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Microsoft CEO Ballmer talks Windows 8, Surface tablet & "fundamental shift"

With the Windows 8 launch on the horizon, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has outlined a future in which the company will dabble in software and hardware "to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones."

In a letter to shareholders, Ballmer was quick to point out that the Redmond-based firm will not abandon its partners, many of whom were reportedly irked by Microsoft's decision to develop its own Surface tablet.

"We will continue to work with a vast ecosystem of partners to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones," he wrote. "We do this because our customers want great choices and we believe there is no way one size suits over 1.3 billion Windows users around the world."

There have been a variety of reports about Microsoft branching out into the hardware arena - from the confirmed Surface tablet to rumours about its own Microsoft-branded Windows Phone 8 device. Ballmer did not talk about specific, upcoming products in his letter, but admitted that "there will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface."

"It's important to recognize a fundamental shift underway in our business and the areas of technology that we believe will drive the greatest opportunity in the future," he wrote.

Ultimately, Microsoft wants to deliver products that offer a seamless experience, Ballmer continued: "So right out of the box, a customer will get a stunning device that is connected to unique communications, productivity and entertainment services from Microsoft as well as access to great services, and applications from our partners and developers around the world."

Naturally, Ballmer talked up Windows 8 as a way to achieve this goal. "Windows 8 unites the light, thin, and fun aspects of a tablet with the power of a PC," he added.

The new operating system will help Microsoft with one of its goals, Ballmer concluded - to firmly establish a single platform, Windows, across the PC, tablet, phone, server, and cloud.