Microsoft Surface

Dan Frommer:

Sure, Microsoft may now alienate some of its Windows partners by competing with them. But as those partners have gone into the mobile industry, they’ve already strayed from Windows to Android, anyway. […] Plus, competition or not, as long as Dell wants to make PCs, it’s not like it has any real OS alternatives to Windows.

Microsoft is embarking on a slippery-sloped journey. Building its own hardware is the right way to build a great experience for the customer, but hardware partners like Dell might not be happy. Unfortunately for Dell et al. Frommer is right: Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc. have no real alternatives to Windows 8. There is that small possibility of large hardware companies without in-house operating systems embracing Linux, but that’s microscopic.

Who really cares about the happiness of large bureaucratic hardware companies? What really matters is whether or not the customer is happy. And it is only when the customer is happy that companies get to make money. Kudos to Microsoft for having the balls to attempt at making customers happy.

The Surface hardware as depicted by the video looks tempting. VaporMG casing? Sounds fancy. Unfortunately the 10.6-inch ClearType HD Display sounds like it will be limited to 1366×768 on the Windows RT version, but fortunately the Windows 8 Pro version will sport 1920×1080. Sure hope they’re IPS.

Update 2012.06.22: Oliver Ahrens, Acer’s senior VP and president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa:

I don’t think it will be successful because you cannot be a hardware player with two products.

Microsoft wants to be a total experience player in the tablet market. And who says you can’t be successful with two tablet products? It just so happens Apple is widely successful and has exactly two tablet products: the iPad 2 and the new iPad (3). But just because Apple has been successful doesn’t mean Microsoft will be, but it also does not mean more than two tablets are required to be successful.

Will Microsoft succeed? From what I’ve seen with Windows Phone I have my doubts. Despite the remarkable effort that has gone into the Nokia Lumia 800 and 900 Windows Phone smartphones, arguably the best Windows Phone smartphones on the market today, success has been elusive. Even if the experience of using Surface and Windows 8 is superb success is far from guaranteed for Microsoft.

Update 2012.06.24: I was just thinking, “Microsoft, a predominantly software company, has developed hardware that seems to be significantly better than those from Motorola or Samsung, who are predominantly hardware companies.”

Update 2012.07.03: via Business Insider. Bill Gates on why Microsoft had to punch its PC partners in the balls:

I actually believe you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a rich eco-system of manufacturers and you can have a few signature devices that show off, wow, what’s the difference between a tablet and a PC? […] You can get everything you like about a tablet, everything you like about a PC, all in one device. That should change the way people look at things.

Everything?

Update 2012.07.10: Steve Ballmer:

But Surface is just a design point. It will have a distinct place in what’s a broad Windows ecosystem. And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have that design and produce Windows computers will not diminish. We have a mutual goal with our OEM partners to bring a diversity of solutions, Windows PCs, phones, tablets, servers, to market. And what we seek to have is a spectrum of stunning devices, stunning Windows devices. So, every consumer, every business customer can say, “I have the perfect PC for me.”

And we’re excited about the work from our OEMs. We may sell a few million, I don’t know how many, of the 375 million, but we need partners to have that diversity of devices.

Yes Surface is a reference design, but an intriguing one that competes head on with Microsoft’s OEM partners. Ballmer expects to sell a few million Surface tablets in the next twelve months. Any doubt Microsoft is in the tablet hardware business should be put to rest.