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Ballmer hints Surface will cost between £200 and £500

Steve Ballmer has hinted at a price for the Surface tablet in an interview and pointed to the future of Microsoft.

Microsoft's shy and retiring head honcho has hinted at a price for the company's forthcoming Surface tablet.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Ballmer describes the "sweet spot" for Surface as between "$300 to about $700 or $800". Tap that into a currency converter and you've got somewhere between £185 and £493, before you slap VAT on top. That's not a million miles from what we heard previously about the tablet matching the Nexus 7's $199 (£160) price tag.

Acer is certainly hoping Microsoft doesn't come in with a low price. Its chairman JT Wang previously told The Financial Times he'd warned the company about launching the device in the first place. "It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction," he said.

And another Acer VP said Microsoft would fail in its fight with Apple. Bitter at all?

But according to Ballmer, Microsoft won't shy away from launching more hardware in future.

"I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, [but] you'll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company," he said in the interview. He admitted the company would be "a little different" in future, but that it doesn't "have to make every device" and that no one should "leap to that conclusion".

Still, moving more into hardware is a big shift for Microsoft. It surprised everyone with its Surface tablet, and has annoyed quite a few of its partners by effectively becoming a competitor. Worse, it did so after having a gander at what they had to offer. Sneaky.

All will become clear on 26 October, when Windows 8 launches, and the Surface goes on sale. How much would you pay for the Surface? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.