CEO confessions: We're Apple fanboys (and fangirls) too

The top brass at Microsoft, Google, and HP may not say it in so many words, but Apple remains their shining beacon

The tech industry is a bit like a sitcom. It's filled with absurd scenarios, wacky neighbors, and a prickly but ultimately lovable main character everyone secretly wants to be.

In our sitcom, that main character is Apple. The wacky next-door neighbor? Try Steve Ballmer. In a letter to shareholders released earlier this week, Ballmer described a plan for Microsoft that most tech watchers agree sounds a heckuva lot like the one drawn up by his pals in Cupertino.

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Microsoft is no longer a software giant, says The Mad Ballmer; it is now a "devices and services company." He writes:

There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface. In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software, and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we'll build in services people want.

As The Telegraph's Mic Wright puts it, "In the area of heaven with the most glass and brushed aluminium, Steve Jobs is laughing riotously."

Ballmer isn't the only prominent tech leader to star in this series. In the recurring role of the creepy uncle who comes to dinner, allow me to introduce Google's Eric Schmidt.

In a public Q&A session with AllThingsD's Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, Schmidt was asked whether, if he had to be CEO of another company, would he choose Apple,, or Facebook? After a little hemming and hawing he picked Apple because "it has the most cash."

Or maybe it's because Apple revoked his parking pass after Google introduced Android, and Eric misses being so close to all the cool toys. Could you stand a little further away, Eric? You're starting to creep us all out.

Even HP -- the crusty old neighbor who's always shouting at the kids to get off his lawn -- wants to be Apple. In a recent interview with Fox Business, CEO Meg Whitman said, "We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries in the world, that is your computing device." She was, however, conveniently vague about when that might happen. I predict that will be in 2015, shortly after HP introduces its first microwave ovens.

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