Ballmer: Microsoft will be a “devices and services” firm

Steve Ballmer has indicated that Microsoft will be putting much more emphasis on hardware in the future. He’s also given some clue about the pricing for the Surface tablet and it appears you can forget any thoughts of $199.

Speaking to the Seattle Times, Ballmer rather dramatically called 2012 “the most epic year in Microsoft history”, saying it’s no coincidence all sorts of Microsoft products are getting an update or new edition around the time of Windows 8’s release. Ballmer even suggested that with the new operating system Microsoft will “re-imagine the world from the ground up” and describes the changes as at the same scale as the original boom in the PC market.

Ballmer also claimed that in five or ten years it will be unfair to simply call Microsoft a software company and that people will think of it more as “a devices-and-services company” or even a “pre-eminent technology company.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Microsoft will be making every possible type of hardware. Instead Ballmer said he wants the company to be a leader in partnering with manufacturers to make devices that have Microsoft software and services built in.

Asked about how the Surface tablets will compete with the iPad, Ballmer said it is competitive in terms of features but won’t reveal pricing other than that the “sweet spot” for PCs is between $300 and $700-800. He does effectively rule out trying to dramatically undercut Apple, saying that the iPad is “not superexpensive” and that most cheaper rivals not only look worse but are less useful.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the interview, though, is when Ballmer addresses Microsoft’s marketing strategy and says that “Just yelling loudly in any business is never going to help.”