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Ballmer Interview Hints at Surface Tablets from $300 to $800

The prices for the Microsoft Surface devices may range from $300 to $800, according to a big hint from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a newspaper interview.

Asked in a Q&A with the Seattle Times about Surface pricing, Ballmer first replied that Microsoft hasn't announced pricing. But after describing how devices cheaper than the Apple iPad tend toward the chintzy, Ballmer said, "If you look at the bulk of the PC market, it would run between, say, probably $300 to about $700 or $800. That's the sweet spot."

While not a definitive pricing announcement, the CEO's comments published over the weekend shed light on the ballpark Microsoft is looking at for the two Surface devices the company will sell to accompany Windows 8. The Microsoft Surface RT, presumably toward the $300 pricing end, is a consumer-focused device to run Windows RT. That device is expected to ship at the launch of the operating system near the end of October.

The Microsoft Surface Pro, which would probably be in the $700-$800 range of Ballmer's estimate, will run Windows 8 Pro and be available 90 days after general availability of Windows 8.

The Surface is already giving Microsoft's OEM partners something to think about as far as the future of their relationship with Redmond. In the Q&A, Ballmer gave them even more to ponder. Asked where he saw Microsoft in five to 10 years, Ballmer said:

"First of all, I'd say: pre-eminent technology company. I think that in a back-looking view, people would say we were a software company. That's kind of how we were born. I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, (but) you'll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company."

In his next breath, Ballmer cautioned that he didn't mean Microsoft would build every device. "We'll have partners who make devices with our software in it and our services built in," he said.

The full interview is here.

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Posted by Scott Bekker on September 18, 2012