Acer chief warns Microsoft against launching Surface tablet

JT Wang has said that if the software vendor moves into the hardware market it will be ‘negative for the worldwide ecosystem’ in computing

One of the world's largest computer manufacturers, Acer, has attacked Microsoft's plans to launch its own tablet in October, claiming that the move will be 'negative for the worldwide ecosystem' in computing.

Microsoft revealed in June that it plans to branch into the hardware market by launching its own tablet, dubbed Surface, which will go head-to-head with Apples iPad, but has also created tensions with its OEM [original equipment manufacturers] partners.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Acer's chairman and chief executive, JT Wang, has become the first big PC manufacturer to publicly criticise the software giant's move.

"We have said [to Microsoft] think it over. Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction," said Wang.

He added: "It is not something you are good at so please think twice."

Microsoft's decision has highlighted the fragile relationship it has with its OEM partners. Prior to the Surface tablet announcement, Microsoft's Windows operating system provided OEMs with an open platform that allows them to focus on improving hardware. This created competition amongst hardware vendors, which drove down costs for consumers.

However, this is now being altered by the likes of Apple with its iPhones and iPads, where it focuses on integrating software with the hardware and creates products that are less price-sensitive.

Campbell Kan, Acer's president for personal computer operations, indicated to the Financial Times that if Microsoft goes ahead with Surface, it may reconsider its business model too.

"If Microsof tis going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?" he said.

The Surface will be available in two versions. One will run the Windows 8 Pro operating system and the other will be based on Windows RT, a new version of Windows designed to run on the ARM family of processors that are predominant in the tablet market.

The machine has a 10.6-inch, widescreen, high-definition display and comes with a 3mm thick, pressure-sensitive cover that doubles as a keyboard.

Current specifications call for the Windows RT version to be slightly thinner but slightly heavier than Apple's latest iPad, although Microsoft notes the size and weight of the device could change once mass production begins.

The Windows 8 Pro version will be thicker and heavier and appears designed to compete with ultra-thin notebook computers. It should be able to run all the same software as those computers.

Microsoft revealed a few basic specifications for the tablets. The RT version will come with 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage, while the Windows 8 Pro version will have 64 or 128GBs.

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Derek du Preez

Computerworld UK

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