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Ballmer concedes Microsoft may have arrived too late in tablet market

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was forced to defend his company’s record at its annual shareholders’ meeting, as the Washington firm continues its fight to catch up with market leaders Google and Apple.

Around 450 shareholders were in attendance at Bellevue, reports Reuters, as Ballmer fielded some probing questions about Microsoft’s innovation and form on the stock market. When asked why the company is being left behind by Californian juggernaut Apple, Ballmer was keen to emphasise the firm’s current strategy for closing the gap.

“We’re innovating on the seam between software and hardware,” he said, alluding to the new Surface tablet that launched alongside the Windows 8 software platform; but the CEO admitted, “Maybe we should have done that earlier.” Although Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates supported the tablet PC concept as far back as 2002, the firm has watched from the side-lines as Apple romps to success with the iPad. Sat alongside Ballmer, Gates was silent throughout the meeting, Reuters reported.

Attempting to press home a positive sentiment, Ballmer went on to claim "we see nothing but a sea of upside" in the tablet market, as Microsoft makes inroads into a sector it previously had no presence in. "I feel pretty good about our level of innovation," he added.

When questioned on the company’s lacklustre share price, Ballmer said, “The stock market’s kind of a funny thing.” Whether investors recognised the value in the company at any given time was out of his hands he explained, but Microsoft’s endeavours were again talked up in what he described as its "phenomenal job of driving product volumes."

Ballmer may wish to consult ITProPortal’s recent analysis, which questions whether Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS sinks under the weight of pre-installed bloatware like previous iterations, and asks if cynical tech pundits are potentially killing off the Windows Phone 8 mobile platform.