Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer - 
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Bill Radke: Remember when Microsoft inspired fear and loathing in the technology industry? Fifteen years ago, when the Goaliath from Redmond announced it was interested in taking over a market, entrepreneurs would panic and anti-trust regulators in Washington would file injunctions. But lately, it seems Microsoft can talk all it wants about its ambitions and no one's knees are knocking. Marketplace's Steve Henn has more.

Steve Henn: At Microsoft's worldwide developer conference this week in Washington, D.C., the company's CEO, Steve Ballmer, ran out onto the stage like a rock star. But despite the music and flash bulbs popping, there were empty seats in at the Verizon Center and Ballmer's message was contrite. He basically admitted the company had missed the boat on the mobile computing revolution and was playing catch up.

But can Microsoft come up with a smart-phone or tablet computer that consumers would actually want?

Jay Cuthrell: I think it is a lost cause. They are never going to find their way into my pocket.

Jay Cuthrell is a mobile technology consultant. He says Microsoft is so far behind Apple and Google in the mobile space they are basically starting from scratch. Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, agrees:

Charles Golvin: It's not just a battle for the hearts and minds of consumers. It's a battle for the hearts and minds of developers.

Golvin says these days, when consumers buy a smart phone, or if they are thinking about a tablet computer, they are focused on the kinds of applications that they can get for it. And right now very few developers are building apps for Microsoft devices. That's a big problem.

Golvin: They need more than one killer app. They need a stable of 25 or 30 really compelling applications.

Still Golvin says writing the company off in the mobile space is premature.

Golvin: They are a tenacious and fearsome competitor.

And because Microsoft still dominates the software market. It has billions of dollars to burn while it tries to break into the mobile business.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.