When political candidates concede a campaign, they praise the "long journey" and talk about how much they've "learned." In the same mode, Microsoft's CEO has all but said he's given up on the Zune.
Mr Ballmer seemed all but ready to throw in the towel on the Zune mobile device, which has failed to gain ground on Apple's iPod. But he suggested that the focus of competition in digital media was moving onto ground that Microsoft understands well: software.
He said that, with the market for dedicated portable media players in decline, the future lay in more "general purpose" devices – such as Apple's iPhone and touch.
Asked if Microsoft would counter with a "Zune Phone", Mr Ballmer said: "You should not anticipate that."