It has been a busy month for tablets, with details of the Surface quickly followed by the Nexus 7 from Google. While it’s an unusual step for Microsoft in particular to have shifted away from licensing Windows 8 to partners to building its own gear, the consensus from observers is that it’s actually a low-risk strategy.
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The general conclusion from market watchers? Windows tablets to date have been such a non-starter, dwarfed by the iPad and (to a lesser extent) Android, that it’s hard for PC companies to argue that Microsoft is eating into lucrative turf. “Microsoft’s move in creating its own tablet is the sign that PC manufacturers have lost the game,” said Ronan de Renesse, mobile analyst for Analysys Mason. “With less than 10% combined market share, Microsoft can afford to lose the support of PC manufacturers in this sector.”
That doesn’t mean success will happen in a hurry. DisplaySearch analyst Richard Sim suggests that even if manufacturers don’t complain, Surface may face an uphill battle. “While it is a positive that there is a new entrant in the market that will raise the level competitiveness and the level of innovation by its participants, it will likely be a slow build to significant influence for Microsoft in the tablet category,” he wrote.
We don’t have a price for the Surface yet, nor a release date beyond a likely expectation of October. By that point, Google’s Nexus 7 will have been on sale for quite a while, and other Android manufacturers will doubtless follow suit with their own Jelly Bean devices.