SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp set out its ambitions to dominate the consumer electronics market on Thursday with Windows-powered tablet computers and smartphones designed to beat back advances by Apple Inc and Google Inc.
New tablets will be available as soon as they are ready to ship and phones will be on the market this autumn, CEO Steve Ballmer said, setting up a key test of Microsoft’s ability to capture the imagination of tech-savvy consumers.
“We’re coming full guns,” said Ballmer at the company’s annual presentation to analysts at its Redmond, Washington headquarters. “We’re going to sell like crazy; we’re going to market like crazy.”
Microsoft has been irked by Apple selling more than 3 million iPads since the launch in April and is working with PC makers Acer Inc, Dell Inc, Toshiba Corp and others to develop so-called tablet or slate devices running the Windows operating system.
“We’ve got to push right now with our hardware partners,” said Ballmer. “They (the new devices) will be shipping as soon as they are ready. It’s job No. 1 urgency around here. Nobody’s sleeping at the switch.”
The new tablets will run on Intel Corp chips, said Ballmer, dampening talk that a recent agreement with British chipmaker ARM Holdings Plc heralded a shift toward that company’s chip design, which powers the iPad and most smartphones.
A new range of Intel chips expected early next year will give the whole market for tablets a boost next year, Ballmer said, adding that both Windows phones and tablets will have “aggressive” marketing support from Microsoft.
Microsoft employees showed off the new phones running Windows Phone 7, made by handset makers Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Corp, but did not allow photographs of the devices, which are still at the prototype stage.
No handset makers have announced a date for commercial launch. Ballmer said only that they would be coming to market this autumn.
The devices have large touch screens, incorporate a Zune music player, e-mail programs and link up with content from Xbox Live, Facebook, and other networks.
Ballmer acknowledged Microsoft has lost ground in the phone sector.
“It’s probably fair to say we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Ballmer. “It isn’t all going to happen overnight.”
When asked what would happen if the new Windows phone software was not a success, or a repetition of the ill-fated Windows Vista, Ballmer answered: “It won’t be,” adding that there was no contingency plan.
Reporting by Bill Rigby; editing by Tim Dobbyn and Andre Grenon