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The Microsoft CEO left the opening keynote spot a year ago, but he reeturned for a cameo to talk about Windows Phone 8.

In addition to running companies, most CEOs have mastered a greater, more common art: giving lengthy interviews wherein they say nothing at all.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is an exception to that, or at least he was in his recent interview with MIT Technology Review. His most interesting view? He doesn’t foresee the Surface taking over the world.

“In an environment in which there’s 350 million PCs sold, I don’t think Surface is going to dominate volume, but it’s a real business,” he said in the interview.

Ballmer’s view, while obvious to anyone who’s ever used the Surface (or pays attention to PC sales numbers), is a refreshingly realistic take on the situation that the Surface finds itself in. While shrinking, the PC market is huge, and the Surface is just a tiny part of it. Ballmer is really just trying to temper expectations.

But the mission behind the Surface is greater than just raking in cash for Microsoft. From the beginning, the device was meant to serve as an example for Microsoft’s hardware partners, who have had a mixed track record with the transition to Windows 8.

Essentially, the Surface is central to Microsoft’s position at the center of the Windows PC market — regardless of how well the device itself sells.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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