Microsoft Hardware: Surface Tablet Is Only the Beginning
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may not be taking the "soft" out of the company's name. But he is putting a new emphasis on hardware, signaling that more Microsoft hardware gadgets are on the way. There is already talk of a Surface Mini.
For the IT community at midsize firms this movement toward hardware at Microsoft may not be entirely welcome news. Along with the consumer-trendy emphasis on touch in Windows 8, it points away from the core business tools that IT has depended on over the years. Has Redmond bought into the "consumerization" hype? Will it be able to move in two directions at once without losing its focus? We may soon begin to find out.
As Zack Whittaker reports at CNET, the Microsoft Surface hybrid tablet may only be the first of a stream of hardware gadgets from Redmond. As Steve Ballmer said during the Surface launch, "is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are ... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah, we'll dive in."
Along with talk of a Surface Mini, there is also buzz about a potential Surface Phone. And Microsoft may be pulling back from its alliance with hardware-maker Nokia. On the flip side, mobile hardware vendor Acer has been pushing back. Over the summer its CEO warned Microsoft to "think twice" about bringing out a tablet and hinted that Acer would look at other software options.
To be sure, Microsoft hardware is not something entirely new under the sun. It has been doing very well with the Xbox for some time. But that is in the specialized gaming market.
Mobility and Integration
On one level, Redmond's move--and Google's parallel move toward branded devices--are both evocative of Apple's hardware-software integration model. The constraints of mobile devices may simply favor this approach.
But Microsoft's gadget push also suggests that it is determined to become a serious player in the consumer-oriented mobility market. The touch-centric Windows 8 user interface points in the same direction. As we recently noted here at Midsize Insider, analysts have questioned whether IT really wants touch, at any rate on the desktop.
Can Microsoft really compete with Apple for consumer sex appeal? And what will happen to its core business solutions if it tries? That is a question that IT managers at midsize firms may be asking themselves if Redmond brings out a stream of consumer mobile gadgets.
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.