More on Microsoft: Tablet announcement, and another downgrade

CEO Steve Ballmer says Windows 'slates' to be unveiled by holidays

I've written a lot about Microsoft in the past few days, but what is a Tech Business Today blogger to do? I didn't sue Motorola for alleged patent violations, and I didn't downgrade Microsoft shares to Neutral.

Nor did I announce that Microsoft will unveil a tablet computer by this holiday season to challenge Apple's popular new iPad. But Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did on Tuesday before an audience of students, staff and journalists at the London School of Economics.

Reuters reports:

Ballmer did not say whether the palm-sized slates would actually be on sale in time for Christmas, nor did he say who would make them. Microsoft has been slow to respond to the iPad, and has also made little headway in mobile phones.

You really have to hope Ballmer wasn't saying that stuff just to get some breathing room from impatient shareholders and a cynical Wall Street. But the lack of details -- when the tablets would be out, what they'd be called, who would make them -- makes you wonder.

Of course, the worst thing Microsoft could do would be to rush an inferior tablet into the market, so maybe buying time is the best option right now for Ballmer and Microsoft. Which isn't a very good option, not with the iPad a smash hit and other tablets entering an increasingly crowded and competitive market.

Another neutral

Janney Capital Markets analyst Sasa Zorovic downgraded Microsoft on Tuesday to "Neutral" from "Buy," according to BusinessWeek.

"A series of stumbles in mobile has led the company to a position where, in our view, it is becoming quite difficult to catch up -- and this is the direction in which computing platforms are moving," Zorovic wrote in a note to investors.

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