In the good old days, Microsoft did software and everyone else made the hardware, even on the Macintosh platform Apple made the hardware and Microsoft added Office etc. But those days are gone. Today, any serious contender in the post-PC era designs the hardware and the software. Apple do it, Google do it, Amazon do it and now, with the advent of the Surface tablet and Windows 8, Microsoft do it. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, has told the BBC that the Redmond company won’t stop at the Surface and that it has other hardware plans.
The tablet and smartphone market is moving quickly. There are new devices being announced every day. The problem for Microsoft is that if it only develops the software, there will always be a lag between the release of a new software version and the hardware that can run it. This is partly because Microsoft’s software isn’t open source like Android. For Android developers the source code is always available and devices can be built and tested quickly without having to wait for Google. The source code can even be modified and changes pushed up to Google if needed.
To remedy this Microsoft extended its hardware business from its existing Xbox business and designed and launched the Surface. Early next year Microsoft will release the Surface Pro (which uses an Intel CPU and runs the standard version of Windows 8). However it clearly has plans for other devices:
“Is it fair to say we’re going to do more hardware? Obviously we are… Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we’ll dive in,” said Ballmer to the BBC. “We have committed ourselves on a path where we will do whatever is required from both a hardware and a software innovation perspective and the cloud innovation perspective in order to propel the vision that we have.”
The big question is, what do Microsoft have planned? More tablets? A Microsoft designed smartphone? A laptop? Is there anything that Microsoft could design that would tempt you away from Android? Please leave a comment below.