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Other manufacturers were informed by Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) shook the market when it announced "Surface", an eye-catching Windows 8 10.6-inch tablet design, which marked its intriguing decision to directly challenge its third party OEM partners.  With many already saying the Microsoft tablet could become a market darling and vie with the iPad for dominance, the big question was whether the move would also backfire by alienating OEMs and diminishing the third-party Windows 8 tablet market.

I. Some Manufacturers Knew About Surface Beforehand

Initial reports conflicted on whether OEMs knew about "Surface" beforehand. ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) spokesman Nick Wu stated to Bloomberg, "Our management did learn about that in a later stage.  It’s an investment by Microsoft to grow and build the ecosystem for Windows RT and we have no special opinion on that. We will continue to deliver our products."

Sources indicate that high-level management and others like Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) and Lenovo Group Ltd. (HKG:0992) also indicate that high-level management became aware of the device near launch time, although spokespeople for both companies refused to comment.

Microsoft's "Surface" tablet was a surprise to Acer, but others like ASUSTek were informed beforehand. [Image Source: Microsoft]

HP, the world's top personal computer maker, told Reuters in a statement, "We remain committed partners to Microsoft. We remain committed to Windows 8, and we will have a Slate product at the time of launch."

Similarly, Lenovo, the fastest growing PC maker on the market, commented, "Microsoft has been and will continue to be one of Lenovo's most valued partners."

Dell, Inc. (DELL) did not give any comment yet on the development.

II. Acer Appears to be Snubbed, Turns to Fantasy

But Microsoft appears not to have told one computer maker about "Surface" at all -- Acer, Inc. (TPE:2353).  An Acer executive is quoted by Reuters as saying, "No senior executives heard about the news last week.  We're quite surprised."

The strange apparent snub continued to get stranger when Acer founder Stan Shin spoke to DigiTimes, telling the publication that he thought Microsoft had no real intention to stick around in the tablet market long term.

He claimed that the "Surface" was just a publicity stunt/ruse to attract interest to Windows 8 and that the tablet would just be a one-off release, with no follow-up devices.

Stan Shih
Acer founder Stan Shih claims the Surface is only a publicity stunt and Microsoft will give up on future first-party designs. [Image Source: Zijing]

That seems like some rather peculiar wishful thinking.  First, Acer has made it relatively clear that it was one of the only -- or perhaps the only major manufacturer to be left in the dark about Microsoft's plans, so it seems kind of silly for the company's founder to now turn around and claim secret insight into Microsoft's market strategy.

Second, history simply does not support Microsoft's claims.  Once it saw success in markets like peripherals (mice, keyboards) and gaming consoles (the Xbox family) Microsoft didn't pull out, it stuck around.  It's hard to believe that Microsoft would drastically change its past strategy with the "Surface" and eventually pull the plug on what even Mr. Shih seemingly admits will be a hot seller.

This odd chain of events is the latest in a string of misfortune for Acer, which saw its PC market share plunge as the netbook market dried up.  Acer has expressed woes about its low profits and expressed an interest in being more like Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

Acer has made big promises in the tablet market, but thus far its Iconia line of Android tablets have shown little in the way of sales progress.  The best received Iconia -- the 10.1-inch A700 model is currently in 39th place in, Inc. (AMZN) list of top selling tablets, behind other sales "flops" like Research in Motion, Ltd.'s (TSE:RIMPlayBook.  The rest of the Iconias are even farther behind.

Sources: Digitimes, Reuters, Bloomberg

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RE: Worth remembering...
By Tony Swash on 6/21/2012 6:34:24 AM , Rating: -1
I think when we look back at the Surface announcement we will see that it was an inflection point for Microsoft and a watershed for the PC industry. It was the moment when MS realised that there is no longer enough profit to be had selling software alone.

The price, and thus the profits per unit, of software licences can only decline now, and probably decline steeply. Software will come either bundled with hardware or as cheap apps. The moment Apple set apps prices so low in it's original app store was the moment that the erosion of Microsoft's old business model began, and what started slow is now (30 billion apps later) accelerating like an avalanche.

Horace Dediu at Asymco has this to say:

If we simply divide revenues by PCs sold we get about $55 Windows revenues per PC and $68 of Office revenues per PC sold. The total income for Microsoft per PC sold is therefore about $123. If we divide operating income by PCs as well we get $35 per Windows license and $43 per Office license. That’s a total of $78 of operating profit per PC.

Now let’s think about a post-PC future exemplified by the iPad. Apple sells the iPad with a nearly 33% margin but at a higher average price than Microsoft’s software bundle. Apple gives away the software (and apps are very cheap) but it still gains $195 in operating profit per iPad sold.

Fine, you say, but Microsoft make up for it in volume. Well, that’s a problem. The tablet volumes are expanding very quickly and are on track to overtake traditional PCs while traditional PCs are likely to be disrupted and decline.

So Microsoft faces a dilemma. Their business model of expensive software on cheap hardware is not sustainable. The future is nearly free software integrated into moderately priced hardware.

Microsoft has a strong survival instinct and a big war chest and huge organisation. It's old revenue streams will be around for a while longer so now is the time to act and act boldly, hence the radical break that is Windows 8 and Surface. You can see the way MS is trying to put the pieces together to match Apple's integrated ecosystem: Windows 8 code common across multiple devices, PCs and tablets and living room boxes and phones that all talk to one another, retail stores, digital content stores. It's Apple that MS wants to emulate because the Android ecosystem is largely profits free so why on earth would MS want to emulate that. Microsoft will buy Nokia and probably RIM

But turning your business on a dime and reinventing yourself is hard and complex, ask Apple, it took them a decade to put all the pieces together.

Oh - and without a doubt Ballmer has to go for Microsoft to stand a chance. But he owns a lot of shares so it's not as easy as sacking a CEO, there will be blood.

Let the games begin!

RE: Worth remembering...
By Pirks on 6/21/2012 1:48:50 PM , Rating: 1
Ballmer has to go for Microsoft to stand a chance
Yeah, the guy who was bold enough to break decades old stale desktop interface and desktop business model, who oversaw creation of two greatest MS products to date, WinPhone 8 and Surface, who started to pull kicking and screaming WinOldFags from stale desktop and into the new mobile era of Metro everywhere, this MS revolutionary has to go now? Is it what they call iLogic? MS investors are 100% sure Ballmer and Sinofsky are the only possible MS saviors at the moment, so sorry Tony, but ya Macolytes have to shut the yapper and watch MS waking up. You're welcome to scream in terror, yeah, but don't try to hide your real reasons why you want to see Ballmer and Sinofsky go. We all can see through your deception Tony :P No need to hide it man :)))

RE: Worth remembering...
By Tony Swash on 6/21/12, Rating: -1
RE: Worth remembering...
By Pirks on 6/21/2012 4:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
it was kind of odd that at the Surface event there was not a single demo of any software actually working on a surface device?
WinRT and Netflix were demoed for ARM and Lightroom was demoed on x86, everyone besides a few blind Macolytes like you saw that.
entering markets already full of strong competing products
"Full" of only ONE product from Apple who sells in noticeable quantities? Right on Tony, don't take your Macolyte blinders off your eyes, keep 'em closed man :P You look just as funny as Ballmer this way heheee

RE: Worth remembering...
By Tony Swash on 6/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: Worth remembering...
By Pirks on 6/21/2012 6:29:14 PM , Rating: 1
Maybe for Google, maybe to create a buzz and make some ppl want this product. I know for sure that now after I saw its presentation I will definitely NOT buy any tablet until I test Surface in my own hands this fall. Probably there are other ppl like me (one of them is another Macolyte who wrote a rave review about MS kicking ass, I posted a link for you here yesterday) who decided to wait until Surface released before making a purchase decision. Which is EXACTLY what Ballmer wants! Showing a really cool product prematurely was always in MS DNA, they'd show something and ppl like oooohhh maaan I'm waiting for this one! 'Cause the MS presentation is so slick, it makes you want to hold it in your hand and pull our your credit card and shit like that. Well ya know the drill Tony, we all were in Apple stores and we know this itchy feeling eh :)))

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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