REDMOND, Wash.--Acknowledging Apple's early success with the iPad, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer insisted Thursday that the software maker is hard at work on Windows-based tablets.
"They'll be shipping as soon as they are ready," Ballmer said, offering few details on the products, which he said will come from partners, not Microsoft itself. "It is job one urgency. No one is sleeping at the switch."
Speaking to financial analysts, Ballmer said the goal is "not just to deliver products, but to deliver products that people want to buy."
As for Apple and the iPad, Ballmer said, "they've sold certainly more than I'd like them to have sold."
But he added that Microsoft has a lot of software knowledge and intellectual property from the decade it has spent in the tablet business. He said the task Microsoft faces is similar to the early days of the Netbook, when many of those machines were Linux-based. "We have got to make things happen," he said. "We're in the process of doing that as we speak. We're working with our hardware partners. We're tuning Windows 7."
Some designs will show up later this year, he said, adding that the devices will get a boost next year when Intel debuts its more power-efficient Oak Trail processor.
See also: How Microsoft foresaw--and still missed--the iPad
Update 2:38 p.m. PDT: In the question-and-answer session, talk again turned to tablets and Ballmer tried to be a little more clear on the plan, which he said will center around Windows 7 as opposed to Windows Phone and Intel rather than ARM processors, at least for the near term.
"We're coming," he said. "We're coming full guns. The operating system is called Windows."
He reiterated something he said earlier, which was that Microsoft won't allow hardware to be the limiting factor in its plans, saying that the company will design hardware where it needs to in order to have competitive products. "We will embrace what we need to embrace over time," he said.
As for timing, Ballmer said he wouldn't say if the devices would come really, really soon or pretty soon, but said, "It ain't a long time from now."
2:55: More talk on tablets in the Q and A.
"When you get your Windows 7 machine, it will print," Ballmer quipped. "Some people actually like to print every now and then." But he said he isn't trying to minimize what Apple has done, noting they are always tough to compete against, albeit usually at the high-end of the market. As for Android in the tablet market, Ballmer said that if Microsoft can't compete against those devices: "Shame on us.""Every day you have to prove yourself prove yourself," Ballmer said. "We'll prove ourselves." Turner continued: "We're in it, we get it. Stay tuned."