Microsoft's first foray into the PC hardware business doesn't
mean the company is going to ditch its long-time business model of
licensing the Windows operating system to so-called original
equipment manufacturers, according to one analyst.
"Microsoft won't abandon its profitable Windows licensing
model," said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, in a blog post
following Redmond's introduction of its self-made Surface tablet
earlier this week. "There's little risk that the future of Windows
is total vertical integration."
Microsoft unveiled Surface on Monday at a secretive press event
at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.
The company plans to release two versions of the tablet. Surface
for Windows RT will run the tablet-optimized Windows 8 RT operating
systems on battery-saving ARM chips, while Surface for Windows 8
Pro will run the full-blown version of Windows 8 on more powerful
Microsoft did not offer any pricing details or specify a launch
date, and left many other questions about the tablets
The uncertainty around Microsoft's plans has prompted
speculation in some corners that Redmond plans to abandon its tried
and trusted model of focusing on software, while leaving hardware
manufacturing to partners like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and
The thinking goes that producing its own tablets may be the only
way Microsoft can offer devices that are price-competitive with
products from Apple, which makes its own hardware, and OEMs that
produce tablets based on Google's open source, free Android
But Rotman Epps believes such speculation is premature, calling
the Surface "an experiment emboldened by the Xbox success." She
cautioned, however, that Microsoft's decision to offer both ARM and
Intel-based tablets that offer vastly different functionality--the
ARM tablets, for instance, won't run software built for Windows 7
or older versions of the OS--could cause confusion among customers.
Rotman Epps said, "Selling x86-based tablets in the same retail
channels as Windows RT tablets will confuse consumers and sow
discontent if consumers buy x86 and think they're getting something
like the iPad."
Others, however, have noted that Apple's tablet marketing is
also not exactly straightforward. Cupertino currently offers six
different versions of its latest slate, which it simply refers to
as the new iPad.
Windows 8 tablets and PCs are expected to be available sometime
beginning in the fall.