Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has heaped extra emphasis on the company offering hardware rather than just software, describing “a fundamental shift” that could pave the way for more own-brand gadgets like Surface. Writing in a letter to shareholders, Ballmer suggested that “there will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes” and portraying Microsoft “as a devices and services company.” The comments are unlikely to deter increasing rumors that Microsoft plans to launch more Windows 8 hardware of its own, and potentially a Windows Phone 8 range.
‘Last year in this letter I said that over time, the full value of our software will be seen and felt in how people use devices and services at work and in their personal lives. This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves — as a devices and services company” Ballmer writes. “It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses. The work we have accomplished in the past year and the roadmap in front of us brings this to life.”
Microsoft surprised its OEM partners with the unveil of Surface earlier this year, a pair of tablets – one running Windows RT, the other Windows 8 and adding in extra digital pen functionality – described as delivering the company’s vision for what a Windows slate should be. Although publicly welcomed as a vote of confidence in the platform, manufacturers are believed to have privately resented Microsoft stepping into their territory, particularly with the minimal notice the company gave about Surface’s launch.
Until that point, Microsoft had been content to leave phone and PC hardware direction pretty much up to OEMs, although it took a more directive approach with “appliance” style devices like Xbox. Wading into tablets, however, potentially paves the way for more Microsoft-branded hardware, something Ballmer hints at.
“There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface” the CEO points out. “In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we’ll build in services people want.”
Microsoft has repeatedly denied it has plans to launch its own Windows Phone 8 smartphones, instead selecting HTC’s new range as its “signature” handsets for the updated platform’s promotion. Nonetheless, there’s more possibility than ever that such a strategy could change if the company believes manufacturers need some Nexus-style motivation to take Windows Phone in the direction Microsoft wants.