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Microsoft Windows 8 and the Surface might not be selling like hotcakes just yet, but Microsoft has made it clear that their future is in an OS that is universal regardless of whether you use it on a tablet, laptop or desktop. Even the phone and console might someday essentially run just tweaked versions of “Windows”.
Outside of bringing together all their Windows products, another important area of focus for Microsoft continues to be hardware. Microsoft’s Xbox really saw a major expansion into entertainment and multimedia with the Xbox 360, and will likely continue to see an even stronger push in this direction with its successor.
Then we have the Surface. While the Surface isn’t perfect, it is a great starting point. The hardware is extremely attractive and it hasn’t really been plagued with any major problems (unlike the Xbox 360).
The Future Importance Of Microsoft Hardware
Does it end there though? The signs seem to say no. In fact, Microsoft’s Crag Mundie recently opened up at Microsoft’s TechForum event and indicated that they felt the Surface was needed in order to really take their company in the right direction.
Mundie indicated that Microsoft had taken “flak for the fact we had this highly variable experience” due to the wide range of hardware found with Windows, and had felt that creating a premium flagship was important. Moving further into the hardware business gives Microsoft tighter control of the quality of devices, instead of just providing the software.
It also can hurt relationships with their partners, though. In fact Acer has expressed concern about the Surface more than once, and even Nokia has now stated that a Surface phone could eventually cause them problems. In a recent risk report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Nokia indicated that if Microsoft does release their own hardware in the phone market, it could mean they will focus less on helping their partners become successful and could create future problems.
Is it worth the risk for Microsoft? Mundie seems to think so. When asked specifically about whether or not the Surface tablet line was worth the risk of hurting OEM relations, he said, “absolutely”. Afterwards Mundie also added the following statement:
“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?”
Considering the fact that many of the Windows 8 tablets out there haven’t been as sexy or as functional as the iPad (or the Surface), I think Microsoft made the right move here. But where does it end?
Beyond the Surface and Xbox
Microsoft is starting to recognize that there is a big world of products out there. Moving into entertainment and gaming with the Xbox has been an important step forward. Ensuring it has a flagship tablet is a good move too. Likely a phone could become a reality as well, but I think ultimately Microsoft sees that for Apple, having more control of the products means it is easier to ensure high quality and it also means they don’t have to share the profit with as many hands (vendors).
Microsoft recently hinted about the idea of a Microsoft smartwatch, though they haven’t said for sure they they will build one. If I had to take a guess? I’d say that Microsoft will continue to evolve towards being a hardware, software and services company, regardless of what its partners think.
Do you think Microsoft is making the right move by focusing on hardware as of late, or could it potentially prove to be a mistake?