Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that the company is working on a version of Office for the iPad and for Android tablets and added, that many more Windows RT tablets are coming in the future.
As part of its 2013 financial analyst meeting Thursday, Microsoft's executives resoonded to questions about Microsoft's Surface strategy essentially served as a prologue to Microsoft's Surface event next week, where the company is expected to launch the next-generation Surface 2, based on an Intel Haswell processor.
Terry Myerson, executive vice president in charge of all of Microsoft's operating systems, said that his job was to exploit commonalities in design, silicon, and interfaces to enable consistent experiences across different platforms.
ARM devices continue to have incredible share in phones, Myerson said, apparent justification to continue building tablets around them.
"Expect to see many more ARM tablets," Myerson said. He added that Windows RT 8.1 supports the next generation of ARM silicon, meaning that the tablet will get performance characteristics.
Speaking about devices in general, Myerson said that he had three key beliefs: one silicon interface for all devices, one API for all devices, and all apps should be available on all devices. Moreover, all devices should be cloud-powered, with core services enabling all devices. And all devices should have the same, tailored experience, Myerson said. A core team will bring those silicon interfaces together, he said. Another team will deliver services, and a satellite team will help out the others.
Asked about how Surface is progressing and the Surface 2,, Julie Larson-Green, who runs Microsoft's Devices and Studios business, said: "What we've learned is that you need to have balance in the market: great hardware, great software, great apps and services to allow you to win."
She added that that the original Xbox had few games. Within Surface, the team is working on all aspects; software, services, and hardware, to improve it holistically, she said.
Speaking about opportunities that exist for Microsoft, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked about porting products to non-Windows platforms. "We don't have our heads in the sand," he said during the meeting.
Windows is the preferred platform for Microsoft applications and remains supremely important, but executives have less "religion" than people think and keep their "eyes wide open" with regards to the opportunities for generating additional revenue by porting products like Office to other platforms, he said.
Ballmer didn't refer specifically to Office for iOS and Android, but it clearly this is what he had in mind.
Qi Lu, the executive in charge of applications and services, also hinted that Microsoft's Office suite of applications would at some point be available on the iPad. He said Microsoft was currently working on "touch first" versions - as opposed to traditional keyboard and mouse versions - of core Office applications such as Outlook, Word and Excel which would at some point feature on devices running Windows, and would be available on other platforms when they were ready and "financially sensible."
Microsoft is in a weak position in the smartphone and tablet OS markets, and Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface tablets haven't fixed that problem. But the company hopes to reverse that with Windows 8.1, due in mid-October, along with the acquisition of the Nokia smartphone business and with an upcoming second generation of the Surface devices.
Ballmer also discussed how Microsoft might generate money in consumer services, and "attacked" Google.
"Google does it," he noted. "They have this incredible, amazing, dare I say monopoly that we are the only person left on the planet trying to compete with." Asked by an analyst how Microsoft can attack Google's dominance in search and advertising, Ballmer explained "we're the only guys in the world trying," with the Bing search engine.
Bing now accounts for 17.9 percent of search share in the US, second only to Google at nearly 67 percent. Ballmer acknowledges it's an uphill struggle. "So if we have exactly the same quality of algorithms, but a lot less scale in search advertising, we will get less revenue per search than Google does, which means they have more money to pay for distribution on Samsung devices, or Apple," says Ballmer. "So we have to generate volume in order to step up."
Ballmer also commented on Google's practices:
"I do believe that Google's practices are worthy of discussion with competition authority, and we have certainly discussed them with competition authorities," said Ballmer. "I don't think their practices are getting less meritorious of discussion."
Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said that Microsoft, starting from its next earnings in October, would start reporting quarterly financial data in five new blocks based around themes rather than products such as Windows or Office. Hood said the new reporting structure - which essentially separates consumer and commercial business, and then divides revenue streams between hardware and software licensing - would begin at its next earnings in October, and was aimed at giving more insight into the company's economic approach.
As an interestig note, Ballmer id his biggest regret is missing the boat on smartphones -- but he said the software giant should not admit defeat just yet.
"I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone," Ballmer said in a conference with analysts.