Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has discussed Windows 8 a number of times this year, once describing it as "the rebirth of Microsoft Windows," but the outspoken chief of Microsoft has switched gears to talk about the company's upcoming Surface tablet and its future as a devices-and-services company. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Ballmer believes Microsoft has a "very competitive product from the features perspective," with Microsoft Surface, and that "probably $300 to about $700 or $800" is the "sweet spot" for pricing.

That's not to say that the Surface might not debut at a lower price point with a subscription to the company's Xbox Music service, but Microsoft is clearly looking at generating some profit from its tablet venture. When Ballmer first introduced the Surface back in June, he described it to The Verge as a device that will "prime the pump" for the upcoming release of Windows 8. Likewise, in other public speeches he has described Surface as a "design point" that "may sell a few million" after it goes on sale on October 26th.

"You'll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company."

Microsoft's surprising move into PC hardware, with its Surface tablet, has many questioning the future of the company — and whether it is serious about producing devices and hardware to match its software. Ballmer reveals to The Seattle Times that Microsoft might be "a little different" in future. "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." This admission that Microsoft could be device-centric company in around 10 years is a significant one. Microsoft has relied heavily on its partners and OEMs to create hardware to match Microsoft's software, but Ballmer admits that Microsoft doesn't "have to make every device" and that people shouldn't "leap to that conclusion."

Either way, Ballmer's previous threat that Microsoft wouldn't "leave any space uncovered to Apple" seems to be one that may play true in future. With Windows 8 set to arrive on October 26th alongside Microsoft Surface, and then Windows Phone 8 devices in early November — Microsoft faces its biggest challenge to market this new hardware and software to consumers. If the company's Surface ad is anything to go by then it's heading in the right direction from a marketing perspective. Perhaps Microsoft might be able to convince us in the next 10 years that one of its own 80-inch Windows 8-powered "tablets" is the way forward for office PCs — anything is possible.