One needs to scratch under the surface of Microsoft’s launch of the Surface tablet – The Notebook Company

Microsoft’s announcement that it is to launch its Surface tablet shows the extent of the behemoth’s concerns as it struggles to get back to the top of the totem pole

June 25, 2012

Microsoft’s announcement that it is to launch its Surface tablet shows the extent of the behemoth’s concerns as it struggles to get back to the top of the totem pole that was arguably usurped by the likes of Google and Apple.

The company’s decision to launch its own tablet – the Surface – and to effectively compete against hardware companies it has worked with on a partnership basis for 30 years, opens “a veritable Pandora’s box of potential reactions”, said Christopher Riley, MD of Laptop and accessories retailer, The Notebook Company – which manages the Laptop.co.za and Notebook.co.za online retail sites.

“One gets the feeling that Microsoft has its back to the wall. Taking over the hardware development itself is contrary to its traditional, long-standing modus operandi and is going to step on the toes of its hardware partners – who now effectively become competitors. Whether or not the Microsoft Surface tablet – as a very late entrant into the market – can make any useful inroads against Apple and its iPad dominance is a moot point – as is the side-affects of such a course of action decided upon by Microsoft. It could have the affect of creating a massive financial backlash as hardware companies eschew Microsoft for other operating systems. This might seem highly unlikely – certainly en masse – but there might well be repercussions. Microsoft is playing in a field it never played in before. Alliances are being upset –all the playing cards are being upset.”

It must also be remembered, said Riley, that apart from the successful – but still unprofitable – Xbox games console, Microsoft has not delivered much success when it comes to making hardware, especially if one considers its earlier ventures into the tablet market. The first was in 2001 when it entered the market – too soon – with its own tablet PC and then, again, with its attempt to launch the Courier two years ago. At the end of the day, the Courier was never launched.

“But Microsoft has naturally recognized the massive importance of the tablet market and its decision to move into this burgeoning market with a vengeance does not go unnoticed. The company arguably had no choice. But market watchers will be wondering which way this will play out – will it result in Microsoft wrestling part of the tablet market away from Apple’s dominance – at the same time creating more momentum for its Windows 8 strategy – or will it result in an overall backlash from the market as Microsoft muscles its way in to restore its earlier market dominance.”

Commenting further, Riley said it must be recognized that launching a tablet is critical to its new Windows 8 strategy because, for the first time, Microsoft has made an operating system designed for both the desktop – running Intel-specified processors – and their new tablets (which will use a different processor design called ARM).

Microsoft detractors may caution against this latest step, but they need to be aware that Microsoft still has serious firepower – and is still the largest software developer in the world. This latest move might just end up reaping huge rewards for the company in the greater scheme of things. But my suspicion is that it will be to the contrary.”