Nerval's Lobster writes "According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's latest shareholder letter (not exactly a gripping read), Microsoft sees itself as a 'devices and services company.' The subsequent 1,200-odd words hammer that point, mentioning software such as Office and Windows 8 largely in the context of tablets and other hardware — and while Ballmer acknowledges the 'vast ecosystem of partners' building a 'broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones,' he leaves the door wide open to Microsoft building its own toys in-house. If one takes Ballmer's words at face value, it seems that Surface, the tablet Microsoft's building in-house and promoting as a 'flagship' Windows 8 device, isn't so much a lark but the harbinger of the company's future direction. Whether Microsoft's decision to build its own devices affects its long-term relationship with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other manufacturing titans remains to be seen. Perhaps Ballmer can take some comfort from Apple, which profited enormously by pursuing the 'we build everything in-house' route. But it's indisputable that a devices-centric approach is new ground for Microsoft."