Ina Fried

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on Where Microsoft’s New Surface Tablet Fits in PC Ecosystem

While there are plenty of unknown details about Microsoft’s Surface tablet, perhaps the biggest open question is what this means for Microsoft and its decades-long relationship with the PC industry.

Microsoft’s top executives said little onstage on the subject and not much more in interviews afterwards.

In a brief chat after the event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that PC makers have known for an unspecified period of time that Microsoft would be doing its own hardware.

Ballmer noted that there will be a lot of PCs sold that will be made by companies other than Microsoft.

“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 said. “On the other hand, we could have a sizeable business.”

“It’s an important companion to the whole Windows 8 story,” Ballmer said. “It’s an important piece. It’s not the only piece.”

While Microsoft kept the details of Surface tightly limited to a small group of Microsoft employees working on the project, Ballmer said PC makers weren’t totally taken by surprise.

“Our PC partners knew in advance we were announcing something today in this space,” Ballmer said.

So how did they feel about it? “No comment.”

Ballmer said Microsoft’s goal is that Surface “gives people a full range of things to think about, sort of primes the pump for more innovation around Windows 8, (and) brings new technology to the Windows PC platform.”

Just how closely to the vest has Microsoft been keeping Surface? Ballmer said he has not personally been using a prototype on a regular basis.

“We wanted to keep things under wraps,” Ballmer said. “I’m out in public a lot.”

Below is a quick look at the new Surface:

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald