Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, under whose watch Office, Windows, and Server profits have soared while mobile has stumbled and faltered, was bombastically candid when addressing Apple's 3.3 million strong iPad install base:

"they've sold certainly more than I'd like them to have sold."

In response, Microsoft is hard at work on a Windows-based alternative (which is curious given Bill Gates' almost singular drive to popularize Tablet PC over much of the last decade):

"They'll be shipping as soon as they are ready," Ballmer said, offering few details on the products, which he said will come from partners, not Microsoft itself. "It is job one urgency. No one is sleeping at the switch."

So Microsoft won't be making their own tablet the way they made their own Zune music player or Xbox gaming console, nor will they be using the panoramic Windows Phone 7, set for release this fall:

"We have got to make things happen," he said. "We're in the process of doing that as we speak. We're working with our hardware partners. We're tuning Windows 7."

Apple of course didn't try to put Mac OS X on the iPad, they went with iOS. HP has gone out and bought Palm webOS, and Google is readying both Android and Chrome OS, and even RIM is showing signs of life. There were tons of Windows-based tablets being touted at CES 2010 back in January, but none have really appeared on the market yet and while Microsoft's Courier project was interesting they KIN'ed it pre-launch. 3 months and as many million sales later and iPad pretty much still has the category it created to itself. It needs competition (from more than just the Kindle).

Hey, maybe if they call it WinPad?

[CNET, thanks to everyone who sent this in]