How much risk is in Surface?
There are cautionary statements in documents that are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but this particular example is remarkable. The most recent 10-K (annual) filing confirms that Surface tablets will be on sale at the time when Windows 8 will be launched on October 26.
Microsoft's strategy with Surface has largely been speculation with some suggesting that Surface is simply a way for Microsoft to encourage its partners to get their creativity going and leverage what Windows 8 is capable of, while others believe that Microsoft wants to be much more like Apple and sell a product that gives Microsoft control of both hardware and software. While Microsoft was obviously proud and enthusiastic about Surface during its presentation, there has been no true information how committed Microsoft is to Surface, even if we learned that it is important enough for the company to strip the Surface brand from Microsoft touchscreen desks.
The 10-K filing includes the following sentence:
"In addition, our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."
While general, this statement implies that Microsoft sees a calculated risk that some of its partners may not particularly like the idea that they have to compete with a company they rely on as a software supplier. Microsoft does not detail the "platform" that may be affected, but it is reasonable to assume that the company is referring to Windows RT and Android as the alternative. Windows 8 itself should be largely unaffected, even if Surface will test some of Microsoft's best partner relationships.