Microsoft has stated that they’re developing the Surface because their hardware partners have failed to innovate. Of course, one reason for that is that “the Microsoft tax” on every PC has left the manufacturers with insufficient margin to support R&D. (I’ve read that Microsoft makes more profit per PC — about $55 per unit — than anyone else. One result is that in an effort to juice up their margins, the manufacturers have loaded new consumer-class Windows PCs with crapware. (HP is the worst offender.)
The June 13 Surface “prototype” was obviously vaporware: there was no ship date, no price, and no hands-on trials.
I fear that the Surface is a bump in the road as CEO Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s Ringo Starr) rides Microsoft downhill.
I give Mr. Ballmer and Microsoft credit: Surface will undoubtedly shake up the hardware manufacturers. But in the end, their lack of innovation is caused by Mr. Ballmer’s unimaginative management. What else do you expect of a sales manager with no technical chops who becomes CEO?
For the moment, Microsoft Office, Exchange, and Sharepoint remain entrenched in the corporate market, where they earn most of Microsoft’s net profit. How much longer will that continue? See my July 2011 article, Whither Microsoft?