Despite the recent bashing in the press from its partners, Microsoft continues to forge ahead with plans to turn a profit by making its own hardware, as evidenced by the current spate of job postings for the Surface tablet team.
Yesterday the Financial Times ran a pair of interviews with Acer chairman and CEO JT Wang and Acer president for personal computer global operations Campbell Kan, both covering Microsoft's intent to launch two Surface tablets in October. As Preston Gralla reports in Computerworld, Wang is quoted as saying, "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. It is not something you are good at so please think twice." Kan is reported as saying, "If Microsoft...is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"
The report generated a wave of comments among Microsoft supporters, ranging from "Acer, what's that?" to "Let them ship Ubuntu tablets." That's quite a comeuppance for a company that's been a stalwart supporter of Microsoft products -- not just consumer Windows but Windows Server, too. Acer's currently rated by Canalys as the fourth largest PC manufacturer in the world, even if you include iPad in the totals. Acer sells more PCs than Dell.
By announcing the Surface, Microsoft made it clear to PC and tablet manufacturers that they're not in Microsoft's future. Intentionally or not, Microsoft is once again aping Apple in pursuit of higher profits.
Job postings on the Microsoft Careers site currently list 18 openings for the Surface team. They range from software engineers and test engineers -- as you might expect -- to configuration managers, hardware designers, electrical engineers, materials engineers, and thermal design engineers. That doesn't sound to me like a bunch of people who will sit around maintaining the two current Surface designs.
One job opening posted last week says: "The Configuration Management Lead position will be part of the Surface development team... responsible for developing and delivering the next generation of Surface products. Other supporting team members will include industrial design, electrical, mechanical, component and SW engineers, commodity teams and manufacturing program managers... international travel is required."
Note the future tense.
Microsoft has fired the first salvo in the Windows 8 tablet wars. It just isn't clear yet who's the enemy -- and what's going to get caught in collateral damage.
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