Just a few short hours ago if you had said Microsoft Surface, it would have conjured images of a huge touch screen in the shape of a table, designed exclusively with Samsung SUR40 hardware. However several hours ago Microsoft presented a new line of tablets that represent a targeted attack on the wildly successful iPad. While at first I was somewhat amazed and excited by the hardware it became evident that this also represents a direct shot at the Microsoft’s own group of Licensees, in the form of hardware vendors.
Microsoft initiated ventures into new hardware territory have come with varying and mostly disastrous results. We *have* seen this before … 11 years ago when Microsoft announced a pen enabled personal computer. Surprisingly the concept did not take a hold until Apple created a piece of hardware and associated services that captured everyone's imagination. When Microsoft responded with the HP Slate it was clear that both the hardware vendors and the Windows operating system were way behind the vanguard.
So what is the deal today? Lets assume Microsoft is not intentionally killing the licensing cash cow, lets also assume there is an end game that does not result in alienating the hardware vendors. Then why release Microsoft Surface now? Steve Ballmer is on the record as suggesting this is about priming the pump! which I take to mean they are trying to push hardware vendors in a consistent direction as early as possible. This may be more about getting a great reference design in front of the public before the hardware vendors go in a direction that takes away from the expectation and experience they are hoping to provide. I also tend to believe hardware is a problem that Microsoft is ill equipped to deal with first hand, it is more about overcome logistics and supply chain demands, moving atoms not just electrons.