Ballmer sees squeeze on Longhorn deadline

THE HAGUE, Netherlands--Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was in a lighthearted mood during a swing through the Netherlands, but did he give a serious clue about Longhorn? During a keynote speech at the company's TechNet/MSDN Briefings here Tuesday, the chief executive talked about the Longhorn edition of Windows and new security features for the software company's products. He also joked about recent remarks in which he branded iPod users as thieves.

Longhorn will definitely be out in 2006, he said. With such a large gathering of software developers on hand, Ballmer quipped, he didn't have to point out that the target date meant sometime "around Dec. 31, 2006." As for the iPod, Apple Computer's signature digital music player, Ballmer earlier in the week had ruffled some feathers when he implied that iPod users might be thieves. Speaking in London, Ballmer said, "We've had DRM (digital rights management) in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is stolen."

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