Ballmer: Windows 7 will give 'heck of a Christmas'

Microsoft CEO says new PC designs cooler than Apple

Ballmer expects Windows 7 to grab share from Apple

In a bullish presentation to financial analysts today, Steve Ballmer promised Windows 7 PCs that would 'overturn the conventional wisdom that Apple has the coolest hardware'.

He also described Apple's impact on Microsoft sales this year as 'a rounding error', saying that; "Apple's share globally costs us nothing."

"Hopefully we will take share back from Apple," said Ballmer, "But they sell only about 10 million computers globally so it's a limited opportunity."

Taking a bite out of Apple

Ballmer said that research data showed that Microsoft adverts targetting Apple's prices were working, claiming that three times as many 18-24 year olds now think that Microsoft represents better value than Apple - a reverse of the situation before the commercials ran.

"We don't believe in coming to market like Apple - high margin, high quality, high price. We believe in high volume and low price," Ballmer told the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting. "Investors are pushing us to spend more money on this marketing."

Ballmer also released the latest data on Windows 7: 8 million copies of the release candidate have been downloaded; half of IT managers plan to upgrade to Windows 7 'as soon as it's available'; and 80 per cent intend to move within 30 months.

The Microsoft boss revealed a change in pricing strategy for Windows 7 in developing countries: "We did a programme to cut the price of Windows in emerging markets. The theory was that lower prices would lead to higher attach rates and higher revenues. That theory was wrong, so for Windows 7 we'll readjust those prices north."

He also had a few words to say about open source rivals, noting that: "It's hard to build ecosystem momentum with a chaotic operating system like Linux," and gloating over expected delays to Android-based netbooks.