Steve Ballmer's presentation to financial analysts this Thursday deserves a special place in the business wing of the Museum of FUBAR. After months of Apple iPad commanding the attention of, oh, say, the world, here's the best response that Ballmer had. 

Now, we've got some other competitive actions coming back, and we'll talk about slates and tablets and blah, blah, blah, blah ….

Just like we had to make things happen on netbooks, we've got to make things happen with Windows 7 on slates. And we are in the process of doing that as we speak. We're working with our hardware partners, we're tuning Windows 7 to new slate hardware designs that they're bringing them to market. And, yeah, you're going to get a lot of cacophony. There will be people who do things with other operating systems. But we've got the application base, we've got the user familiarity. We've got everything on our side if we do things really right.

And he was just getting started. Remember, Ballmer is speaking to financial analysts, who are no doubt interested in how competitive Microsoft really is, given recent news from Redmond. Microsoft's cloud strategy has been less juggernaut, more glacier. The launch of Office Live had serious problems. (For example, you might think that Microsoft would have ensured that the SaaS version of the ubiquitous PowerPoint was working, in a minimal sense.) At E3, the most important trade show for the games industry, Kinect, Microsoft's motion control technology, earned a ho-hum response from attendees. (Meanwhile, the company that first developed and brought motion control technology to market, Nintendo, stole another march with its launch of a 3D gaming device.) Most embarrassing of all news, however, was Microsoft's decision to pull the Kin social networking phone from the market only weeks after its launch. The millions of dollars wasted on the Kin invites all sorts of questions about how well Microsoft understands its own markets, and how capably it can build new technology.

I'm no Microsoft basher. In fact, I think that earlier accusations about their inability to innovate have misrepresented both Microsoft and innovation. However, you take all these recent stories together, and you have to ask, what the heck is going on in Redmond? And why can't Ballmer phrase a coherent response to the Apple iPad, let alone a compelling one?

That's a good segue for us to return to Ballmer's presentation. 

A new Windows Phone for screen sizes that, let me just say, are, you know, sort of bigger than three or four inches — the answer is Windows Phone. We are in the game. We're all in the game today with Intel architecture machines …

But you say to me are we going to see slate? Yes. What processor are they going to have? They are going to have an Intel architecture processor at least in any foreseeable future. Are they going to run Windows? Yeah. Will it be tuned? Yes! And we are going to sell like crazy. We are going to market like crazy. We have devices that will run more applications, that have as much content, that have anything you want on the planet. And we have an ecosystem of developers that know how to write applications for that thing.

With the iPad, Apple built a huge circus tent and promised you that amazing things awaited inside. Get in line, now!

Microsoft, in response, is saying that they're like the DMV. They'll always be there, and you can't avoid them. Get in line, now. Or soon. Whenever.

Anyone reading this blog, pretending to be Steve Ballmer, could have delivered a presentation at least as good as Ballmer's actual presentation. "Let's see, be sure to say it runs on Windows … Developers, developers, developers … Great partnership with Intel …" Given a few minutes to prepare, many of you might have been a lot more persuasive, especially given the gravity of – it's definitely worth saying again – speaking to a room full of financial analysts, after a spate of news implying that the company is stumbling.