Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that Redmond will not manufacture an e-reader device to compete with Amazon.com's popular Kindle line.
"We have a device for reading. It's the most popular device in the world. It's the PC," Ballmer said at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, according to Reuters. "But no, we are not interested in e-readers ourselves."
However, Ballmer did leave the door cracked for future collaborations with digital booksellers.
"I would love to see companies like Amazon and others bring their books to the PC," Ballmer reportedly said, adding: "Hopefully we can get that to happen with Barnes & Noble or Amazon or somebody."
The competition within the e-reader space, including digital books, has become increasingly competitive as of late, with Amazon.com announcing price cuts to its Kindle device. The original Kindle now sells for $279 with a 3G wireless connection capable of downloading material in the U.S. and 100 other countries, while a version with U.S.-only wireless is available through Amazon.com's online storefront.
The original Kindle features a 6-inch screen. A 9.7-inch-screen model, the Kindle DX, will continue to sell for $489.
Over the past few months, Amazon.com has signed agreements with magazine, textbook and newspaper companies for e-content, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. According to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Kindle-related sales bring in roughly 35 percent of the company's book-related revenue.
New competition, however, is emerging on a number of fronts. Sony recently slashed the price points of two of its e-readers, to $199 and $299, in a seeming attempt to undercut the Kindle's pricing. Other companies have begun marketing e-readers that aim at very specific customer segments, including Plastic Logic's upcoming device that will focus on the business market with a large screen and ability to download Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents.
Another source of competition could soon come from Apple, which could release a tablet PC sometime in early 2010. Although Apple itself has refused to confirm or deny that such a project is in development, rumors suggest that the company is in talks with various media companies to port their content onto a device, more likely via the iTunes store.
An August research note by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that an Apple tablet PC could come with an integrated 3G wireless connection, potentially allowing the downloading of digital books and other media while on the road.
Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 includes multi-touch capabilities that could be conceivably used in a tablet PC. Rumors circulated in August that Dell and Intel were collaborating on an exclusively touch-screen PC due sometime in 2010, in order to take advantage of a tablet market that research firm DisplaySearch estimated would triple from $3.6 billion to $9 billion over the next six years.
When previously contacted by eWEEK, Microsoft spokespeople have declined to comment on whether the new operating system will be ported onto a tablet PC. That aside, as with Apple's rumored device, a Microsoft-powered tablet PC could potentially double as an e-reader.