Microsoft CEO hints (again) that more hardware is on the way

Microsoft CEO hints (again) that more hardware is on the way

Summary: Microsoft's boss has thrown more fuel on the fire that the company will develop more hardware, as it seeks to expand its range of services to Surface-like devices, among others.


Not content with his first efforts hinting that the software giant would develop more hardware outside the Surface tablet products, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has thrown out another hint that there could be more Microsoft-branded devices en route.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. Credit: CNET

Late in October, in an interview with the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones, Ballmer said he Microsoft was "obviously" going to "do more hardware," and that it would "dive in" to any opportunity that presents itself.

And then nothing but a deathly quiet from the company. No word on what, when, or even why. This time around, however, he throws in a bit more meat to the bones of the rumors that Microsoft is building more devices.

Read more: Microsoft's radical new business plan is hidden in plain sight

"Do I anticipate that partners of ours will build the lion's share of all Windows devices over the next five years? The answer is, absolutely," Ballmer said, speaking at a technology industry event in California yesterday, according to Reuters

"With that said, it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft."

Ballmer said the Redmond-based software giant will take the opportunity to look at how the firm could launch more devices by exploiting its position as not a strictly software or hardware maker, but a company of both and cloud-based services -- a so-called "devices and services" firm.

It comes less than a month after Microsoft launched the Surface RT tablet on the market, and only a couple of weeks after speculation suggested that the software giant would develop its own branded smartphone, the software giant's 'special partnership' with Nokia notwithstanding. 

While Nokia builds the Lumia smartphones and Microsoft develops the Windows Phone platform, the software giant still controls the shape of its own ecosystem, the hardware and software combination. An interesting tidbit from Reuters:

Looking to Apple's success with its iPads and iPhones, Microsoft believes tightly controlling the design of both hardware and software can lead to superior consumer products.

That process can be brought in-house to develop internally -- but would it benefit the company in the long run? Microsoft may have seen "modest" Surface sales already but early figures suggest the Surface tablet may be the most popular Windows 8 device already.

If Microsoft brought its own smartphone -- just for the sake of argument -- it would likely have an even greater impact on its smartphone-building partners, including Samsung -- but notably Nokia and HTC, which are both struggling financially at the moment. 

But whether or not this would do this remains a mystery. Above all else, it doesn't make sense. Sales in its Windows Phone space aren't exactly healthy -- even the Nokia Symbian and Samsung's Bada platform remains ahead of Microsoft's mobile software -- and it can't afford to cut out its existing market share partners unless it has a killer device that blows all other devices out of the water.

But nobody can guarantee that. Not even Samsung. Not even Apple (although, we have yet to be proved otherwise on that front.)

Earlier this year, Microsoft's annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) noted that troubles lay ahead should Surface take off, with a particular edge on the firm's partners in the tablet space.

That's probably the biggest worry Nokia has at the moment. If Microsoft sneaks out in the middle of the night, leaving Nokia alone in the house on its own, to develop its own smartphone, not only will it break up the Nokia-Microsoft tag-team relationship but it may also be the final blow that kills off Nokia for good.

Could Microsoft live with that on its conscience? Likely, actually.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Tablets, Windows

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  • Ballmer is like Wile E. Coyote

    Ballmer is just like Wile E. Coyote from the Road Runner cartoons.

    He always has another acme device to try to catch the Road Runner (Apple). He planted Zune, but it failed, falling like an anvil over a cliff. He pulled a Kin out of his bag, but it blew up in his face. The Acme Surface tablet was placed on the technology road, but got squashed by a passing Android truck.

    What will be the next Acme device that Ballmer brings out? The Microsoft Lume phone, maybe? Oh no, that's already been done. Can anybody help Microsoft find a new name for its next phone?
    • .

      "The Acme Surface tablet was placed on the technology road, but got squashed by a passing Android truck."

      Surface was just launched so I think it's a little early to say something like this and present it as a fact. We shall know in time, though.
    • Acme devices

      The Acme Surface is already out selling all other Windows 8/Rt devices 2:1.. And that's just the Surface RT, there is are alot of people waiting for the Surface Windows 8. Also the Zune HD was a beautiful device. And lets not forget the Acme Xbox, Kinnect, Server, Windows, Office, Messenger, Azure and Skype which are huge successes...
    • I believe it when I see it

      Words vs deeds:
      January 7, 2010:
      January 27, 2010:
    • Woo Hoo! You sure poked the hornet's nest with that one!

      6 votes and 7 flags. I voted and evened the score for you. I think your post was hilarious and accurate, (it is still a bit early to judge Vista, I mean Windows 8.)

      M$ can't seem to launch anything right anymore. I have read some tech writers and posts who say the Zune was better than the iPod. Maybe it was, but it still flopped. (And beating iTunes shouldn't be hard. That software is almost as bad as the old AOL software.)

      M$ launched how many music services? 2 that I know of, and I don't even care about that category. (And the suckers that bought DRM'ed music with the earlier service are SOL, because the servers that your purchases have been deactivated for a few years now.

      How about search engines? M$ has been trying to do that for a decade. How many names has it had? MS Search? Live Search? Bing? There are more, but I can't remember them all. In the meantime, I occasionally have to find something on M$s website, and the Bing search built into the page delivers junk. I use my Google homepage to search the same exact string and I have the item I want in the first 2 or 3 hits.
  • I will believe that...

    I will believe that when I see it.

    I work for a large organization and we have been evaluation windows 8 and we are not impressed. We see it as another Vista.

    We will wait until Windows 9 is out before we decide.
    • Intel does Tick-tock much better.

      Windows 8 = not so much
      Windows 7 = beloved
      Windows Vista = hated
      Windows XP = beloved
      Windows ME/2000 = hated
      Windows 98 = beloved
      Maybe it is not exact, but you get the idea.

      So just because Windows 8 is a "transition", that does not mean we can definitely count MS and Windows 9 out (although Intel does the tick-tock thing much better!)

      (Myself, I wish MS had used an Atom processor for its consumer device.)
      • Not sure how accurate you assessment is

        I do not recall Windows 2000 being hated. It was a very nice replacement of Windows NT. What makes you believe it was hated?

        Windows XP did not receive a warm welcoming either. It took a long time for businesses to transition from Windows 98 to XP.

        Windows 8 is definitely not a Windows Vista. Windows 8's reception appears to be falling more in-line with XP. I would guess, it will be adopted by businesses just as cautiously as XP was.
        • That's my view of histroy also

          I also remember the fuss about the Start button when it arrived!
          • History - bah!

      • Win2000 Was Great

        Windows 2000 Pro was a great OS. Tons of people used it and few switched to XP until a couple years after XP came out.

        XP had lots of problems at first. MS finally resolved 95% of them and the world went XP. I never met any business user who didn't love W2K Pro.
  • Emmm

    Microsoft will buy Nokia...
  • Nokia will be a MS division

    in one or two years. MS is relying on Nokia mapping tech and content for BING and WP8. Nokia has tons of valuable patents. Nokia has factories and personel trained on WP8 technically and for developing apps. Nokia has international distributions in place with hundereds of carriers.

    If MS comes out with its own phone (made by another company), Nokia will be the maker or Nokia will be an MS division because a MS WP8 phone will take too much of the market share from Nokia and it will go bankrupt (allow MS to buy it).

    I mean really, if MS buys Nokia, does it need HTC or Samsung?
    • I agree

      MS need to buy Nokia but I think they are letting the company nearly fail first so they can get it at a knock down price.
      Alan Smithie
      • I don't think Microsoft want to buy Nokia at all

        I rather think they're quite happy for Nokia to fail and vanish from the market. Mind you, if they do end up buying them, then Nokia's going to be a massive ball and chain around their neck.
    • Probable

      But they will need HTC and Samsung. Need diversity, challenge and people who tread a different path. They should fund a new startup and throw WP8 at them
  • Correct ~

    That is right - MS buys Nokia. Why else would they throw so much into it?
  • Ballmer self destructing Microsoft

    Ballmer is doing a number on Microsoft and its not good numbers. The fact even consumers don't see Windows 8 as a needed upgrade is telling me that Windows 8 could end up being the lost Windows version that nobody ask for. XBox sales are down, Windows phones are not gaining much market share. Office suites are the only bright spot. The trouble with Microsoft is that it makes foolish decisions in a effort to catch up to Apple in a market. Rather then just offering a decent tablet at a reasonable price Microsoft had to try and out do Apple. Same thing happened to the Zune and the same will happen to Windows 8. By the time Microsoft actually does something good, its just too little and too late to be of any news.
    • Really?

      Xbox has been the lead game console sales for almost 2 years straight. And Windows 8 hasn't been out for a month yet and by all accounts sales appear to be going very well. Most of the devices haven't even been released yet. And Black Friday is next week..
      • Xbox numbers are inflated.....

        Almost all gamers I know had bought 2 or 3 xboxes sing they could play one while the others were in repair for the RROD in a round robin. One would fail, send it in and start up the spare. When that failed, send that in and start up the returned unit. And on and on and on.....

        Even then, the xbox failed to make any inroads until Kinect came out, and Microsoft had to buy that technology.

        And now cracking keyboards on the 2 week old Surface.

        Microsoft needs to stay OUT of the hardware business.
        linux for me