Steve Ballmer talks Surface, Windows 8 and the future of Microsoft

Steve Ballmer gave a very tame interview to MIT Technology Review and in it he talks about Surface, Windows 8 and Microsoft's gradual move towards an integrated devices and services company.

While talking about the Surface, Microsoft's CEO explains that this division, after being touted as a proof-of-concept division and only there to "prime the pump", has finally been upgraded to a "real business". Despite limited sales and availability, which Ballmer is very aware of, the Surface division can still hold its own. "I’m super-glad we did Surface. I think it is important—and not just for Microsoft but for the entire Windows ecosystem—to see integrated hardware and software" Ballmer said. He then goes on further "Surface is a real business. In an environment in which there are 350 million PCs being sold, I don’t think Surface 
is going to dominate volume, but it’s a real business."

The CEO also points towards Surface's future when he talks about innovation and the relationship with the OEMs. Steve Ballmer mentions "pen computing" aka using a stylus on a computer, and says that such a design has been floating around Microsoft for many years but they never managed to convince the OEMs to adopt it. Now with the Surface Pro tablet that has Wacom technology inside it, they are trying to "lead a little bit". So in the future we might see a Surface 2 tablet in which Microsoft tries to push the envelope even further while their hardware partners are still struggling to catch up, similar to what Google is doing with their Nexus program.

He also points towards Microsoft's track record on other products such as the Office suite and the Xbox line both of which cater to consumers and have record sales. Ballmer mentions that Microsoft has done a better job of monetizing the enterprise side of the business but that might soon change as the company is focused on "defining the future of productivity, entertainment, and communication—in the new world [where] software is going to have to come in kind of an integrated form. Or at least a well-designed form that includes cloud services and devices."

Of course there isn't any brand new info here, but it's quite reassuring to see Microsoft heavily focused, invested and finally coming together on a set of core products. If you'd like to read the whole interview make sure you check out the source link.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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dangel said,

Um, context? He said they never managed to get OEMs to go with styli and so they are trying to set a precedent with surface to push the market. This translates to 'megalomania' how exactly?

When Google push out a nexus to push a new version of android and a direction for OEM hardware are they doing the same?

Don't feed the trolls

dangel said,

Um, context? He said they never managed to get OEMs to go with styli and so they are trying to set a precedent with surface to push the market. This translates to 'megalomania' how exactly?

When Google push out a nexus to push a new version of android and a direction for OEM hardware are they doing the same?

Actually the article says that he said "stylus" meaning handwriting and my first Tablet PC, a Toshiba Portege 3500, I bought in 2002 had it.
What is ironic is that both Ballmer and Sinofsky hated the concept and it was only because BG was its proponent that the project survived. it seems that Ballmer traveled to Damascus and got a " relevation".... ten years later...

1Pixel said,

Samsung is bigger than MS and make more money. Dell and HP are also massive. They also have far more experience than MS at making hardware, they certainly have the skills.

It's simply that OEM's are lazy, wont take risks, and are completely incompetent.

Do you mean like Lockheed Martin and other companies that start new projects only when Darpa or the Pentagon finance the researches? Nothing new here, at least OEM do not use taxpayers money....

1Pixel said,

Samsung is bigger than MS and make more money. Dell and HP are also massive. They also have far more experience than MS at making hardware, they certainly have the skills.

It's simply that OEM's are lazy, wont take risks, and are completely incompetent.

More skill at making hardware vs MS? Practically every mouse and keyboard MS has made has high reviews and receive rewards. Sure they don't make computers, but I ma sure their design team has pondered the fact. Look at the Surface Pro Tablet. It exceed every tablet I have seen with the exception of the one from Asus.

--- software is going to have to come in kind of an integrated form. Or at least a well-designed form that includes cloud services and devices ---

Kind of interesting how much Microsoft's strategy is starting to resemble Apple's in that respect (I personally think that's a good thing).

Well, a lot stems from the antitrust oversight that only ended in 2011. Now that the government has stepped out of the way, they can do these things. Their disconnected services can become more connected an integrated.

With Windows 8 Desktop, Windows Phone 8, and Surface RT, it seems like things are more "disconnected" than ever. I have all three.

MorganX said,
With Windows 8 Desktop, Windows Phone 8, and Surface RT, it seems like things are more "disconnected" than ever. I have all three.

I have yet to get this disconnected feeling...

MorganX said,
With Windows 8 Desktop, Windows Phone 8, and Surface RT, it seems like things are more "disconnected" than ever. I have all three
I find your experience surprising.

MorganX said,
With Windows 8 Desktop, Windows Phone 8, and Surface RT, it seems like things are more "disconnected" than ever. I have all three.

It certaintly isnt more disconnected then when you had Windows XP, Windows Mobile and Xbox. If you have a tablet and a PC with Windows 8 on it then it certaintly feels like these platforms are more in line. But I agree that its clear the WP team didnt communicate much with the Windows team. Rumor has it that this is the reason why they fired Sinofsky.

But with Skydrive the MS platforms do feel more connected the never before. When your photo's, documents and saves of certain apps are in sync you do feel its improving. And with Windows Blue rumored to connect the platforms on an app-level it will be interesting to see what happens. And who knows, perhaps NextBox is a Windows 8 machine and shares Windows apps with PC and tablet.

Are you sure you are using them right........ The integration is amazing, even my 65+ year old Parents get it. They have Surface RTs and Nokia 920s.

Me and my kids have Surface Pros and Nokia 920, I do not foresee any new technology buys in the next couple years.

Then Connection is AMAZING.

@MikadoWu You didn't really say anything other than the integration is amazing and your 65 year old parents get it. That's a bunch of nothing.

@Ronnet that's not really a relevant comparison comparing 3 disparate products, especially Windows Mobile. But we do agree the WP team and Windows 8 team clearly didn't communicate much. That's my point. SkyDrive is great but cloud storage isn't inherent to the Windows 8 platform. The Windows 8 Settings sync is great too.

But they're just not as easy to use and tightly knits as say OS X, and iPad, and an iPhone. And I think MS can get to that level. I think what they want to do with, and how they want to use the Store could have something to do with it.

It is Apple-ish and I think its a terrible thing. Great, locked proprietary products that don't play well, yet can't be tweaked.

Sounds more like the Enterprise better start looking at alternatives.

Dashel said,
It is Apple-ish and I think its a terrible thing. Great, locked proprietary products that don't play well, yet can't be tweaked.

Sounds more like the Enterprise better start looking at alternatives.

There is no enterprise alternative to the windows ecosystem on the horizon. I'd be amazed if something to really come close to challenging Microsoft in that spec w/i a decade. They could use the comptetition though, they are a bit lazy in some aspects.

Ronnet said,

It certaintly isnt more disconnected then when you had Windows XP, Windows Mobile and Xbox. If you have a tablet and a PC with Windows 8 on it then it certaintly feels like these platforms are more in line. But I agree that its clear the WP team didnt communicate much with the Windows team. Rumor has it that this is the reason why they fired Sinofsky.

But with Skydrive the MS platforms do feel more connected the never before. When your photo's, documents and saves of certain apps are in sync you do feel its improving. And with Windows Blue rumored to connect the platforms on an app-level it will be interesting to see what happens. And who knows, perhaps NextBox is a Windows 8 machine and shares Windows apps with PC and tablet.

Personally I did not find XP and WM disconnected; as for SkyDrive I would replace it with Mesh without hesitations... but unfortunately it was killed to fuel the "Cloud" mantra.

MorganX said,
@MikadoWu You didn't really say anything other than the integration is amazing and your 65 year old parents get it. That's a bunch of nothing.

@Ronnet that's not really a relevant comparison comparing 3 disparate products, especially Windows Mobile. But we do agree the WP team and Windows 8 team clearly didn't communicate much. That's my point. SkyDrive is great but cloud storage isn't inherent to the Windows 8 platform. The Windows 8 Settings sync is great too.

But they're just not as easy to use and tightly knits as say OS X, and iPad, and an iPhone. And I think MS can get to that level. I think what they want to do with, and how they want to use the Store could have something to do with it.

Better integration should hopefully come with this "Blue" wave of updates but at least in terms of UI, Windows 8, WP8, Windows RT and Xbox 360 all share a very similar interface and that is more than you can say about the iPad/OSX UIs! You could argue that via iCloud, Apple may have tighter integration but that integration doesnt expand to UI and UX. They either have to wait for their OSX line to die off which is really what they want (they openly admit that they want iOS devices in the "Post-PC" world) or pull a Windows 8 style game change to get OSX inline with their other OSes. Even then I think they would only be able to hold out max 10 years without any innovation in OSX (like touchscreen support)!

@Ingramator I hope blue brings major improvements. By disconnected I mean mostly with each other. Got hundreds of playlists and a large library, get it from you desktop to your Surface RT ... Sync Music/Video/Playlists to your Windows Phone 8 ... Windows Media Player is the antiquated solutions. It's just like having 3 Android devices.

I don't know that we're in a Post-PC world, we're in a mobile device augmented world. OS X doesn't really need a touch UI on the desktop just like Windows doesn't really. They have iOS. Now they have let that age. I like windows 8 on my desktop and have no need for a touchscreen on it and probably never will. Modern UI doesn't bother me, but it's best on the Surface which it really was made for.

Dot Matrix said,

I have yet to get this disconnected feeling...

Try to sync WP8 with W8: the available apps make me miss Zune... And I was never a big fan of it.

Q: Surface - what's that?
A: MS next piece of crap with remarkable 0.00000001% market share and spent billions to marketing it.

Dreams are fine. Just don't alienate the huge customer base that made Microsoft--difficult not to do when arrogance has become so pervasive in the Microsoft corporate culture.

I would love to see a Surface smartphone sold directly by MS with no carriers involvement; they already have the stores and it would be the factor to push WP closer to the market share WM had.

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