This week’s unveiling of Microsoft’s Surface tablet, whilst not earth-shattering, still had the strength to rattle the laptops in YUDU’s office. This is a big strategic move for Microsoft Corp, who are not only staking a claim to the fast-growing tablet market but, by releasing an own-brand piece of hardware they are suddenly creating new commercial tension with their partners such as Asus, Acer, Samsung et al.
It’s a gamble, not least because Microsoft provide the software for many rivals’ devices. How they are going to feel about Microsoft unveiling a tablet device of their own is open to conjecture but the feelings probably range from ‘concerned’ to ‘very concerned’. Throw in a little ‘annoyance’ and you’ve probably nailed it.
Microsoft’s game-play is in line with Apple’s strategy and Google’s strategic acquisition of Motorola where hardware and software are blended seamlessly. It goes further: think Google and you have Android, Motorola and YouTube; think Apple and you have IOS, iPad and iTunes; and now Microsoft with Windows 8, Surface tablet and MSN. Three digital giants vying for market share and your loyalty to their ecosystem.
Is there room for all three? Yes, if the hardware, software and content are integrated successfully and the user experience is state-of-the-art. Apple lead the way with usability and they are unquestionably the benchmark. They also have no one to answer to but themselves, making them nimble footed and hugely innovative.
By contrast, Microsoft have the tricky business of keeping their partners sweet on the software side but tackling them head-on within the hardware side. Google have so far managed this trick but in their case partners such as Samsung comfortably out-sell Google’s own Motorola devices. Microsoft on the other hand is first to market with a Windows 8 tablet, making the conflict of interest more acute.
The new Microsoft tablets will come in two flavours. One runs on ARM chips, like the majority of existing mobile devices, and will be a cheaper and more lightweight machine. It will be thinner than the iPad, though heavier. The other uses an Intel chip and will be a more heavy-duty productivity machine, competing not just with the iPad but with ultrabooks as well. Both versions will aim for the higher end of the tablet market, but with the potential cross-over from Windows 8 desktop users and the solid productivity support, they are likely to prove a strong contender for the corporate sector in particular.
Joshua Topolsky, Editor of technology website the Verge has written, “I do not think the Surface can be written off”. Neither can we – on the contrary – we have publishing solutions for Microsoft 8 and RT ready to go.