Microsoft is now a hardware leader, according to the company's chief financial officer.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference today, CFO Peter Klein characterized Microsoft as a mentor of sorts for the rest of the PC industry.
"There are always things we can do like the Surface that's good for the ecosystem, good for customers," he said, responding to a question about vertical integration.
The "ecosystem" is essentially code for the PC industry, while "vertical integration" implies doing both the software and the hardware -- which Apple has been very successful at.
Klein elaborated a bit on the role of Surface. "There are certainly things we're doing now with Surface which gives us an opportunity to do some things in the tablet market that benefits that whole ecosystem. We've learned a lot from what we've done with Surface and can bring back that learning to the rest of the ecosystem."
And don't think Microsoft is going away. "It will always be a balance," he said about Microsoft's intention to be a hardware player in the long run, adding that "there will always be a strong ecosystem play."
But Microsoft's new status as a mentor to PC makers may not sit well with all such makers. Acer has consistently objected to Microsoft's entry into the market.
"If Microsoft is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?" Acer CEO JT Wang was quoted as saying last year.
And other Acer executives have made similar comments.