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Thursday, July 24, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Microsoft sets sights on providing an Apple-like experience

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer on Wednesday issued a company-wide memo outlining his battle plan for the new fiscal year in which he singled out the Apple experience as a benchmark for future success.

"In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving," Ballmer wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Wall Street Journal. "Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience."

Going forward, Ballmer said Microsoft will be changing the way it works with hardware vendors to mimic the experience offered by the Mac maker in which there will be "absolutely no compromises." His plan calls for a similar approach in the mobile phone arena, where he hopes the company can create "great end-to-end experiences" akin to that afforded by Apple's closed ecosystem, where it maintains tight control of nearly every aspect of a product's design.

Ballmer's memo and his comments about the mobile phone industry arrive amid reports that the Redmond-based software giant this week held its first concrete meeting to begin mapping out a rival to the iPhone. A report published by jkOnTheRun suggests such a device would be based around the company's struggling Zune media player, but run a variant of Windows Mobile 7 with heavy tie-ins to Windows Live Services.

Still, Ballmer acknowledged in his memo that Windows and the public's perception of Vista remains Microsoft's No. 1 priority. He said the recent release of Windows Vista SP1 and teamwork with PC manufacturers have largely addressed the device and application compatibility issues that plagued the operating system in its early going.

"Now it’s time to tell our story," he said. "In the weeks ahead, we’ll launch a campaign to address any lingering doubts our customers may have about Windows Vista. And later this year, you’ll see a more comprehensive effort to redefine the meaning and value of Windows for our customers."