It has been no secret that Dell is planning Windows RT devices, an entirely new product segment for the company.
But analysts fear that the Microsoft Surface will be a freight train flattening the opportunity for PC vendors, especially after vendors such as Acer have expressed their disappointment with the Windows maker. Dell is taking a different direction and carefully announces its own Surface intentions.
Dell's earnings results were not spectacular and just one more indication that these are tough times for PC makers. The problems in the economy, the wait for Windows 8 and the growing interest in tablets have turned into a perfect storm for PC makers that got them clearly scratching their heads and rethinking their product strategies. Complaining about Microsoft and its idea to build its own tablet has been one scenario we have seen recently and Dell clearly would have every reason to speak out against Microsoft as the company has been one of Microsoft's most loyal partners for more than two decades.
However, Dell did not complain and chose a much more careful path. In an answer to an analyst question how Dell would react to Surface, CFO Brian Gladden had this to say:
"As you think about Microsoft entering the [hardware] space, clearly, as we think about it, we've spent time talking to Microsoft and understanding sort of how they're thinking about it. There clearly are opportunities for us, as Windows 8 comes through, in having differentiated products. And, I think, at the same time, they have announced the Surface product that would be in the space, we will have products in there, and I think you'll see a diverse set of offerings that take advantage of what Windows 8 brings to market."
The interesting portion in this quote is "we will have products in there". Was this a statement just to calm analyst concerns that Dell could also be caught on the wrong foot with Surface? Was it just a casual note that Surface isn't a big deal and Dell will have differentiating products that can compete? Or is Dell already developing a Surface-like product?
The wording suggests that Dell will have a Surface-like product, possibly with a slightly different focus. Common sense suggests that Microsoft has a substantial interest in having such tablets available on a much greater scale than Surface can achieve by itself. In the end, Surface is a technology carrier for Windows RT and more innovative and appealing tablet products will help Windows RT succeed.