Microsoft already recognized that it couldn’t compete in
smartphones without a deep relationship with a hardware partner, and
paid Nokia at least $2 billion up front to take that role. But tablets
are WAY more important to Microsoft than smartphones — every iPad sale
is one less Windows computer purchased — and Microsoft has said that its
tablet and smartphone ecosystems will eventually converge.
Here, Microsoft could enter some sort of joint venture with HP — and
maybe another party like Intel? — to share a piece of its newly
independent PC business, or might simply strike the same kind of deep
partnership it has with Nokia.
This might also give Microsoft another use for its growing retail empire.
I don’t think this is a good idea. Mostly because HP is trying to get
out of the hardware business, and it’s not like Microsoft or even Intel
has shown any talent driving hardware projects. (And HP could probably
find a much better JV partner for PCs and WebOS devices, anyway, such as
I see why it might be helpful to have one Windows
tablet vendor that can build integrated hardware and software in true
harmony, like Apple does, so other vendors can see what the ideal
Windows tablet looks like, emulate it, sell millions, etc.
But that might not even work, and the new channel conflict may send even more of Microsoft’s Windows partners over to Android.
isn’t like Windows Phone 7, where license fees are minuscule, and
Microsoft had to find a partner like Nokia to save the platform. The
Windows division still generates almost half of Microsoft’s profits, and
preserving it as long as possible is crucial to Microsoft’s survival.
I’m still not convinced that full-blown Windows is the right way to go
with tablets. Maybe Microsoft will prove me wrong with a version of
Windows that sings on a tablet and is still compatible with traditional
PCs and Windows apps. But I’m still concerned it’s going to be too
complicated and not well-designed for touch controls. (And even if the
OS is okay to control by touch, most older Windows apps won’t be.)
simpler tablet OS, based on Windows Phone software, may still be the
better move. And then it might be too late for Microsoft to catch up.
(Or that might at least require a preferred hardware partner, such as
Nokia.) We’ll see next year.