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Microsoft Exec: We Made a Mistake Giving OEMs Free Reign Over Hardware

by Adriana Lee | March 7, 2013March 7, 2013 6:00 pm PDT


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One of the biggest reasons some customers choose a PC over a Mac is the cost. And the reason that, spec for spec, Windows machines are often much cheaper than an OS X-powered computer is because there is a diversity of OEMs designing and manufacturing a range of hardware at various price points. If competition drives down the price, then it’s no surprise that Apple, which keeps an iron grip on its Macs, would charge more. The company has drawn plenty of heat over its premium pricing, but users argue that the premium experience is worth it.

Well, Mac fans just got a little validation: A Microsoft exec has stepped forward, criticizing Microsoft’s free-wheeling, hands-off approach. Chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie said it was a mistake for the company to leave OEMs to their own devices. The quality varied so greatly, it wound up sacrificing any hope of a consistent Windows experience.

Mundie, speaking at the company’s TechForum this week, had this to say:

I think one of the things evolved over a long time in the PC business was we stopped some years back really trying to actively curate what the devices looked like…[and] it became hard to guarantee a uniform quality of experience that the end user had. it turned out that we took the flak for the fact we had this highly variable experience.

The situation didn’t get any better on the mobile side either. The exec, pointing out Microsoft’s first-generation touchscreen phones, said, “If you were in front of a bad one then people said that was a piece of crap; it didn’t work a damn.” And that’s why the company designed and produced the Surface itself — it simply doesn’t want to make the same mistake again. While this hasn’t exactly translated into dollar signs just yet — in fact, tablet sales have been limping along so far — but Mundie still thinks it was the right call. 

“One of the big challenges that the company faced in the last couple of years was just the question of, would there be a very high quality physical device that would go up against Apple?” he says. “We set out to prove with Surface that you can do that. I think that certainly people have acknowledged that.”

Did the company do the right thing? And what would you think if Microsoft adopted a hands-on approach for all of its devices? If it came down to it, would you be willing to sacrifice affordability for the sake of stability? Weigh in.

The Verge

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...