It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Microsoft. Amid all the product news about Windows Live, Windows and Google, Office Web Apps, Kin phones, Bing Maps, and the like, the media has been buzzing about Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) passing the Redmond, WA, software firm Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in terms of market capitalization for the first time, making it the world’s top technology company in that respect. Apple is now worth $239 billion, versus $235 billion for Microsoft, as of Thursday’s closing stock price.

So, of course, now everyone is asking Microsoft’s top brass about its longstanding competition with Apple. Here are a couple of snippets from Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie, and Bill Gates that I found noteworthy today (I encourage you to watch/read the interviews in their entirety, as there are other gems in there):

Speaking at the D8 conference in California today with journalist Walt Mossberg, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his company’s main competitors are Apple, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), VMware (NYSE: VMW), and open source. When talk turned to Apple’s iPad, Ballmer said he considers it a PC, and that the idea of what a PC is has evolved. “You’re going to have a range of devices over time that are light and don’t have a keyboard and will run Windows,” he said. “This will be a real competitive form factor of innovation.”

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, added during the same chat, “I think there’s going to be success in a number of form factors––in the pad form factor, in the tablet mode. I think there will be appliance-like screens that will be in our living rooms. This isn’t science fiction anymore; it’s possible.”

On competing with Apple in the mobile sector, Ballmer said: “They’ve done a good job of coming from nowhere a few years ago. They’ve done the best job on the browser. People focus on the apps, but the browser is really the thing that has distinguished their phones from others.”

CNN’s Larry King asked Bill Gates (with his dad, Bill Gates Sr., sitting next to him) yesterday about Microsoft’s rivalry with Apple and Steve Jobs over the years. “We’ll compete, and that’s a great thing,” said the younger Gates. “They’ve done well; there was a period where it looked like they wouldn’t even survive. So the ups and downs of technology are incredible.”


Gregory T. Huang is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail him at or call 206-624-2249.

Google and VMWare are Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Microsoft is an Inside Value selection while Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call on Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle and has a disclosure policy.