Thursday, June 21, 2012

Microsoft Enters Tablet Market

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced its entry into the tablet marketplace with the Surface.  Microsoft will manufacture the tablet, which will come with a built-in kickstand and a magnetic cover that doubles as a keyboard, and will run a version of Windows 8 designed for use on tablets.  Microsoft's Windows president, Steve Sinofsky,called it "a tablet that's a great PC; a PC that's a great tablet." 

  Microsoft announced two versions, the Surface and the Pro Surface, both with 10.6" display.  The displays use a 16-9 format, so will be longer and narrower than its competitors.  Other than vague mentions of processor family, the announcement was weak on technical details.  The lack of technical specs contributed to Information Week's Fritz Nelson's initial thoughts on the device: "long on hype, short on details, but plenty of promise."
  Others were not as kind - ZDNet called it a "microflop"; CNet wondered why no apps (or app support) were announced;  Market analysts indicated that they felt that the announced tablet would not be competitive with Apple's iPad, and might capture 10% of the market, at most.
  Nelson also wondered why Microsoft was entering an already crowded market, particularly as it makes the company competitors in one market of what he termed "Microsoft's fragile ecosystem of partners." A report in the San Jose Mercury News said that Microsoft had not involved, or even informed, many of its partners in the development of the Surface, and that had resulted in a "sense of betrayal" in the industry.
  Whether the benefits from greater vertical integration of hardware and software operations will ultimately outweigh the potential harm to its partner relationships can't be known at this time.  But launching a product that doesn't seem to be particularly innovative (except for the cover/keyboard) and doesn't seem to be competitive either technically or in terms of functionality isn't likely to help Microsoft's image.

Sources - Microsoft Tablet Surfaces A New StrategyInformation Week
Microflops: Microsoft Surface RT and 8 tablets, ZDNet
Microsoft kept Surface tablet a secret from hardware partners, sources saySan Jose Mercury News

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