News of additional Microsoft hardware arrives just one day prior to the official retail release of Windows 8 on Friday, October 26. Microsoft formally launched the blocky new OS during a special event in New York City on Thursday, but devices and OS upgrades won't go on sale until 12:01 Friday morning.
"Is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in," Ballmer told the BBC.
Microsoft ruffled a few feathers – especially with Acer execs – when it announced plans to produce its own Windows 8 tablets back in June. The company is going after Apple on multiple fronts, providing an Intel-based tablet sporting Windows 8 Pro, and an ARM-based version using Windows RT. Microsoft is reportedly pushing its own hardware to set the standard on what's expected from a Windows 8 device.
"The announcement of Surface was necessary to have a proof of concept and to get people excited about what was coming to push application development and create some buzz out there," Kirk Schell, vice president of Dell's client and consumer product group, recently told the BBC. "They've invested so much in Windows 8 it was important to make it work, so I felt Surface was the logical thing to do."
Ballmer's mention of future hardware seemingly points to rumors about a Surface smartphone. Nokia or Samsung is reportedly the manufacturer behind the upcoming device, the former more likely to be the candidate based on its close relationship with the Redmond company. The Surface phone will supposedly be based on the next build of Windows Phone 8, and hit the streets once the first wave of Windows Phone 8 devices from partner manufacturers wash through the retail channel.
Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe, believes Nokia is already working on the Surface phone. However, the device may not surface on the market if Nokia's current Windows Phone 8 offerings don't take off.
"Microsoft is hedging its bets," he said. "The firm is heavily invested in Nokia succeeding with its Windows Phone handsets but can't allow for its failure to torpedo the platform. At the very least Microsoft will be developing its own handset to go to market in case Nokia and others don't do better."
Microsoft could also be eying the 7-inch tablet market as its next hardware attempt. Google launched its Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet back in July, and was followed by Amazon's Kindle Fire HD devices and the new Nook HD tablets from Barnes & Noble. Apple also revealed its 7.85-inch iPad mini tablet on Monday.