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
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.