Ballmer Pledges Level Tablet Playing Field For Hardware OEMs

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CRN that the software giant is taking steps to assure the company’s hardware OEM partners have a level playing field when it comes to competing with Microsoft’s own Surface Tablet.

Specifically, Ballmer said in an interview Monday at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, that there are three questions Microsoft is answering affirmatively to in order to assure hardware partners are on “equal footing” so that those OEMs “know absolutely that there is opportunity here [for them in Windows 8 Tablets despite Surface.”

[Related: Exclusive: Steve Ballmer Speaks With CRN At Microsoft WPC]

The first question, Ballmer said, is “do we license them everything [in Windows] that we use in our own Surface? And the answer to that question is: yes. No. 2: they will say, ‘Hey, look, essentially do you charge yourself some kind of a royalty so that we’re on equal footing from a price perspective?' The answer is we handle things so that things are appropriate in that dimension. And the third question they ask is when they give us their confidential information, do we protect that from the Surface team. And the answer is of course we will do that.”

Ballmer stressed that there is nothing that Microsoft can do on its own with Surface that hardware OEM partners cannot do too with their own Windows 8 tablets.

“We have been very good about supporting our OEMs. Very good,” he said. “There is nothing that we can build that our OEMs can’t build with their own energy, innovation and the like. There will be 375 million PCs sold. I think it is probably fair to say that we are not going to sell a super-high percentage of the 375 [million].”

“So it is not us alone,” said Ballmer. “It is us and our partners, It remains us and our OEM partners, not just our solution provider partners. But it is us and our OEM partners. Surface will be a very important thing. And I am really excited about it. But we are also going to see great work from HP and Dell and Samsung and a bunch of other guys.”

Ballmer said he expects Microsoft OEM partners to have “great devices” that show off the advantages of Windows 8.

“There are not only going to be Surface tablets which I am very excited about,” he said. “We have partners who are doing tablet designs, x86 tablet designs, Intel (SoC) tablet designs, Nvidia, Qualcomm. I mean you are going to see an explosion of a number of Windows tablets. I happen to have a personal fondness for the work we are doing with Surface. But you are going to see a range.”

NEXT: Surface Could Put A Dent In Apple's Market Share

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