Microsoft recruits iPad owners for study on its Redmond campus

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Microsoft recently offered owners of Apple's iPad a "gratuity item" in exchange for participating in a survey later this month at the software giant's Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

On Tuesday, TechCrunch first noted that Microsoft, via its official Facebook page, was asking for iPad owners to come to Microsoft's Redmond campus between July 16 and July 21 for the study. Since then, the event listing has been removed from Facebook.

The original posting, from the Microsoft User Research group, noted that the Windows maker wanted to talk to iPad owners for two hours, to find out how they use the device. Specifically, Microsoft was interested in speaking with students who own an iPad.

Interested users were asked to submit a range of personal information, including their name, phone number and occupation, to [email protected] Those who would be selected for the study were offered a "Microsoft gratuity item."

Whether the study was canceled, or its quota was filled, is unknown. As of Tuesday afternoon, it is no longer listed as an event on the company's Facebook page.

The development follows statements from Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer this week, who said that new tablet devices running the Windows 7 operating system will launch in the coming months to compete with Apple's iPad. The hardware will be created by a number of manufacturing partners, including Asus, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony. Microsoft is looking to cash in on the new found hype around tablet computers, after Apple's touchscreen iPad sold 3 million devices in its first 80 days of availability.

One partner missing from the list of hardware vendors: HP. Even though Microsoft and HP introduced a new "slate PC" running Windows 7 at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the computer maker has since scrapped that project. The change of direction came after the company purchased smartphone maker Palm for $1.2 billion, and a new tablet-style device is expected to run the webOS mobile operating system.

But rather than run a lightweight, mobile operating system on a tablet, like Apple has done in porting iOS to the iPad, Microsoft is still pushing its full-fledged desktop operating system on touchscreen devices. Ballmer said this week at his company's annual World Partner Conference that the tablet PC market is "terribly important" to his company.

"This year, one of the most important things that we will do in the smart device category is really push forward with Windows 7-based slates," Ballmer said. He added that the devices will take different shapes, as will be dockable and some will have keyboards.