Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces plans about Xbox at CES 2010. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired
"Steve Ballmer has an 80-inch Windows 8 tablet in his office. He's got rid of his phone, he's got rid of his note paper. It's touch-enabled and it's hung on his wall."
This description of the Microsoft CEO's workspace, given to Wired.co.uk in Redmond this morning, came from Microsoft VP Frank Shaw. But while it conjures an amusing image of Ballmer using his mighty palms to bat at a Windows Phone-like Metro interface, it's a scenario Shaw said is eventually going to be available to the public.
"It's his whiteboard, his email machine," Shaw said, "and it's a device we're going to sell."
This isn't the 80-inch Microsoft-powered Sharp Aquos Board touchscreen unveiled earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, however. Shaw explained that the model Ballmer is using and that Microsoft will promote is made by "a different company, but it's running Windows 8″.
Microsoft has sizable plans for Windows 8, quite literally - the forthcoming operating system is designed to run on small tablets as well as PCs and laptops, and can be used with low-power ARM-based CPUs similar to those used in smartphones, as well as conventional processors made by Intel and AMD for desktop computers. The 80-inch wall-hung tablet is just another screen size supported by the OS.
Shaw stated that, perhaps like Microsoft's Surface, it isn't intended to be bought by consumers - at least not at launch. "It's not a consumer thing now, but we know historically that that's how all things start," he said. "The idea that there should be a screen that's not a computer, we'll laugh at that in two years.
"Every screen should be touch, every screen should be a computer and should be able to see out as well as see in. That is the way the world is heading [and] those screens are going to be big, small, wall-sized and desk-sized."
Windows 8 will see a consumer release preview in June, with an expected public launch later this year. No date or launch window has been set for the 80-inch tablet, or indeed confirmation that an 80-inch tablet is in fact still a tablet at all.