Ballmer: Microsoft will leave "no space uncovered that is Apple's"

Microsoft will challenge Apple in every aspect of software and hardware innovation, CEO Steve Ballmer has warned his Cupertino rivals, promising that "we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple." The rambunctious chief exec insisted Microsoft would not sit back on its enterprise range and cede the consumer segment to Apple, telling CRN that "we are not going to let any piece of this [go uncontested] ... not the consumer cloud. Not hardware software innovation."

"We are trying to make absolutely clear we are not going to leave any space uncovered to Apple," Ballmer explained, speaking after the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto where he confirmed Windows 8 would hit the market in late October. "We are not leaving any of that to Apple by itself. Not going to happen. Not on our watch."

The most obvious phase of that challenge has been Surface, Microsoft's own-brand Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets which have already put the cat among the proverbial pigeons with the company's own OEM partners. However, Ballmer sees the next steps as definitely including those OEMs.

"We do feel empowered to innovate everywhere and bring our partners with us," the CEO said. "We're not going to leave any stone unturned, so to speak, as we pursue that."

As for what that next step might be, despite previous denials, there's a possibility that it could include a Microsoft-brand Windows Phone. Questioned as to the chances of that happening, Ballmer proved surprisingly coy.

"Right now we are working real hard on the Surface. That's the focus. That's our core" he pointed out. "Look, we'll see what happens. We have good partners with Nokia, [HTC] in the phone space. I love what we've got going on with the Surface. We are going to focus on Surface and our other Windows 8 Tablet partners and see if we can go make something happen."

Surface is expected to hit shelves in Q4 2012, along with other Windows RT hardware, though Microsoft has already seen one high-profile manufacturer, HP, ditch its RT tablet plans.