According to Reuters, the shy and retiring Microsoft CEO said that he was seeing preliminary demand well above where the company was with Windows 7, which was gratifying, however unlikely it may seem on the face of it.
Windows 7 is the best selling version of Windows. Microsoft has sold more than 670 million licences in three years since its release in 2009.
As you might expect, Ballmer did not actually give anyone any sales figures to look at. But commentators noticed that there were moderate lines at Microsoft's 60 or so stores across the United States for the Surface.
This was unexpected as most thought the tablet launch would be low key rather than an Apple style religious frenzy. We're not sure how many of them, if any, were Microsoft employees.
Ballmer was trying to push stage two of his cunning plan which is to put Windows 8 into smartphones.
Ballmer was showing off how the new phones make use of Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service, enabling users to sync and transfer music, documents and photos between PCs, tablets and the Xbox console.
Microsoft claims that it has 120,000 apps in its online store for phones. Ballmer and other Microsoft executives showed off slim and colourful phones from Nokia, Samsung and HTC.