|By Maureen O'Gara||
|October 11, 2012 08:45 AM EDT||
After looking into his crystal ball and seeing nothing all that good in Microsoft's long-term future, CEO Steve Ballmer has signaled in his annual letter to stockholders Tuesday that Microsoft's venture into hardware à la Apple's tight integration is here to stay.
"There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface," he wrote.
The company may, for instance, build its own phone like Google.
"This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves - as a devices and services company," he told shareholders.
He's also counting on online services to brighten Microsoft's bottom line.
Microsoft means to continue to work with its historical partners such as Dell and HP - which, by the way, may not survive much longer. It will go on licensing its widgetry while packaging its software on its own devices.
If Microsoft throttles up the cloud - as it means to do - it could limit its practice of selling installed software. "Helping businesses move to the cloud is one of our largest opportunities," he reckons.
So here's the game plan: "firmly establish one platform, Windows, across the PC, tablet, phone, server and cloud to drive a thriving ecosystem of developers, unify the cross-device user experience, and increase agility when bringing new advancements to market," as well as "develop new form factors that have increasingly natural ways to use them including touch, gestures and speech."
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