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Ballmer at the Microsoft Surface unveiling earlier this year.

During an interview with Mashable today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was asked for his thoughts on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s characterization of the new Microsoft Surface tablet as “compromised and confusing.”

So what does the Microsoft CEO think about that? “We’ll give them a run for their money,” Ballmer said in the interview, saying of Cook, “I’m glad he’s paying attention.”

The situation illustrates how Apple has turned the tech world upside down with the iPad and iPhone, turning Microsoft into an underdog in two of the fastest-growing markets for personal computing and devices. The comments by Cook and Ballmer also illustrate a philosophical divide between the companies.

Ballmer reiterated in the Mashable interview that he believes the markets for tablets and PCs are merging, as exemplified by Windows 8’s ability to run across a variety of devices, including desktop computers, touch-screen tablets and a variety of hybrid devices that mix elements of those two worlds.

The Microsoft CEO famously scoffed at the iPhone when the Apple device debuted in 2007.

Today’s interview took place after the San Francisco launch event for Windows Phone 8 earlier today.

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