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Windows 8 Update: Ballmer redefines the PC

Also: Windows 8 for games, final Office will be an upgrade to Windows RT

By , Network World
September 17, 2012 12:19 PM ET

Network World - Just as the world is coming to grips with the post-PC era the CEO of PC software behemoth Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, seems to be trying to prolong the age by redefining the iconic business machine to include tablets.

In a Seattle Times interview with Janet I. Tu, Ballmer says PCs will sell well next year, but he acknowledges that some of what might be called tablets could also be considered PCs.

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This includes Microsoft's own new hardware device Surface for Windows 8, which has all the features of a tablet but also includes a fold-down cover that becomes a keyboard. That hardware arrangement, when coupled with the version of Windows 8 for x86 processors that supports all traditional Windows applications, is a laptop PC.

Another version, called Windows RT, supports only modern applications, the name Microsoft has given to apps designed for touch. Windows RT could legitimately be considered a tablet with a keyboard.

Here's what Ballmer said to Tu:

Q: What is Microsoft's plan if Windows 8 doesn't take off?

A: You know, Windows 8 is going to do great.

Q: No doubt at all?

A: I'm not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don't have any. It's a fantastic product. ...

People talk about: "How healthy is the PC market?" There's going to be close to 400 million PCs sold in the next year, which makes it a big market. And whether it's 405 [million] or 395 [million], it's a big market, and Windows 8 will propel that volume.

It also brings us into this world of much more mobile computing and more mobile form factors. I think it's going to be hard to tell what's a tablet and what is a PC.

Ballmer also flirted with setting a price for Surface, which is widely compared to Apple's iPad, but came up short. From the interview:

Q: The iPad has the largest share of the tablet market, but its soft spot, it seems to me, is the price. With the Surface, are you planning to compete with the iPad on price or on features?

A: We haven't announced pricing. I think we have a very competitive product from the features perspective. ...

I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. ... [When] people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they're chintzier, they're cheaper.

If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle [Kindle Fire, $199] to do their homework? The answer is no; you never would. It's just not a good enough product. It doesn't mean you might not read a book on it. ...

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.

The price is the ballpark range that people pay for an iPad but without a keyboard. It's a different price bracket than that occupied by Amazon's Kindle fire, and the Surface itself has a broader set of capabilities.

Windows 8 for games

Microsoft has teamed up with the cloud-based gaming company Agawi in order to stream games to users of Windows 8 devices, the companies say.

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