Microsoft Surface Undeterred by Acer Threat

By | Aug 10, 2012

Top executives at Acer have issued a barely veiled threat to Microsoft: "Think twice" before pushing ahead with the Microsoft Surface tablet. But Microsoft is ignoring the warnings from its hardware partners, and for good reason. The threats are empty, and Microsoft knows it.

Tablets, smartphones, and other "smart" mobile devices are, fundamentally, computers. And computers are all about the software they run: the operating system and, even more, applications. This is not news to IT managers at midsize firms. It is the world they have lived in for a generation. But for mobile device manufacturers it is a new reality, and a highly unwelcome one.

Warning or Bluster?

Microsoft's hardware partners have not been happy campers since the Redmond giant announced that it would provide the hardware as well as the operating system for its Microsoft Surface tablet device.

And as Woody Leonhart reports at InfoWorld, the hardware partners continue to express their displeasure. The latest to do so is JT Wang, chairman and CEO of Acer, who warned Microsoft to "think twice" about its Surface plans. "It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem," warned Wang, making the less-than-subtle point that "other brands may take a negative reaction."

None of which is keeping Microsoft from pushing forward with Surface. In fact, it is staffing up its Surface operation. And one Microsoft supporter had a rather brutal response to Acer: "Let them make Ubuntu tablets."

Exceptions That Prove the Rule

None of this is to say that hardware doesn't matter. Apple has done very well for itself by binding hardware and software tightly together. And Microsoft is not the only software-centric firm to learn this lesson. Google also is moving in the same direction.

The mobile device industry has been slow to learn the lesson. (Think RIM.) It evolved in a hardware-based environment, reinforced by telecom carriers and their long-term contracts. But as mobile devices become more computer-like in their capabilities, they are following the path that desktop computing followed in the 1980s.

For the IT community at midsize firms, the lesson is not that mobile hardware doesn't matter. Software runs best on hardware specifically tailored for it. But good software will attract the hardware it needs—even if software vendors have to build it themselves.

Which means that IT managers are on solid ground in making their mobile decisions based primarily on software capabilities and features. And the mobile-device manufacturing industry will just have to learn to live with it.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.