When Microsoft announced its Windows 8 and Windows RT-powered Surface tablets, it shocked consumers and, perhaps, manufacturers alike. The software company has typically stuck to what it does best: making software and operating systems. However, its hardware partners think it should re-think its strategy to release its own hardware.
“We have said to think it over,” Acer CEO JT Wang told the Financial Times. “Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice.” To Microsoft’s credit, it’s actually unfair to say that Microsoft isn’t “good at” creating its own hardware. We won’t know if that’s the case until the Surface tablets hit the market. But it certainly does make sense that its hardware parters would be upset; Microsoft has worked with them to help launch each of its Windows operating systems in the past. Why alienate them this time around?
Well, Ballmer doesn’t think his company is actually alienating anyone. In fact, he has said that he hopes other companies use the Surface tablets as starting point for creating their own products. The only trouble with that approach, however, is that consumers might view Microsoft’s Surface tablets as the flagship products and everything else as something different or watered-down. Clearly, Microsoft wants to take Apple’s approach by handling the entire ecosystem from the software down to the hardware.
Wang isn’t the only executive worried. “If Microsoft is going to [create] a hardware business, what should we do,” he said. “Should we still try on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?” That’s a risky question, but I don’t think Acer has much of an alternative. Android, currently, doesn’t offer support for more robust x86-based applications. Linux is solid in its own right, but everyday consumers have grown up using Windows.
It’s certainly a tough situation, but I think Microsoft’s partners are going to have to suck it up.