In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer danced around the pricing of the company's upcoming Surface tablet, saying that Microsoft will offer a very competitive product from a features standpoint. He also took a shot at the cheaper, smaller tablets like Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, indicating that they're "less good, they're chintzier."
"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," he said.
But that's the thing: the Kindle Fire and similar tablets aren't really made for doing homework. They're good for entertainment and web surfing, for checking email and reading books and doing some lite online shopping. Comparing the 10-inch Surface tablets to these products is like comparing a BMW to a bicycle, yet that doesn't stop Ballmer from poking fun at the 7-inch competitors anyway.
"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," he added.
Still, students can do their homework on 7-inch Android tablets like the Nexus 7. Hook up a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and you have a makeshift netbook. Sure, the screen is rather small, but there are plenty of free tools that students could use to get the job done without having to dump loads of money into Office 2013. Users can write and store documents in the cloud using Google Drive, or use one of the premium productivity suites like QuickOffice or Documents to Go. It can be done, and on the cheap too.
Earlier in the interview, Ballmer called 2012 the most epic year in Microsoft's history. Indeed it may be, as Windows 8 launches a whole new generation for the popular operating system. Microsoft is embracing an era where touch-based mobility has become one of the primary computing platforms, and desktops are becoming less of a focal point. That said, this will be even bigger than Windows 95's debut.
"You know, Windows 95 was certainly the biggest thing in the last 20 years until now," he said. "I think Windows 8 certainly surpasses it. It's a little hard to compare things like the founding (of the company) and the introduction of the first popular PC and the system that popularized it, but it's at that scale."
Ballmer was then asked about what he's going to do if Windows 8 doesn't catch on. He responded by saying the platform will do great, dismissing any doubts. "I'm not paid to have doubts," he mused.
"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," Ballmer added.
To read the full interview, head here.