Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro tablets. A big kick in the arse to Wintel hardware partners

After almost two years of Windows Phone failures, it seems that Microsoft had it enough relying on the hardware partners to break in to the new post PC device markets. So it decided to make the whole thing itself and created Surface – Windows 8 based 10.6” tablet.

Actually two of them. One running Windows RT on an ARM CPU and one with Windows 8 Pro – on Intel CPU. We do not know the exact device specs and prices yet – they are months away from shipping. But what we’ve seen so far looks pretty impressive:

Microsoft Surface comes with:

Win RT Windows 8 Pro
Display: 10.6” ClearType HD 10.6” Clear Type Full HD
Connectivity USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Storage microSD, internal: 32 GB, 64 GB microSDXC, 64 GB, 128 GB
Battery 31.5 Wh 42Wh
Thinkness: 9.3mm 13.5mm
Weight 676g 903g


Both tablets will have a set of interesting accessories/extensions – a built-in kickstand, a cover that doubles back as a multi-touch keyboard and/or the cover with an actual tactile keyboard on the other side, and a stylus. They will also have full Microsoft Office versions, and the Intel one can act as a full laptop replacement, running all traditional Windows applications.

The devices themselves look very interesting, but even more interesting question is – why?

Why did Microsoft decide to get into the hardware business, thus royally screwing all the Wintel hardware partners, who are working on Windows 8 tablets themselves?

My guess is – it all comes down to Windows Phone. As Microsoft sees it – the big part of their failures in the smartphone market over the last 18 months – was the fault of its vendor partners. None of the partners who released the first generation of Windows Phones, made Microsoft OS a priority. So WP smartphones got second-hand hardware from earlier Android releases. Partners also took Microsoft marketing money, and added little of their own for the introduction push, preferring already proven Android 2.x. And Google got another year of explosive growth to establish almost unassailable lead for its mobile platform.

Microsoft simply can not risk the repeat of the smartphone story in tablets. And guess what? Most of the biggest Microsoft PC hardware partners – Acer, Asus, Samsung, Dell – they are all already making Android tablets. What if Google nails it with Android Jelly Bean? What if the sales of Android tablets actually start to take off and Microsoft partners start pushing Google’s tablets before Microsoft’s?

And there is another dimension to Microsoft’s decision to get into the tablet hardware biz. Apple’s iPad. To succeed where everyone else failed so far – you have to offer something that is in some tangible way better than iPad. And hardware is a big part of it. Microsoft (most likely) has seen every single partner produced Windows tablet device in the pipeline. And it is not happy about them. Thus the kickstand, emphasis on design, new materials and all those cool accessories that make the Surface into the first true laptop replacement in tablet form factor.

It’s a bold statement and a hard kick in the arse to all Wintel partners by Microsoft:

Get off your butts, the world has changed and you are not in the beige box commodity business anymore. You are in hardware business – so start innovating in hardware and making great stuff. And if you won’t – we are gonna do it all ourselves, leaving you to fight it all out in shrinking PC market, and screwing you along the way. ”

It’s kinda the first Google Nexus on steroids. The main difference being – there’s no carriers to screw it up, and, through the Xbox franchise, Microsoft has a big part of infrastructure to pull it off.

Let’s see what happens next.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Moonflower

    At last…. hope it has 3G or 4G.

  • Anonymous

    Hardware for Windows 8 shown at Computex was very promising…

  • Staska

    Well, Asus Taichi was interesting idea. As the end consumer product neither it nor anything else W8 at Computex come even close to what I saw of Surface

  • Anonymous

    Surface definitely have some very unique and new features but it all depends on pricing. If Microsoft price Surface at a premium of 200$ or 100$ above the new iPad I don’t think then it would be selling very well.

  • Staska

    Well, Win 8 Pro Surface with Type Cover – is more in competition with ultrabooks. So the benchmark here is Macbook Air 11″.

    For WinRT Surface – yep. Sans accessories it has to be priced below new iPad most definitely.

    But I think that by know MSFT understands it. And it can sell it at cost or even at a loss for a while. Unless Ballmer’s ego gets in a way

    We’ll see

  • Eli Estefan

    How can Wintel OEMs innovate when the ecosystem doesn’t allow for the supporting profits? It is always a race to the bottom for those guys. Microsoft and Intel make most of the money, everyone else has their margins squeezed.

  • Staska

    They are in the race to the bottom, because they chose to.

    What was so special (in OS/software powering Macbook Air) that WinPC OEMs couldn’t invent/do it? What is so special about this Macbook Pro with Retina Display?