Did Microsoft’s Surface announcement lead HP to kill Windows RT tablet?

June 29, 2012

The Microsoft announcement put the software giant on the map as a legitimate tablet competitor in its own right with the innovative Surface design. 

But it also disrupted Microsoft’s traditional role as a neutral software supplier and supporter of various hardware vendors. By announcing plans to compete directly with its partners, Microsoft may have hurt its chances to count on their full support. In fact, a report out today claims HP is so miffed by the Surface announcement that it’s abandoned plans to produce a Windows RT tablet based on the ARM chip architecture. 

According to the tech news site SemiAccurate, HP has dropped plans to make a Windows RT tablet and other Microsoft partners are having second thoughts as well. 

(UPDATE: Bloomberg confirmed today that HP has cancelled plans to offer a Windows RT tablet and will focus on developing x86 Windows 8 tablets instead. “The decision to go with x86 was influenced by input from our customers,” an HP spokewoman said in an email to Bloomberg. “The robust and established ecosystem of x86 applications provides the best customer experience at this time and in the immediate future.” In an email to TabTimes, an HP spokesperson also added that: “HP continues to look at using ARM processors in business and consumer products.  However, our first Win 8 tablet will be on the x86 platform focused on the business market.")

While the Surface prototype was lauded for innovative features like its Touch Cover keyboard, the SemiAccurate article charges Microsoft with “industrial espionage” for using what it knew about the designs its hardware partners were working on while never revealing it planned to make its own tablet.

To be clear, the article doesn’t speficy the Touch Cover keyboard or kickstand idea was a ripoff, there’s just a vague charge that “Microsoft did their own device that paid homage to those OEMs most innovative features …. and was designed knowing exactly what their weaknesses were.” 

The SemiAccurate article claims a number of Microsoft’s partners are now more inclined to partner with Google due to the Surface and to avoid Microsoft’s licensing fees for Windows.

But Surface could spur interest in Windows 8 tablets

Some analysts have also made the argument that it was smart for Microsoft to develop Surface because it wasn’t seeing enough hardware innovation by its partners ahead of Windows 8‘s release this fall. Microsoft is counting on slick new Windows 8 tablets to generate extra buzz when Windows 8 is finally ready for release. 

Microsoft is also limiting Surface’s distribution to its own Microsoft stores and online. 

Furthermore, Digitimes, quoted Acer founder Stan Shih earlier this month as saying Microsoft is using Surface to spur interest in Windows 8 tablets, but has no intention of supporting the brand long term. 

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