point it's anybody's game to step up and challenge Apple.  Windows 7, webOS, and Android seem the top contenders.  The first Android tablet (or Mobile Internet Device, if you prefer), the Dell Streak, will reportedly hit before the end of the month in the U.S.  A 5-inch model will come first, followed by others.

With Android being the first to hit the market, Microsoft may be left vying for third place in the tabletsphere.  And that's something that's bound to get Ballmer real worked up.





"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone






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