I think we were all pretty impressed by Microsoft’s reveal of Surface on Monday. It’s the first time in years that the company actually surprised us since they rarely make hardware. There were, however, some people who weren’t impressed with the news. Besides the Apple zealots who think Steve Jobs invented the tablet, Microsoft’s own hardware partners were none too pleased about the tablet.
Reuters is reporting that Microsoft kept the Surface a secret from their hardware manufacturer partners. The same partners who will be launching their own Windows 8 tablets against the Surface later this year. It makes sense from a hardware competition perspective, but Microsoft has relied on these partners for years to build components that are Windows friendly. You would think that they would at least inform their partners about any new hardware announcements.
It seems that Microsoft did inform hardware manufacturers, but only in the most ambiguous way. It seems that Windows chief Steven Sinofsky called the various companies on Friday, but only said that they were making a tablet. That call seems to have only gone out to the bigger hardware giants with companies like Acer and Asustek first hearing it about with the rest of us on Monday.
Surface seems to be the catalyst for a fallout between hardware manufacturers and Microsoft. Sources have told Reuters that many manufacturers will now be less than willing to work with Microsoft. You probably won’t see a massive influx of Acer PCs running Linux anytime soon, but you will see some moves to undercut Surface. It may come in the form of being first to market, or a lower price to hurt Surface sales.
The tactics that may be employed are just the result of competition. Microsoft should have known before they introduced Surface that they would be directly competing with their hardware partners. It gives them an unfair advantage as they know the Windows 8 architecture inside and out and know how to best use hardware to take advantage of it.
For their part, major hardware manufacturers have told Reuters that they remain committed to Windows and Microsoft as a partner. That could be more of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of thing though as there’s not really much option out there for operating systems. People still demand Windows PCs and companies like Acer help drive the price down across the board.
In short, I don’t think we have to worry about any major contention between Microsoft and hardware manufacturers at this moment in time. For all we know, Surface could be a bust and Microsoft just goes back to software. If Surface is a success, however, would that move Microsoft to making their own laptops and desktops as well? We’ll never know until it happens.