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A short Fortune interview with Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer ends with an interesting comment for investors in Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL).

Here's the quote, followed by a quick comment:

Do you have an iPod?

No, I do not. Nor do my children. My children--in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod.

Think you can you crack the iPod market?

It's going to take an innovative proposition. In five years are people really going to carry two devices? One device that is their communication device, one device that is music? There's going to be a lot of opportunities to get back in that game. We want to be in that game. Expect to see announcements from us in that area in the next 12 months.

Quick comment:

Apple fans will be sceptical of Microsoft's chances of success in the digital music market. And "the next 12 months" could be even longer, given the recent Windows Vista delay.

But here's why this matters. Mr Ballmer's comment shows that Microsoft is not giving up on the music market. And Microsoft has deep pockets and huge resources. Surely not a positive for Apple.

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Source: Expect Online Music Announcement from Microsoft (AAPL, MSFT)