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Ballmer claims Win 8 sales strong, WinPhone to follow

'If you want one, you'll want the other'

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Build 2012 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off his company's annual Build developer conference on Tuesday by highlighting the new features of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, arguing that they represented an unprecedented opportunity for developers.

"Certainly I'm enthused – as enthused as perhaps any moment in our company's history – for what the reimagination of Windows and our step into the mobile world means for our company," Ballmer said during his keynote address. "I guarantee you that this is the best opportunity that software developers will see."

According to Ballmer, in the three days since the formal launch of Windows 8 and Surface on Friday, Microsoft has sold four million Windows 8 upgrades. In addition, he said, Redmond has already sold "tens of millions" of units to its corporate customers, though he admitted that most would probably take their time in applying the upgrades.

But even those figures were just drops in the bucket compared to the full opportunity for Windows 8 developers worldwide, Ballmer said.

"We have an installed base of 670 million machines on Windows 7," he enthused. "Windows 8 takes less resources than Windows 7. Every one of those 670 million machines is a potential Windows 8 upgrade."

And then there's the issue of new PC sales. Ballmer said he expected the new generation of devices designed for Windows 8 – including tablets, touchscreen laptops, and convertibles – would drive a new wave of PC purchasing. But even if the PC market remains flat, he said, there will still be 400 million new Windows 8 devices sold in the coming year, creating a massive potential market for Windows 8 apps.

Sweetening the pot even further, Ballmer said, is Windows Phone 8, which Microsoft launched on Monday and which Ballmer said made the phone "a first-class member of the Windows family" for the first time in the company's history.

Ballmer explained that Redmond has taken great pains to make it easy to reuse code from Windows 8 apps in apps for Windows Phone. But more importantly, he said, WP8 wouldn't be a repeat performance of earlier versions of Microsoft's smartphone OS, which have disappointed with poor uptake among consumers.

The trick, he said, was in the tight integration between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, which allows users to build a highly personalized experience across both classes of devices, linked by their Microsoft Accounts and Redmond's cloudy SkyDrive storage service.

"Windows Phone today is a small-volume player," the Microsoft CEO admitted. "But we have the most differentiated approach to the market. We have absolutely killer hardware. There's just going to be a lot of those hundreds of millions of Windows users who really want a Windows Phone."

And if they don't, Microsoft plans to twist their arms. Ballmer confirmed that we can expect the advertising onslaught for Microsoft's new product line-up to be nothing short of relentless.

"We will do more marketing and better marketing for Windows 8 systems, for Windows Phones, and for Surfaces. You will see our best work, and you will not be able to pick up a magazine, go to the internet, or turn on a television set without seeing one of our ads, really quite frequently," he said.

Whether Ballmer's predictions for uptake of Microsoft's new platforms prove accurate, of course, remains to be seen. But we know, at least, that the more than 2,000 attendees of this year's Build conference are on board. For taking the trouble to journey to Redmond and spend hours queuing in line in the near-constant light Autumn drizzle, every Build attendee will go home with both a 32GB Surface tablet running Windows RT and a Nokia Lumia 920 handset running Windows Phone 8. ®

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