With the tech industry abuzz with chatter over slates and fancy new phones from vendors like Apple and Google, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Wednesday leapt to the defense of the humble personal computer, a stalwart device that's entering its fourth decade in the market.
Windows 7 screen shot
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"Windows PCs will absolutely offer the greatest variety and the most interesting content and entertainment experiences in the world," said Ballmer, during a keynote presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Ballmer took indirect swipes at his rivals, noting that Microsoft products like Windows 7 and the forthcoming Windows Mobile 6.5 are sufficiently flexible to accommodate new form factors that Apple and Google are touting as revolutionary.
The CEO showed off Windows Mobile-powered phones that mimic the iPhone's touch-screen interface and noted that the devices are compatible with literally thousands of apps.
Ballmer also sought to steal Apple's thunder in the tablet, or slate, computing market. Apple is said to be developing a slate PC that's essentially an oversized iPod. But Ballmer said Windows 7 PCs can already do that trick.
He demonstrated a prototype, Kindle-like device from Hewlett-Packard that, not coincidently, was running Amazon's Kindle e-reader application.
"It's almost as portable as a phone, and as powerful as a PC running Windows 7," said Ballmer. "This emerging category of PCs really should take advantage of the touch and mobility capabilities of Windows 7," he said. Windows PCs, Ballmer added, "are perfect for surfing the Web and for taking entertainment on the go."
His comments come at a time when the personal computing market is fragmenting into numerous new categories, including slates, phones and multimedia stations, that are taking Microsoft into some uncharted waters and don't necessarily play to the company's strength in traditional client-server systems.
Google's newly launched Nexus One phone, for instance, offers consumers a direct gateway to numerous applications, many of them free, that rival Microsoft's pricey Office franchise. Apple, meanwhile, is looking to use its dominance in the mobile market as a beachhead from which to challenge Microsoft's lion's share of the client market.
But Ballmer, wearing a bright red sweater that might have been left over from the holidays, cheerily dismissed the competition's plans as so much vaporware, noting that Microsoft Windows PCs will show up in an assortment of new form factors "that will be rolling into the marketplace this year."
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