Microsoft “surprised” PC manufacturers with Surface

Microsoft gave PC manufacturers only a few days’ warning that it was making a tablet, giving its partners little advanced detail about Surface.

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Microsoft revealed the Surface tablets earlier this week, marking the first computers to be manufactured by the software giant, but only told PC makers at the end of last week, according to a report from Reuters citing anonymous sources in the tech industry.

CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly called Microsoft’s partners on Friday to make them aware of the launch, but didn’t reveal the name or any other details, Reuters said.

But not all of the major PC makers were given advanced warning. “No senior executives heard about the news last week,” an Acer executive told the newswire. “We’re quite surprised.”

The surprise has led to a “sense of betrayal” in the industry, said one source, while another said Microsoft getting into the hardware market has always been a “point of contention” between manufacturers and the software giant.

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Stuart Turton thinks Surface is lovely… but not for him

Manufacturers may not be happy about the surprise Surface launch, but their inability to create hardware to rival the iPad or MacBook Air forced Microsoft’s hand, suggested one analyst.

“PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your [consumers’] stringent price requirements while still trying to compete,” noted analyst Ted Schadler in a post on the Forrester blog. “That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air… Microsoft can’t let that happen with tablets.”

“So job one for Surface – and it better be frickin’ great – is to prod partners to make great tablets,” he suggested. “So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets.”

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