Microsoft's plan to catch its rival includes slates coupled with a wide variety of hardware—including Intel's forthcoming "Oak Trail" processor for portable devices.
"Apple's done an interesting job," said Ballmer, who spoke Thursday at Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting, in Redmond, Wash. "They've sold more than I'd like them to sell," Ballmer said.
Indeed, Apple has sold more than three million iPads since introducing the device in April. But Ballmer insisted Microsoft will be hot on Cupertino's heels in the coming months with a range of Windows 7-powered slates. "We have to make things happen," Ballmer said.
The fact that Windows commands a PC market share in excess of 90% means Microsoft can ramp up quickly in tablets, Ballmer said. "We've got the application base, we've got the user familiarity, we've got everything in our favor," he said.
Ballmer said Microsoft will work with hardware partners to produce a range of tablets in time for the 2010 holiday season. Beyond that, he said the company would leverage its longstanding relationship with Intel to deliver slates based on the chipmaker's low voltage "Oak Trail" processor in early 2011.
Oak Trail promises longer battery life, lower power consumption, and cooler temperatures for portable devices.
Ballmer has previously disclosed that Microsoft is working on tablets with a broad spectrum of OEMs. The company's partners in the market include Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, Lenovo, and Fujitsu. HP has scrapped plans for a Windows 7-based tablet for the consumer market, in light of its $1.2 billion buyout of WebOS developer Palm earlier this year.
But an HP official confirmed this week that the company still plans to offer a Windows 7 tablet for the enterprise market.