So I missed the Microsoft Surface launch big time. It was only recently that I managed to have a look at what this product means to the industry.
Peter Bright, at ArsTechnica, writes an insightful editorial explaining that Mr. Softy is not competing against their own OEMs but actually telling them that “we can do this just as well as you can, if we have to” and setting them a challenge “your tablets have to be at least this good”.
It makes sense, they are doing what Google did with the Nexus, setting the standard for all OEM to follow or improve upon.
Microsoft’s dissatisfaction with the OEMs is plain, and the OEMs aren’t happy about the way they’ve been treated, but all is not lost for them just yet. Microsoft has fired its first shot at the OEMs, but it’s a warning shot: at the moment, Surface looks like it’s more Nexus than it is iPad.
Many early Android phones were pretty nasty. The Nexus One, developed by HTC according to Google’s specification, sporting Google branding, and sold by Google online, was an important device in Android’s evolution. Not because it sold in great numbers, but because it set the standard: Android devices had to be at least that good, with the same features, fast processor, plentiful RAM, and so on. The Nexus One also ran the stock Android operating system, without carrier-provided crapware or OEM front-ends. It showed Android in the best possible light: the operating system as Google wanted it to look and act, with all the hardware necessary to support the latest features.
Subsequent Nexus-branded phones have played a similar role: showcasing Android and introducing new hardware capabilities, acting as standard-setters and benchmarks.
What is interesting is the response from the OEMs, it seems that they don’t care.
Reuters has reported that Oliver Ahrens, Acer’s senior VP and president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, believes that Microsoft is making a failed attempt to mimic Apple. He’s quoted as saying “I don’t think it will be successful because you cannot be a hardware player with two products”…
I think Microsoft is on the right track. As they say, “if you are serious about software, make hardware”. I’m sure Microsoft is or has learnt a lot about their software through this exercise. For the OEMs? Well OEMs will continue to be OEMs.