Ballmer: Microsoft Wants Back the Marketshare Apple is Taking

Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting put CEO Steve Ballmer in the hot seat answering questions about marketshare the company is losing to Apple. Mr. Ballmer was quick to point out that his company still controls the majority of the OS market, but that every percentage point counts -- even the points that belong to Apple.

One shareholder said that his college age children all use Macs, and that Apple's ad campaign makes Microsoft look like a "buffoon," according to the Seattle Times.

"The truth of the matter is we do quite well, even among college students. Do we have an opportunity for improvement? We do. Some of that is marketing, some of that is phase of life. Ninety-six times out of 100, people choose a PC with Windows," Mr. Ballmer responded. "Mac has picked up a couple of tenths of a percent of market share last year. But every tenths of a percent matters."

Shareholders hit on the iPhone's popularity, too, by asking just how Microsoft plans to compete with Apple's combination iPod and smartphone as well as the Google Android platform. Mr. Ballmer apparently skipped past the iPhone to talk about Android instead.

"We have greater market share to Google Android. Our objective is to have a leading position among these competitors," Mr. Ballmer said. "We have just recently launched a new generation of Windows phones with new software. We are going to keep making investments, we have a lot of opportunity."

Microsoft's recent Windows 7 launch could help the company regain some customer trust if the operating system isn't burdened with the same issues Windows Vista was plagued with. It's also an opportunity for Apple to draw more switchers to Mac OS X, and that's what company's recent ad campaigns are targeting.

If Microsoft can keep customers from abandoning Windows in favor of Mac OS X, it could stop Apple from slowly chipping away at its operating system market share.

The smartphone market, however, looks to be the iPhone's playground. Mr. Ballmer's response to shareholders seems to indicate Microsoft would rather compare its smartphone marketshare to Android instead of the iPhone, which might be an indication that he knows which smartphone battles he has a chance of winning.