Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has confirmed the firm's intentions to develop more hardware in the wake of the imminent release of its Surface tablet, suggesting the firm may develop its own smartphone.
Ballmer told the BBC that far from being a one off, the forthcoming Surface was indicative of how Microsoft would look to set the hardware standards for Windows-based systems.
“Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in,” he said.
The comments are likely to fuel speculation the software giant could be developing its own smartphone. Such moves could be unsettling for Nokia, which has bet its survival on building Windows Phone handsets.
Nokia has been hammered by competition from the iPhone and Android-based handsets. But it has placed all its eggs in Microsoft's basket, by dropping its Symbian platform in favour of Windows Phone.
But Ballmer's bombshell hints that Microsoft may be uneasy about letting the success of its Windows Phone system rest largely with the Finnish phone maker.
Microsoft has previously tested the strength of its relationship with Nokia with its Windows Phone upgrade decision, which effectively meant Nokia's current range, which ran Windows Phone 7, were a technological dead end.
Relations took another blow after rival Samsung became the first handset maker to show off a Windows Phone 8 device.
Microsoft's decision to make its own tablet had already ruffled some partners' feathers. Lenovo's chief executive said Microsoft should have stayed out of the hardware business, while Dell claimed it was more sanguine, seeing the Surface as a one off.
Ballmer's comments come as Microsoft gears up for the launch of its Windows 8 operating system – which when combined with the Windows Phone 8 and Surface released, make for one of the biggest moments in the company's history, he told the BBC.
He also claimed that there was no other tablet on the market like the Surface, combining consumer media tools with business-class apps.
Early reviews of the Surface tablets have been mixed, though, with reviewers praising the hardware and noting some of the benefits of Windows 8, but also criticising the hybrid nature of the platform.
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