Microsoft recently unveiled Surface, Windows 8-powered tablets that will be launching in the months after the new operating system itself goes on sale later this year. On the surface (excuse the pun) this is hardware designed to compete with the Apple iPad and the various Android tablets that currently make up the burgeoning tablet market.
However, there could be another, larger plan for Surface. One that recognizes the iPad as being market leader and doesn’t try to directly go head-to-head with Apple. Rather than positioning Surface as the main competition to the iPad, the Galaxy Tab, and the Transformer Prime, Microsoft may be thinking bigger, thinking longer term, thinking outside the box.
As previously reported by Digitimes, Acer founder Stan Shih thinks Microsoft “has no real intention to sell own-brand tablet PCs.” Instead the company will use the Surface devices as flagships for the operating system in a similar way to how Google uses its Nexus devices as flagships for Android. He concludes, “Once the purpose is realized, Microsoft will not offer more models.”
This makes a lot of sense, as apart from the Xbox games consoles and the ill-fated Zune, Microsoft hasn’t been very keen on hardware throughout its history. Surface could be Microsoft showing its partners how Windows 8 tablets should be done, offering pointers towards the features that consumers will demand in their devices.
Even this may be thinking too small. In revealing Surface in the Apple-esque way it did, Microsoft managed to showcase Windows 8 and its new Metro UI, likely putting it in the minds of the mainstream public. With only four months to go until Windows 8 is launched, Microsoft needs to start hyping its release, and showing the range of devices it will work on, if it wants a high adoption rate.
It seems to me as though Surface is a lot more than it appears to be, and that Microsoft has used it as a kind of trojan horse for its next operating system. Whether this strategy pays off or not will only become clear over the next year or so.