"MSFT does have an initiative in place to drive smaller tablet [sales] with a cut-rate, rebated operating system," said Moorhead, citing sources of his own. "They'll rebate OEMs if they do certain things, use certain chips and certain form factors. The official program is to drive volume [sales] to the $199 to $399 range."
Klein also said Microsoft's plans rely on Windows "Blue," a code name he used during the call to refer to the Windows 8 upgrade expected to ship this fall, as well as for the accelerated release schedule that Microsoft intends to adopt.
"With Windows 8, we are setting a new, accelerated pace for updates and innovations, as we focus on making the Windows experience richer and better," said Klein. "We will release the next version of Windows, code named Windows Blue, which further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback."
As long-time Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, who blogs for ZDNet, said earlier today, the phrase "responds to customer feedback" may be a reference to plans by Microsoft to tweak some Windows 8 features -- particularly the lack of a Start button and a forced boot to the tile-style Start screen -- in Windows Blue by restoring the first and making the second optional.
Klein also announced yesterday that he would leave Microsoft at the end of the fiscal year, which wraps up June 30. Microsoft will fill the CFO position internally, the company said.
Some commentators have seen Klein as the scapegoat for Windows 8's lackluster sales. But Rob Helm, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, wasn't buying it.
"Not everything comes down to the CFO," said Helm. "Microsoft's problems stem from the fundamentals of the Windows business rather than what a finance wiz can do or does."
Helm credited Klein, along with Kevin Turner, Microsoft's COO, with instituting cuts in operating costs last year. "You have to give them credit for squeezing operating costs enough to do Surface," said Helm.
Whomever Microsoft promotes -- the company said it would find its next CFO from within its current financial leadership team in the next several weeks -- he or she will not have it easy, Helm warned.
"This will be just as tough for the new person as it was for Klein," Helm said, talking about Microsoft's stated intention to shift from a Windows-dependent business to one devoted to devices like the Surface and services such as Office 365. "The new CFO will have to deal with changes at Microsoft to how it makes money and how much it makes," said Helm.