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Forget Apple: Ballmer wants to be the new tech kingpin.

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In an open letter penned to shareholders, Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer spoke of the “fundamental shift” the Windows maker is undergoing to become a hardcore device maker, like Apple.

“Last year in this letter I said that over time, the full value of our software will be seen and felt in how people use devices and services at work and in their personal lives,” writes Ballmer.

“This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves – as a devices and services company. “

The “shift” which recently saw the software giant launch a Microsoft branded Surface tablet has changed how the Redmond based giant is run, Ballmer admitted, hinting the major personality transplant the giant has undergone, from a dull but dutiful software maker to an innovative creator of hardware, for office and personal use.

“It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses.”

Ballmer also spoke of the “the roadmap in front of us [that] brings this to life.”

But despite the move into hardware, Ballmer’s letter is also an olive branch to Microsoft hardware partners on board for new cross platform Windows 8 OS due out this month.

“We will continue to work with a vast ecosystem of partners to deliver a broad spectrum of Windows PCs, tablets and phones. Our customers want great choices and we believe there is no way one size suits over 1.3 billion Windows users around the world.”

Microsoft has hooked up with several other hardware names like Asus, Dell, Acer, Nokia and HTC for Windows 8 tablets, PCs and smartphones.

But still, it looks like Microsoft has plenty more self-branded hardware up its sleeve to come:

 

“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 said.

Microsoft’s boss also alluded to “developing new form factors that have increasingly natural ways to use them including touch, gestures and speech.”

And the ultimate goal, Windows 8, is envisaged as a cross platform OS for PC, tabs,smartphone, 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.”

The Microsoft CEO recently had his wages cut from US$1.38m to $1.32m recent company filing shows.

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