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The PC makers' battle against Microsoft's Surface, in their own words

Brad Chacos | Oct. 11, 2013
HP CEO Meg Whitman is just the latest to publicly lament Microsoft's decision to compete against its partners with the Surface tablet.

"They (Microsoft) are strong in the software, but I don't believe they can provide the best hardware in the world. Lenovo can... Although we don't like Microsoft providing the hardware, but even though they are starting this hardware business, we think for us that just adds one more competitor... We are still confident in ourselves. We are providing much better hardware than our competitors including Microsoft."

Yuanqing may have been onto something; in the months since, Lenovo became the most popular PC maker in the world, while Microsoft had to write off nearly $1 billion due to poor Surface sales. Even so, Lenovo released a Chromebook in January and is preparing to launch a Droidbook.

In contrast to the other PC makers, Dell's downright optimistic about the Surface. Here's what Bill Gordon, Dell's executive director for end user computing, told in October 2012:

"We think Microsoft is trying to build the market, so we think it's great. They are just trying to generate more excitement. Google did its own devices for Android, so I think it's kind of the same thing."

Dell didn't take the Microsoft's tablet threat laying down, though. Earlier this month, the company announced the Venue 11 Pro , a Windows 8 tablet with a suspiciously Surface-esque keyboard case and its own docking station. Dell has actually remained a steadfast supporter of Windows by and large, though it has recently expanded into Android tablets and the Ubuntu Linux-powered XPS 13 Developer Edition notebook, which remains more of a curiosity than a mainstream offering.

So, what's Microsoft have to say about all this? Well, in March, Craig Mundie--a senior advisor to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer--implied that the Surface wouldn't even exist if PC makers were able to pump out inspiring devices, as reported by The Verge:

"It became hard to guarantee a uniform quality of experience that the end user had... One of the big challenges that the company faced in the last couple of years was just the question of, would there be a very high quality physical device that would go up against Apple?"

Rather than staking its future on its partners in a world that's rapidly shifting towards mobile computing, Microsoft released the Surface and reforged itself as a 'device and services' company, rather than a software giant. The risk is huge, and make no mistake: Microsoft knows it. Shortly after its first tablets were announced, Microsoft said the Surface's mere existence could lead to sour grapes in an SEC filing:

"...our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."


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