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Report: Microsoft Kept Surface a Secret from Partners

By - Source: Reuters | B 30 comments

The secrecy surrounding Microsoft's Surface extended to Redmond's hardware partners.

When rumors of a Microsoft tablet first started doing the rounds, one of the bigger arguments against the idea was that Microsoft was a software company with a healthy pool of hardware partners. How could it snub its partners by coming out with its own hardware? As you might have noticed, Microsoft did just that -- the company announced two Windows 8 tablets earlier this week, one based on Intel technology and another based on ARM and running Windows RT.

In the aftermath of Microsoft's announcement, talk has turned to how Microsoft broke the news to partners that it was working on its own device. According to some reports, Redmond didn't actually tell its partners until the tablet was finished and ready to be unveiled. Reuters is reporting that Microsoft kept its hardware partners in the dark until as late as Friday, just a couple of days prior to its mystery event in LA. The news outlet cites people with knowledge of the matter that say Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky made a round of telephone calls to partners on Friday afternoon but didn't give away much. Reuters' source says Sinofsky didn't reveal specs or the name, giving partners only the barest of details.

The fact that Microsoft has decided to take things into its own hands when it comes to tablets speaks volumes about the company's ambitions for Windows 8 in the tablet sector. Redmond is obviously eager to see the Windows 8 tablet done right and the Surface could be seen as Microsoft's attempt to lead by example.

Numerous companies have plans for ultrabooks or convertible devices based on Windows 8. These devices will be released towards the end of the year, when Windows 8 is released and around the same time as Microsoft's own Surface devices.

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  • 15 Hide
    ethanolson , June 21, 2012 3:59 PM
    Microsoft was showing that hardware makers like Dell don't know how to design awesome stuff as well as they do. That's a sad bit of news to break, but it had to be heard. Microsoft, you're awesome and I applaud your bold effort. I'm totally buying one of each of these! I hope you sell a hundred million of these things.
  • 12 Hide
    vic20 , June 21, 2012 3:36 PM
    "The fact that Microsoft has decided to take things into its own hands when it comes to tablets speaks volumes about the company's ambitions "

    No. It speaks volumes as to how its hardware partners have been dropping the ball since the release of the iPad.

    There. Fixed that for you.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    vic20 , June 21, 2012 3:36 PM
    "The fact that Microsoft has decided to take things into its own hands when it comes to tablets speaks volumes about the company's ambitions "

    No. It speaks volumes as to how its hardware partners have been dropping the ball since the release of the iPad.

    There. Fixed that for you.
  • 1 Hide
    soo-nah-mee , June 21, 2012 3:50 PM
    Unless the price of Ultrabooks come down quite a bit, I'm not sure how they can compete with the x86 version of the Surface. It looks like the x86 Surface is everything an Ultrabook is with the addition of a touchscreen and the ability to use it as an "undocked" slate. Intel is probably okay with that since the Surface is supposed to have an i5, but I imagine the Ultrabook manufacturers are going to be a bit screwed.
  • 7 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 21, 2012 3:58 PM
    Good on Microsoft, vendors have done a piss-poor job of producing quality alternative, so far all we have after 3 versions of iPad is a competition based on a slew of identical Android tablets made of cheap plastic
    ...
    Remember the old saying "if you want something doing properly, do it yourself"
  • 15 Hide
    ethanolson , June 21, 2012 3:59 PM
    Microsoft was showing that hardware makers like Dell don't know how to design awesome stuff as well as they do. That's a sad bit of news to break, but it had to be heard. Microsoft, you're awesome and I applaud your bold effort. I'm totally buying one of each of these! I hope you sell a hundred million of these things.
  • 0 Hide
    chomlee , June 21, 2012 4:00 PM
    Microsoft has a potential winner here but, I have said this before in other posts, they have to come down to a realistic price for the windows 8 software in order to get everyone to "buy" into the full integration experience. Once they get a good market share for the tablets/phones and everyone has them linked to their computer, they can then reap the benefits of their marketplace. I don't know the details about apple, but I think a big chunk of money comes from the app purchases (not to mention the itunes purchases).
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , June 21, 2012 4:12 PM
    Intel is probably pissed that they chose ARM over its own Medfield design.
  • 0 Hide
    Osmin , June 21, 2012 4:13 PM
    To compete with Apple, Intel had to invest millions to produce an UltraBook reference design. Microsoft had a choice to either create a reference design or build a tablet themselves. They took the latter approach that will alienate the independent manufacturers. They could have submitted a reference design and build a clone under the Microsoft name.
  • -1 Hide
    chomlee , June 21, 2012 4:15 PM
    Another note I would like to mention about why the other companies havent done a good job. One of the biggest problems early on for the tablets competing with the Ipad is that they were not as good and much more expensive. Apple was able to charge a resonable price of $499 for a low end tablet which gave them a foot in the door in the market. Since they were cheap, many people that were going to buy them went ahead and paid extra for the 32GB/64GB or 3G models. If the lower end model was never even there, many people wouldn't have been interested (even though they got the upgraded version anyhow). It is a very slick style of marketing. Also, because Apple had a vested interest in the apple store, they could afford to sell the tablets with lower profits and make it up with app purchases. All the hardware manufacturers only make money on the device itself and because people want a device with an SD card slot, there isn't much of a market for a device with more memory (people might pay a little more but not $100 for 16 Gig).
  • -3 Hide
    freggo , June 21, 2012 4:15 PM
    back_by_demandGood on Microsoft, vendors have done a piss-poor job of producing quality alternative, so far all we have after 3 versions of iPad is a competition based on a slew of identical Android tablets made of cheap plastic...Remember the old saying "if you want something doing properly, do it yourself"



    I don't know, but I think so far the Hardware was always better than the Operating System that Microsoft put on it. If the Tables is as good as the various versions of Windows.... uh, no thanks guys.

  • 0 Hide
    apone , June 21, 2012 4:15 PM
    @ vic20

    Yeah I agree but Microsoft’s apparent deception is also a good business strategy. “All war is based on deception. “ – The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • 2 Hide
    terry7866 , June 21, 2012 4:16 PM
    I wanna see a commercial for this with Harder better faster stronger by daft punk playing in the background... :D 
  • 2 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , June 21, 2012 4:33 PM
    this may be the bridge between a laptop and a tablet, and a successful merger of each
  • 0 Hide
    metromalenyc , June 21, 2012 4:37 PM
    These Surface tablets look great, but Microsoft is going to need to undercut the iPad in price (for the RT model) if they want to grab market share. I can't wait to buy one though.
  • 0 Hide
    JDFan , June 21, 2012 4:49 PM
    And they were wondering why MS was keeping the OEM pricing of Win8 so high for tablets instead of offering a cut down version at a cheaper price --- guess this pretty much answers it since they can now enter the market undercutting the cost of their OEM competition with their own hardware while still keeping a good portion of the profits by receiving a larger per unit payoff for using their OS
  • 2 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 21, 2012 4:58 PM
    metromalenycThese Surface tablets look great, but Microsoft is going to need to undercut the iPad in price (for the RT model) if they want to grab market share. I can't wait to buy one though.

    For the RT model absolutely, but the x86 version is a full laptop / ultrabook that can turn into a tablet as well, I can see the RT version dropping in price but the x86 staying right where it is and the majority of sales STILL being the more expensive version
  • 1 Hide
    tntom , June 21, 2012 5:03 PM
    And Google's relationship with it's partners is now strengthened unless they pull something similar with
    Motorola but doubt it being their current model works great for them with the Nexus line.
  • -3 Hide
    TEAMSWITCHER , June 21, 2012 5:22 PM
    vic20"No. It speaks volumes as to how its hardware partners have been dropping the ball since the release of the iPad.There. Fixed that for you.


    This is simply untrue. The PC makers have been following the only strategy they have. Intel re-formed the ranks and created the Ultrabook Spec (MacBook Air Clones) running Windows 7 to compete against the iPad. It's not working very well, but what else are they supposed to do! Windows 8 wasn't finished yet and they didn't want to go Android and risk being alienated them from their long time partner - Microsoft.

    Sorry, but Microsoft is the only player on "Team Windows" that has yet to produce a response to the iPad.

    Now we know the true purpose of Windows 8. With Surface, we find ourselves at the end of a mobster movie, where all of Microsoft's henchmen discover that their Mob Boss is about to kill every one of them to save his own skin. Nobody trusts anyone, and a massive 8-way gunfight will ensue. There is a good reason Microsoft chose not to give significant warning about Surface - in a gun fight, you don't move unless to shoot.

    If I had to describe a situation that could bring down the once mighty Microsoft this would be it. Microsoft could easily survive, but the next three years are going to be very disruptive. I love a good mobster movie.

  • 3 Hide
    d_kuhn , June 21, 2012 8:08 PM
    I think it's inevitable that the i5 surface will be very disruptive to the ultrabook market, so there are definitely some unhappy partners out there that Microsoft will need to deal with. At the same time... I see that product as a way for Microsoft AND it's partners to take a serious crack at the top end of the tablet market. Microsoft has set the bar but they've also given their partners PLENTY of time to put their own offerings together prior to the showdown. How about a system with similar specs to the i5 surface but with a iPad resolution display? (I'd trade in my i7 ultrabook on that tomorrow if it was available). How about low power offerings using AMD processors undercutting both i5 surface AND iPad offerings but running full windows 8? There are a LOT of options still to be explored.
  • 1 Hide
    tleavit , June 21, 2012 8:34 PM
    People are not thinking of the business world where the money is. The Ipad is a failure in the buienss market with the exceptions of people who have enough money to want a large table to check their email and browse the web on (glorified PDA for business). But a win8 tablet that can be added to my domain, have all my IT programs auto deploy to it, install office and normal business systems with the ability to use things like remote desktop server or install any business program used today... That's pretty good stuff. But I'm sill a skeptic, they claimed that Win7 was supposed to be pretty good on a tablet, I bought a tester and it sucked. They better get it right.
  • 1 Hide
    alxianthelast , June 21, 2012 8:35 PM
    So in mobile phones, consoles and tablets, Microsoft is taking its foot off the brakes and saying.. good, this is what we want, now, follow our lead.
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