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Microsoft: Surface to help hardware partners succeed in Windos 8 ecosystem

Microsoft's work on the Surface tablet will benefit - not alienate - its hardware partners, according to Peter S. Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer.

"As technology evolves ... the ability to work closely between the boundaries between hardware and software allows us to innovate in ways in which we couldn't before," Klein said yesterday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet ConferenceMic. "That benefits the whole ecosystem."

Klein acknowledged that Microsoft's shift into the hardware space is "a balancing act," but he insisted that there is "amazing" work being done with Windows 8 from all corners of the tech space. Ultimately, partners like Dell, Lenovo, HP, and more will benefit from Microsoft's work, Klein said.

That includes breaking into new form factors, like the 7in tablet space. When asked what Microsoft has to do to compete with the likes of the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7, and iPad mini, Klein said Windows 8 was built to be flexible and scalable.

"I think we're really set up to deliver the most versatile set of experiences across form factors," Klein said.

He didn't mention exact devices that might be in the pipeline, arguing that Microsoft and its partners will release new Windows 8 gadgets "based on underlying demand."

"What the ultimate form factors will be is uncertain, but we're set up to respond to demand," Klein said.

Klein said Microsoft is "encouraged" by early uptake of Windows 8. He stressed that the OS was a "fundamental reimagining" of Windows, perhaps slowing down initial adoption. But going forward, consumers should expect lower-priced tablets, touch-based ultrabooks based on Clovertrail and other architectures.

Microsoft will "bring compelling devices [and] touch experiences at all the right price points," he said. "I think if we do that well," it will help the PC market.

The company has struggled to break the stranglehold that Android and iOS have on the mobile market. Stats from Gartner put Microsoft at 3 per cent of the global mobile OS market, though that was up from 1.8 per cent a year earlier.

Klein said today that Microsoft is "obviously very focused" on mobile, but is "pleased with the progress that we've made with Windows Phone 8," particularly during the holidays.

The similarities between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, however, can help the mobile OS, Klein said, as Microsoft moves toward a more Apple-like ecosystem of tying all its product segments together.

Another Apple-esque approach Microsoft has adopted is with its retail stores, something Klein said has helped a great deal in selling the Surface tablet.

"People really need to touch and see and play with it," Klein said of the Surface. As a result, Microsoft is offering the Surface at more retailers with the Surface Pro launch.