SAN JOSE – Shame on you, Steve Ballmer!
Pre-announcing your own Windows 8 tablet a few months before your OEM customers are ready to roll out their own products. That’s not gutsy, it’s just gross.
For years, PC makers have slavishly followed your systems requirements, jumped on your bandwagons (like Windows for Pen Computing), and this is their payment. When you think you have a solid product you rush to get in front of them hoping you can steal their sub-five-percent profit margins.
I suspect few will say anything publicly for fear of hurting their relationships with you, so I will say what they cannot. This is bad business.
You could have taken a lesson from Google. Work closely with one or two OEMs on a killer product that would show off the novel features of your software. Perhaps there really aren’t any novel features to show off.
One source told me he heard Acer engineers describe this as a betrayal. “Microsoft wants to charge $80 to $90 royalty per Windows RT device while bring out this tablet under its own logo—it’s unfair competition which will accelerate more adaption of Android,” he said.
(In my own interviews, I was told the per unit cost of a Windows license for OEMs is about $45.)
He reports an ODM company saying they feel they have “wasted all the investment [on a] promised [Win 8 tablet] business [and] will have to shift focus again.”
If I was a mobile PC maker, I would be on the phone to Google’s Android team seeking a tight partnership.
Taiwan’s PC makers have told me
more than once they see Android as a better road to tablets than Windows 8. It’s free and it already has a well-established user base and ecosystem of apps.
The scant information
on the Microsoft Surface tablet is unimpressive. It looks very much like a me-too system. I fail to see any compelling differences over the Apple iPad. At least Samsung was quick to market with its iPad-like Galaxy tablet.
Nvida was quick to note its Tegra powers the Surface. Frankly, this is one design win I would try to distance myself from.
I was amazed to read at their hastily called LA press conference, Microsoft did not even answer questions about OEM conflicts. According to the New York Times report
"When asked whether Surface would damage those ties, Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft’s Windows division, gently pushed a reporter in the direction of a stand of Surface tablets and said, 'Go learn something.'"
Maybe someday Microsoft will reap great profits from a tablet business. But at what cost?
The innovation in the Surface is mainly in its chutzpah.