Microsoft: Okay, Maybe We Are Alienating PC Makers With Surface
Since it first debuted its new Surface tablet, Microsoft has insisted that the device will not alienate its longtime PC manufacturing partners. The party line: By developing internally the tablet it evidently didn’t trust its partners to build, Microsoft isn’t stepping between them and their customers, it’s simply providing a reference design meant to guide their development process.
As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told attendees of the company’s recent Worldwide Partner Conference, “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.”
But few are buying that argument. Not even Microsoft itself. On Thursday, the company finally conceded that competing head-on with PC makers in the tablet space might damage its relationships with them.
In the Risk Factors portion of Microsoft’s latest annual report, the company says quite bluntly, “Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform.”
That’s as self-evident a hypothesis as you’ll find. But Microsoft has been dodging it for weeks now, obviously uncomfortable with it. So it’s nice to see the company publicly acknowledging that it is indeed about to compete with its own customers, and that there are risks that go along with that.