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Ballmer flashes his Surface tablet in an effort to woo Windows 8 app developers

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Ballmer (Microsoft Bizspark
Ballmer (Microsoft Bizspark

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is a busy man this month and next. After helping to unveil Nokia and HTC Windows Phone 8 devices, he's back on the road again visiting Silicon Valley-based tech startup accelerator RocketSpace. In a rare private event, Ballmer and Windows CFO Tami Reller discussed the Windows 8 developer opportunity and a variety of hardware options for end users. Wired reports that Ballmer briefly demonstrated a Surface RT tablet, highlighting the Touch Cover — which he threw to a developer in the crowd — and kickstand options.

You can look, but you still can't touch the Surface

Talking to a person present at the event, we understand the Surface RT was Ballmer's personal device and was quickly ushered into a bag at the conclusion of his talk — not available for attendees to get a look and feel. RocketSpace founder and CEO Duncan Logan questioned Ballmer about Surface pricing, but much like earlier this month he remained tight lipped. "We’ll release pricing before we ship. We’ve been clear that’s in the not too distant future, but not today," he said. Ballmer revealed earlier this month that "probably $300 to about $700 or $800" is the "sweet spot" for pricing. Microsoft is understood to be planning a midnight launch event for Surface on the evening of October 25th.

Ballmer's appearance wasn't all about Surface though, his main priority is generating developer interest in Windows 8. Microsoft's next operating system will be available on new PCs and tablets in exactly a months time, but there's questions over the amount of apps available. Wes Miller, VP of research at Directions on Microsoft, has been tracking the amount of apps in the Windows Store and revealed last week that it broke the 2,000 app mark. With just a month to go, there's a few big names being highlighted by Windows 8 app tracker McAkins — eBay, Kindle, Wikipedia, and USA Today, but the Store is off to a slow start.

Microsoft needs Windows 8 app developers

"There will be customers coming and looking for apps," said Ballmer, pointing to the opportunity of over 250 million Windows PCs to be sold in the next year. "It’s going to create a heck of a lot of opportunity for folks in this room to make millions," he said to audience members at RocketSpace. There's no doubt that Windows 8 is a huge opportunity for developers, but many had assumed Microsoft's careful approach during the beta phase would open up a flurry of app submissions in the lead up to launch. This hasn't materialzed yet, but it's still early days for a new platform. Apps will be available exclusively from the Windows Store for the Surface RT, so Microsoft will be hoping that its app situation improves if it's counting on that particular device to kick start Windows tablet sales.