If you were under the impression that Microsoft’s experiment with developing in-house hardware (Surface) was a one-off thing, think again. During an interview with BBC News, Steve Ballmer said Microsoft would build more hardware whenever they see an important opportunity to set a new standard.

The mention of additional hardware comes just as Microsoft is officially unveiling their Windows 8-based Surface tablet at a media event in New York. Enthusiasts will be watching with a keen eye but so too will some of Microsoft’s closest partners.

When Redmond unveiled the Surface tablet in June, several journalists wondered out loud how it might affect relationships with hardware partners. Acer CEO JT Wang was one of the first to voice an opinion, suggesting that Microsoft should “think twice” about moving into the hardware market. He pointed out that if Microsoft was going to enter the hardware business, Acer may have to look elsewhere for a software partner.

Others, however, like Lenovo chief Yang Yuanqing didn’t seem as concerned. During a quarterly earnings call, he told investors that Lenovo wasn’t worried about Surface and that Microsoft was still a strategy partner. His company feels very optimistic about Windows 8 and will fully use it as leverage for new products moving forward.

Of course, one can’t forget Microsoft’s partnership with Finnish handset maker Nokia. A lot is riding on the success of Lumia-based Windows Phone 8 handsets over the coming months. Should that partnership falter, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to believe Microsoft might come up with their own smartphone.

“We have committed ourselves on a path where we will do whatever is required from both a hardware and a software perspective -- and the cloud innovation perspective -- in order to propel the kind of vision that [Microsoft] has” Ballmer said.