Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is gearing up for a battle with Apple that he says will leave no stone unturned. The chief admits that Microsoft and select partners ceded some of the boundary between hardware and software to Apple in previous years but with Surface, that's a thing of the past.

In an interview with CRN, Ballmer highlighted that Microsoft has advantages in productivity, enterprise management and manageability but the company isn't prepared to let things like the consumer cloud and hardware / software innovation go uncontested to Apple. "Not going to happen. Not on our watch," he said.

Ballmer didn't discredit the idea of Microsoft making their own smartphone hardware either. When asked about the subject, he said that right now, they are working extremely hard on the Surface. It's their sole focus and core right now.

"Look, we'll see what happens. We have good partners with Nokia, HTC in the phone space. I love what we've got going on with the Surface. We are going to focus on Surface and our other Windows 8 tablet partners and see if we can go make something happen," Ballmer noted.

Redmond's plan is to sell the Surface through and Microsoft retail stores. Ballmer said there aren't any plans for an industrial distribution to partners, but if a partner wants to order some tablets and use them as part of a solution for their customers, he'd be happy to see that happen.

In a bit of related news, Ballmer told those in attendance at the conference that he believes Microsoft may sell "a few million" tablets over the next year as part of a broader forecast to move 375 million Windows PCs.