Ina Fried

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Scratching the Surface With Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky

Windows chief Steven Sinofsky said Monday that Microsoft certainly had a tablet like the Surface in mind when it started doing Windows 8. As for whether it always planned to do its own hardware, Sinofsky won’t say.

“We set out to reimagine the tablet,” Sinofsky said in a brief interview following Monday’s introduction of the Surface tablet. “We want a vision for a tablet that is a great PC; a PC that is a great tablet.”

Clearly, the relationship between Microsoft and the PC industry will be an interesting one to watch in the coming days, weeks and months. As for how the computer makers feel about Microsoft making its own tablets, Sinofsky deferred to comments made by his boss, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer didn’t say much, but when asked by AllThingsD, he noted that the computer makers did have some idea that Microsoft was doing its own Windows 8 hardware.

“If you look at the bulk of the 375 million machines that get sold (next year), they probably aren’t going to be Surfaces,” Ballmer told AllThingsD. “On the other hand, we could have a sizeable business.”

Beyond showing off the design of the Surface and offering reporters a very brief opportunity to get up close to the device, Microsoft gave out some specifics on Monday. It talked about the device’s magnesium case, its weight and dimensions, as well as the types of ports it features and the chips that power it.

In other areas, such as pricing and availability, the company spoke only in generalities. The ARM-based models — the ones based on Nvidia chips — are due this fall with Windows 8, and should cost about the same. The Intel-based models, which are thicker and heavier, should follow about three months later and should cost around the same as today’s Ultrabook laptops.

One area Microsoft didn’t really talk about at all was battery life. The company isn’t talking specifics, but I did ask Sinofsky if he thinks Surface will deliver the type of battery life and performance that customers would expect.

“I definitely think so,” Sinofsky said.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle