Poor guy can't catch a break. Talking to analysts today about the world of tablets, Steve Ballmer put on a brave face about his lack of a strong competitor to the iPad, saying of Windows 7 products in the works with third parties: "They'll be shipping as soon as they are ready." Unfortunately, Apple's iPad looms large, with Ballmer stating that "they've sold certainly more than I'd like them to have sold." Perhaps more revelatory, Steve likened the tablet challenge to the situation Microsoft faced when the netbook started out as a Linux product, mentioning that part of their chore is "tuning Windows 7," in addition to working with hardware partners. Obviously Microsoft is down, not out, when it comes to tablets, but will a few million iPads be their eventual demise or the impetus they need to succeed? Tune in next week someday for the thrilling conclusion!