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Ballmer: "The Tide Has Turned" Against Apple

Steve Ballmer believes the recession is stressing the house that Jobs built.

Every company is feeling the heat during these times of economic uncertainty. However, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thinks that rival Apple may be hotter under the collar than most.

According to TechFlash, the boss over in Redmond sees 2009 as a year of trouble for Apple, especially in its desktop and laptop computer segments. When asked about Apple's recent market share momentum at a conference in New York, Ballmer quickly interjected and said the strong numbers Apple has seen over the last year are about to change.

"Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction," said the Microsoft CEO. "The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be."

While boiling down the difference between an Apple machine and a PC to a logo may be a simplification of sorts, there is truth in Ballmer's words. Apple has been using Intel processors in its machines for several years now. With this shift, the hardware in an Apple and say, a Dell or HP PC is very similar, if not the same in many cases. While many argue that the Apple price premium is worth it when it comes to laptops, making the same argument for desktops is much more difficult.

Psystar is churning out computers that use off the shelf PC components combined with Apple's OS X operating system. While the debate is still raging whether or not Psystar can legally do such a thing, the company is offering computers that run Apple software flawlessly at a fraction of the price when compared to an iMac or Mac Pro. Psystar's OpenPro with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB of storage, an Nvidia 9800GTX+, and all the same firewire/wireless options as Apple's desktops goes for about $1,610. A similarly configured 24-inch iMac (3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8 GB RAM, 1 TB storage, ATI Radeon 4850) goes for $3,250. After throwing in a decent 24" monitor, the OpenPro is still more than a grand less than the iMac. The only major difference between the components is that the Mac uses DDR3 memory over the OpenPro's DDR2...but is that worth the absurd price difference?

Only time will tell if Ballmer is right about Apple. What is already a certainty is the fact that this shot at Apple will fan the fires of the Redmond-Cupertino rivalry. For now, what do you think about Apple in 2009? iPods and iPhones aside, how will its computer segments fare compared to the rest of the industry?

UPDATE: After realizing that the Psystar Open7 doesn't run OS X (thanks SneakySnake!), I added a better Apple/Psystar comparison. Sorry about the mix up, guys!