August 15, 2012 Cam Levack
When software giant Microsoft decided to launch its first tablet, the Surface, it didn’t think to inform its hardware partners in advance. But bad etiquette isn’t the only thing bugging PC maker Acer.
Acer CEO JT Wang claims Microsoft’s decision to launch its own tablet will be “negative for the worldwide ecosystem” in computing. He goes on to say, “We have said think it over. Think twice.” According to CNET, Wang even suggests Acer may look for new software partners.
The war of words underlines recent shifts in the PC hardware geosphere. Microsoft, which reported its first quarterly loss in decades, is desperately in need of a hit. The Surface will be designed to compete with Apple’s category-leading iPad and Google’s Android-based Nexus 7 tablet. What’s more, the Surface represents Microsoft’s best opportunity to showcase Windows 8, also slated to launch in October.
Will the Surface succeed? JT Wang isn’t so sure, zinging Microsoft for being poor at hardware design. “It’s not something you are good at”, he says.
Some critics maintain it’s all hooey. Computerworld.com’s Preston Gralla claims that Acer’s comments are just “bluster .., It has nowhere else to go”. Its only alternative would be to bet on Android tablets, but that would then be competing against Google, which uses Asus to manufacture its excellent Nexus 7 tablet. Acer can posture and bad-mouth Microsoft all it wants about Surface tablets. The truth is, Acer has nowhere to go except to Windows.”
Lost in the rhetoric is the Surface tablet itself, which does show some promise. Check out the movie trailer-style teaser at http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/default.aspx
The Surface will be available in two versions, a Windows RT model with Nvidia ARM CPU and a Windows Pro model loaded with the new Windows 8 OS, powered by Intel 3rd generation Core i CPU. Highlights include a smart cover that doubles as a full-size magnetic keyboard, rear kickstand, front and rear-facing cameras, 10.6” HD screen, and micro SD card slot.
Prices have not been announced. Nor is there specific news about apps for the new tablet, which proved to be the Achilles heel for RIM’s Playbook.
One thing we can be sure of: As PC sales continue to drop and tablets increase, the stakes will get only higher. Look for continuous improvement from Apple, which owns the tablet market and has a reported new iPhone about to launch in the same month as the Surface and Windows 8. And Google, with its low-priced but high-quality Nexus, brings serious competition from the Android platform.
Microsoft had better get it right.
Cam Levak, Raven5 Ltd, Toronto, August 2012