Ballmer: Microsoft plans to sell a few million Surface tablets, and fight Apple

The MS chief didn't indicate whether Microsoft will start designing hardware regularly or whether Surface is just a one off

Microsoft hopes to sell at least a few million of its Surface tablets after Windows 8 debuts in October, according to company chief executive Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft chief made the comments during the opening keynote for Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. Ever since Microsoft announced Surface, critics have debated whether the company will follow Apple's lead and start designing its own hardware on a regular basis or whether Surface is just a limited-edition reference design meant to inspire its hardware partners to do better.

[SLIDESHOW: Microsoft Hardware: Successes and Failures]

Based on Ballmer's comments, it appears that Microsoft isn't entirely clear on the answer either. During the keynote, Ballmer's comment on selling a few million devices suggests that the company doesn't have huge iPad-busting plans for the Surface. Apple has already sold more than 27 million iPads in 2012, far more than the few million Ballmer suggests the Surface will achieve. But we already knew that didn't we? The iPad is available from Apple and a number of third-party retailers including Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Microsoft said it plans to sell the Surface only in the U.S. and only through its small chain of retail stores as well as online, at least at launch.

Ballmer also sat down for an interview with CRN.com, saying that Microsoft intended to leave no stone unturned in its fight against Apple. We are not going to let any piece of this [go]... not the consumer Cloud. Not hardware software innovation. We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself, Ballmer said, according to CRN.com. We do feel empowered to innovate everywhere and bring our partners with us, Ballmer said.

Ballmer was also asked whether Microsoft would build its own smartphone instead of leaving handset design to partners such as Nokia and HTC. The Microsoft chief didn't rule out the possibility of making a Microsoft-branded smartphone, saying only that the company was currently focused on Surface. Microsoft's Windows Phone chief, Greg Sullivan, said in late June that the company was very satisified with its Windows Phone hardware partners.

So Microsoft wants to make sure that Apple doesn't get any further ahead of Microsoft in the consumer space than it already is, at least in terms of tablets, but at the same time Ballmer knows Microsoft can't alienate its hardware partners.

That's going to be a tough line to tread.

There's already some concern that hardware makers are miffed at Microsoft for announcing Surface. As Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay recently told IDG News, Surface has the potential to take future revenues from Windows hardware manufacturers looking to use Windows 8 on tablets.

Nevertheless, it's clear Microsoft is making a big bet on the future with Windows 8. The touch-centric OS is a big departure from Microsofts keyboard-and-mouse focused predecessors and generating a fair amount of interest among users and critics. Meanwhile, the popularity of the iPad is soaring, Android tablets are largely failing, and market research firm NPD Group predicts that tablets will outship notebooks by 2016. With the technology world trending toward slates, Microsoft may have had no choice but to set the tone for what Windows 8 tablets should look like by creating Surface.

But will that plan lead Microsoft into becoming a hardware maker on a regular basis? I guess that all depends on how popular Surface tablets are when they launch this fall.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?