There’s no nice way to say it: Google’s Fire-fighting Nexus 7 aside, the mobile market’s various Android slates simply aren’t cutting it. When it comes to iPad, there just doesn’t seem to be a true king-of-the-hill contender anywhere in sight. Unfortunately, that reality extends far beyond Android, settling now more than ever into the entire realm of consumer electronics. When Microsoft unveiled its Surface with Windows RT tablet last month, I reveled in the idea that Apple’s illustrious iPad would finally see some real competition. The notion was short-lived.
See, even though the tech world was more or less enamored by the Surface and its lofty potential when Microsoft first drew the curtain back, a seed of doubt and uneasiness took hold in the back of the blogosphere’s collective, connected brain. Here’s how I summarized Microsoft’s plan in our initial Surface coverage:
And Microsoft, after playing mobile catch-up for the better part of five years, is finally on the right track (provided they didn’t just undermine all their Windows RT/8 OEM partners). I doubt they’ll ever dethrone Apple, but I also doubt that’s the company’s goal.
Indeed, that better not have been Microsoft’s goal, as what was once an off-the-cuff parenthetical is now a bona fide headliner: Microsoft has not only undermined all their Windows RT partners, they’ve completely alienated their largest Windows RT partner!
Unhappy with Microsoft’s intended release of a direct hardware competitor, HP has reportedly withdrawn its support for the Windows on ARM RT (or “WART”) platform. The sages at SemiAccurate acerbically explain the whole ugly affair:
…Microsoft just unveiled one of the largest and most unethical industrial espionage campaigns of the last few decades, so it is no surprise that everyone is jumping ship.
If you haven’t been following the news, Microsoft handcuffed both ARM chipmakers and OEMs with their brilliant two device per chipmaker strategy. Then, they ‘worked closely’ with all the OEMs, ‘helping’ them with their designs. As soon as those designs were essentially finalized, Microsoft did their own device that paid homage to their OEMs most innovative features. It is also a direct competitor to those OEMs, and was designed knowing exactly where their weaknesses were. …
With Microsoft mandated awful designs and a $90 OS tax that Microsoft doesn’t have to pay, that would be about 15% of the rumored $600 MSRP, OEMs can’t hope to be competitive. So they are bailing, fast.
Microsoft took an incredible gamble in entering the hardware side of the tumultuous tablet business, and it appears to be backfiring big-time. The ramifications are far-reaching and potentially cataclysmic for widespread Windows on ARM adoption. Without the help of HP and other powerful computer manufacturers, Windows RT will face an uphill battle far steeper — and far more precarious — than even the most liberal analyst previously thought. For struggling Microsoft partner Nokia, that’s particularly bad news, as lukewarm Windows RT reception could force the Finnish brand to drop Windows Phone altogether in pursuit of an already-established (but still secret) Plan B.
But does Microsoft have a Plan B?