Ballmer: Surface Tablet Not A Publicity Stunt

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CRN that the company’s new Surface tablet is anything but a publicity stunt.

“It is not a publicity stunt,” said Ballmer responding to a question on whether the Surface tablet was designed simply to promote Windows 8 and could eventually be pulled from the market. “I mean, it is a real piece of hardware that real blood, sweat and tears [went into], and engineering excellence and innovation and creativity and capital. We are in. We are also in with our [hardware OEM] partners, but we are in.”

[Related: Exclusive: Microsoft's Ballmer Throws Down Gauntlet Against Apple ]

Stan Shih, founder of Acer, one of Microsoft's tablet OEM partners, said Microsoft's Surface tablets were developed solely to create interest in Windows 8 as a tablet platform and that the company would not offer more models after that purpose is realized, according to a report in DigiTimes after Surface was unveiled.

Ballmer would not comment on how big an investment the company made to get Surface off the ground or exactly how long the company has been working on the product. “It was a while ago,” he said when asked when the highly-secretive Surface project was launched.

“I know there is a desire to paint things dramatically,” he said in an interview Monday at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. “But of course there are many decisions. There is the decision to start. There is decisions to proceed. There are decisions to make commitments to hardware partners, to suppliers. There is the decision to make an announcement.”

Ballmer said the Surface project involved a relatively small team with even the large Microsoft Windows team “mostly in the dark with a couple of exceptions.” One of the objectives from the start, he said, was “privacy and secrecy in order to really have a chance to do it right.” Through it all, Ballmer said, he and the Microsoft board were kept up to date on the project.

Microsoft is introducing two tablet products: Surface for Windows RT, a consumer tablet running Windows 8 on ARM microprocessors that Microsoft expects to be used in the workplace, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro, an Intel Core-based tablet that runs the edition of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system for business professionals.

“Right now we are focused on executing well this first phase, which is to ship the Surface RT along with Windows 8 in October,” said Ballmer. “We said it would be about 90 days later before we would have the Surface [for Windows] 8 Pro, and those will just be in limited distribution to start.”

The Surface product is being manufactured by Pegatron, the same China=based company that assembles Apple iPhones.

NEXT: Ballmer On What Led To The Decision To Launch Surface

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