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

by David Needle

June 29 2012

Microsoft is getting unwanted publicity following its surprise announcement earlier this month that it plans to build its own Windows 8 tablets.

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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  • BigJeff100
    2 years 4 months ago

    Apple can't win the enterprise game because most sys admin i know block itunes on their systems. No itunes means ipad is like a fish out of water.

  • David Needle
    2 years 4 months ago
    right ... good comments. the issue of Ultrabook versus Windows 8 (x86) tablets is significant because it means many of these Wintel vendors will be competing with themselves and perhaps conveying a mixed message. I'm not sure there's lot of differentiation there except ultra book will presumably offer a better keyboard and be heavier. Apple seems to be able to win the enterprise without even trying all that much. Microsoft and partners are better established there, just need a compelling product.
  • ccoc
    2 years 4 months ago

    The opportunity for Surface and x86 tablets is in the Enterprise where high productivity tablets / apps are needed. This is smaller opportunity than the consumer market but a valuable one - Apple has never had the same success in the Enterprise so MSFT and the other PC manufacturers are sensible to go after it - not sure they'll succeed but they are more likely to win there than in the consumer tablet market. The Windows RT Surface does not seem to have any advantage over the iPad for the majority of consumers - The challenge for the PC companies is that the Enterprise tablets will eat into the ultra book sales. Seems that the battle is between Google/Amazon in the low cost 7" market while Apple dominates the premium consumer 10" market over Samsung - the Enterprise is up for grabs but Apple has made some significant moves in that space. Still very early days.

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