The covers were lifted off the shiny slate weeks ago, but it was dismissed by several hardware vendors, including long-time partner Acer, which said Microsoft should concentrate its efforts on software development.
Ballmer told a 16,000-strong audience at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto that Microsoft needs "leading edge hardware that really shows off Windows 8".
Clearly Microsoft didn't trust the OEM giants to get the most out of the next gen OS and wants to get more hands-on to loosen Apple's stranglehold on the fondleslab sector.
But Ballmer, Microsoft's very own bald eagle, branded Surface as "just a design point".
"It will have a distinct place in what's a broad Windows ecosystem. And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have design and produce Windows computers will not diminish," said Balmer.
He talked of the "mutual goal" with the global PC makers to build Windows PCs, phones, tablets and servers.
This is made all the more pressing when Microsoft considers the encroachment of Google and Apple operating systems, he said.
On Surface, Ballmer said: "We may sell a few million, I don't know how many, of the 375 million, but we need partners to have that diversity of devices".
Maybe Ballmer has learned the lessons of the recent past when he over-hyped the expected adoption of Windows 8.
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