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(Pocket-lint) - Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, has outlined in an open letter to the company's shareholders that it sees itself as a devices and services company now rather than just a software provider.

"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. This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves - as a devices and services company," said Ballmer.

"It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses. The work we have accomplished in the past year and the roadmap in front of us brings this to life." s

Microsoft has slowly moved more and more into hardware, following Apple's lead in creating and controlling the entire process from the inception of a product to it being in your hands as you walk out of the store.

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Following the success of the Xbox 360, and the company's mice and keyboard divisions, Microsoft will soon start selling the Microsoft Surface tablet - a product it has created to go up against its own partners such as HP, Dell, Asus, Samsung.

The news is sure to continue to stoke the rumour fires that the company is developing its own Windows Phone to go up against the Nokia Lumia range and HTC 8X and 8S handsets.

Hoping to quell those fears that companies like HTC or Lenovo might have, Ballmer seems keen to emphasise that it will be business as usual, in the letter:

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

But he added: "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. In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services. This means as we, with our partners, develop new Windows devices we'll build in services people want.

"Further, as we develop and update our consumer services, we'll do so in ways that take full advantage of hardware advances, that complement one another and that unify all the devices people use daily.

"So, right out of the box, a customer will get a stunning device that is connected to unique communications, productivity and entertainment services from Microsoft as well as access to great services and applications from our partners and developers around the world."

Looking towards the future Ballmer said that Microsoft was "developing new form factors that have increasingly natural ways to use them including touch, gestures and speech" and that: "Microsoft is working to 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."

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Writing by Stuart Miles.