Microsoft Surface tablets to compete with OEM partners

Following the recent launch of a pair of tablet computers dubbed ‘Surface’, Microsoft has confirmed that its tablet offerings will compete with its OEM partners. What does this bold move that thrusts the world’s largest software company into uncharted hardware territory mean to its channel partners?

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Microsoft Surface tablets to compete with OEM partners Ballmer says by developing Surface, Microsoft could spur OEMs to be more innovative.
By  Manda Banda Published  September 3, 2012

Microsoft is acknowledging that its Surface tablet computers will compete with tablets manufactured by the company’s OEM partners.

In the company’s Form 10-K annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft states: “Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform.”

The statement, included in the ‘Risk Factors’ section of the report, is the most definitive from Microsoft about the impact the Surface tablets will have on its relationships with other tablet makers.

Microsoft introduced the Surface tablets in June with the first Surface tablets expected to be available in October when Windows 8 begins shipping.

Since then company executives have downplayed the potential for conflict with such OEM partners as Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and Hewlett-Packard.

At Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last month, CEO Steve Ballmer said Microsoft remains committed to its OEM partners.

“Look, we have been very good about supporting our OEMs. Very good,” he said. “There is nothing that we can build that our OEMs can’t build with their own energy, innovation and the like.”

Ballmer also argued that by developing Surface, Microsoft could spur OEMs to be more innovative. “I don’t think it is going to hurt in terms of stretching innovation,” he said.
In his WPC keynote speech, Ballmer referred to Surface as a ‘design point’ for OEMs. Tami Reller, chief marketing officer for the Windows and Windows Live Division, devoted much of her keynote speech to showcasing laptops and mobile devices manufactured by OEM partners.

The OEMs themselves have remained relatively quiet on the issue, although they clearly had no inkling that software Microsoft was developing a competing tablet product.

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