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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in Bellevue this morning.

Where did Steve Ballmer mean for the period to go? Wherever it was, Microsoft says its CEO didn’t mean to imply that Windows 8 would be coming to phones.

Welcome to the strange aftermath of Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting, where Ballmer this morning made a comment that sounded to some listeners like he let slip that Windows 8 — the next version of Microsoft’s tablet and desktop operating system — would be coming to mobile phones.

Here’s how Matt Rosoff of Business Insider and some GeekWire readers (listening to the webcast) heard the remark.

“We’ve got broad Windows initiatives, driving Windows down to the phone with Windows 8. You’ll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows from tablets, small, large, pens, smaller, bigger, room-sized displays.”

Here’s how I initially heard it. Note the big difference that the placement of the period makes.

“We’ve got broad Windows initiatives driving Windows down to the phone. With Windows 8, you’ll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows from tablets, small, large, pens, smaller, bigger, room-sized displays.”

Listen to the clip below, and you can hear how it’s open to interpretation. But for the record, Microsoft says the second version above is what Ballmer meant, and Windows 8 isn’t coming to phones.

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