The first computer brand developed by Microsoft Corp. has created confusing battle lines in the technology sector, to transform old allies into rivals.
The new Surface Tablet, which Microsoft released on Monday, has an unusual design with a built-in keyboard that makes it a leading rival to both the Apple’s iPad & Android Tabs.
The announcement of Microsoft modifies its traditional role as a provider of software for computer makers. In a broader context, however, highlights a discussion with Apple about what should be a tablet: a new category of consumer devices or a traditional PC into a thinner package and portable.
Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, argued Monday that tablet users want to use their devices for both passive activities like watching movies, to create spreadsheets or other office tasks. To meet these goals, the Surface includes a screen cover that doubles as a keyboard.
“They want to be on their couches, want to be at their desks and want to take it,” said Ballmer. ”People want to do these things without undermining productivity that are known by the PC.”
His company and others like Intel Corp., predicted that the differences between tablets and laptops disappear gradually as laptops and touch capabilities add more designs emerge convertible keyboards.
Apple, however, has argued repeatedly that the tablets are completely different devices to the laptop PC. ”If you force a merger, I think the PC is not as good as can be and the tablet is not as good as can be,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, last month at the conference D: All Things Digital.
The price fixed for Microsoft Surface could be a key factor in popularizing the tablet, particularly in relation to the iPad, which starts at U.S. $ 499.
The Surface comes in two versions. An operating system is Windows 8 and its old partner processors Intel, the second, a less powerful version has a variant called Windows RT and chips from Nvidia Corp., based ARM Holdings PLC technology used in most mobile devices.
Microsoft said the Windows RT model should go on sale first, and its price would be in line with other ARM-based tablets, while the version with Windows 8 would be worth closer to those of thin laptops known as Ultrabooks, which typically cost $ 900 or more.
“With Surface, the dynamic between Microsoft and its customers change, forever,” wrote Patrick Moorhead, market analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in a report.
In fact, some Microsoft hardware partners were upset by the announcement, as the Surface could compete with their products, people familiar with the show. The development project was kept secret even from some Microsoft managers. Some executives of chipmakers and systems were not informed of the tablet until a few days before his presentation, according to sources familiar.
Hardware companies Hewlett-Packard Co., Acer Inc. and HTC Corp. declined to comment on its relationship with Microsoft. Lenovo Group Ltd. and Dell Inc. said they remain committed to launch a line of tablet type computers running Windows. A Lenovo spokesman said the company is “in a strong position to compete and win in the tablet market, against all”.
A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment, but executives on Monday sought to play down tensions with its hardware partners.
“We believe in the strength of that ecosystem, software and hardware companies working together to provide choice and options,” said Ballmer.
by Jay Thadeshwar, My Profile