Speaking at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Canada this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed his expectations for the company's new Surface tablet. Describing the Windows 8-powered Surface as "just a design point," Ballmer believes Microsoft "may sell a few million" of its tablets over the next 12 months as part of a forecast for 375 million Windows PC shipments. Stressing the "importance" of Microsoft's OEM partners, Ballmer says the company is "excited about the work" hardware manufacturers are doing for Windows 8. "We need partners to have that diversity of devices," said Ballmer, pointing out that he's unsure exactly how many Surface tablets will be sold.

Hardware manufacturers appear to be readying mainly Intel-based Windows 8 tablets for the operating system's launch in late October. Microsoft is also supporting ARM-based chipsets with Windows 8, but so far only Asus and Microsoft have unveiled Windows RT devices — with rumors that Dell and Samsung will also ship ones later this year. The software giant revealed this week that Windows 8 is "on track" for Release to Manufacturing (RTM) in the first week of August, with a public release due in late October.