Mac ads haunt Steve Ballmer

November 20, 2009, 3:05 PM UTC

Shareholders press Microsoft’s CEO about Apple’s marketing campaign

Image: Apple Inc.

Those Get-a-Mac ads make “you all look like a buffoon,” one long-time shareholder (and father of four Mac-using children) told Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer at the company’s annual meeting Thursday. “I’m just wondering why your marketing group can’t do something to try to rein in this next generation, because you’ve got a real bad image out there.”

“We all watch television,” Ballmer responded, before quickly changing the subject to Microsoft’s market share.

“The truth of the matter is, we do quite well,” he said, according to TechFlash‘s Todd Bishop, who seems to have taken the best notes. “Even among college students, we do quite well. Do we have an opportunity for improvement? We do. Some of that is marketing, some of that is phase of life. It is important to remember that 96 times out of 100 worldwide, people choose a PC with Windows; that’s a good thing. Even in the toughest market, which would be the high end of the consumer market here in the U.S., 83 times out of 100 people choose a Windows PC over a Mac.”

Ballmer acknowledged that Apple (AAPL) had “picked up a couple of tenths of a percent of market share,” an achievement some in the audience seemed to find laughable.

But as the Wall Street Journal‘s Nick Wingfield points out, citing IDC numbers, Apple’s share of new PC shipments in the U.S. was 9.2% in the third quarter, up from 4.8% in the same period four years ago. (Worldwide share: 3.9% compared with 2.4% four years ago.)

Wingfield also took a crack at estimating how many copies of Window 7 Microsoft has sold, a number the company has not provided.

Source: Morgan Stanley. Click to enlarge.

According to Ballmer, Microsoft sold twice as many copies of Windows 7 in its first few weeks than any previous version of the operating system. Since Vista sold 20 million copies in its first month on the market, that would put Windows 7 unit sales to date at roughly 40 million.

That number includes both boxed copies and copies sold to PC makers for pre-installation on their machines, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. Sales of PC hardware spiked sharply immediately after the Oct. 22 launch (see chart at right).

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