When Microsoft first announced the Surface, everyone was overwhelmed, Microsoft for the first time, would be building a complete experience, combining both hardware and software into one holistic product. It can be argued that it is not an unprecedented step ,as Microsoft has already built game consoles, music players and even a mobile device (anyone remember the Kin?).
Nevertheless, this is the first time Microsoft has significantly morphed its business model from one primarily concerned with selling OS licenses to OEMs, to becoming a direct competitor to them.
At first, most OEMs did not know how to react to Microsoft’s move. Going from partner to direct competition is a bold step, after all.
Some OEMs, like Acer, took it hard, but others seem to be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, with the majority of OEMs noting they will sell some variant of a Windows 8 based tablet, based either on an Intel or ARM architecture.
One particularly close Microsoft partner, however, has not put its cards publicly on the table, and that’s Nokia. The Finnish phone maker has been wishy washy in its intentions regarding Windows 8 based tablets, despite the fact it is no stranger to building solid hardware.
Nokia is no stranger to the tablet or PC industry either. The firm’s so called "internet tablet," the Nokia 770, went on sale in 2005 and its first netbook, the Nokia Booklet 3G ,was announced back in 2009.
Sure, the whole industry has changed since then, but so has Nokia.
In March of this year, Nokia's chief designer was cited as saying the company was "working on it" when he spoke about an upcoming tablet.
In May Nokia's former Chairman, Jorma Ollila, said just before leaving that tablets were “an important one, so that is being looked into, and there will be different hybrids, different form factors [handset designs] in the future."
So will there be a Nokia tablet after all? On September 5, Nokia and Microsoft are holding a joint press conference, where Nokia will likely announce its new Lumia phone series based on Windows Phone 8. Will there also be a tablet? Maybe.
When it comes to partnerships, however, in some cases, one side has to give up. This time it may be Nokia's turn.
It does not matter that much actually that MS is integrating hardware with software but what kind of ecosystem does MS provide to other hardware providers will matter most. Taking example of Andriod or ARM, MS should take lead in making sure that both hardware developers feel in a symbiotic relationship rather than in a competitive sphere.
Surface may seems to shift Microsoft from a partner position towards a little bit of competitor position. However, I haven't heard Microsoft will continue selling Surface as one of the product. Surface, really, may just be a reference design to set the tone of a really competitive product. IMO, Microsoft Windows has been pushed into a -ve position because some vendors are leaning towards saving cost than building a competitive product. I was luckily to get a good PC and am occasionally using a 8 years old laptop with Windows XP on it. So, this time, Microsoft may just want to do it right and earn its reputation back.
Coming back to Nokia tablet, I was surprise when I heard that MS is building Surface on its own instead of partnering with Nokia. I am looking forward to the tight partnership between the two companies. I believe if it is played right, it will be a win-win partnership.
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