It was only a matter of time before a Microsoft hardware partner got mad enough to say publicly what they were grumbling about in the executive suites. However, Acer's threats ring hollow when weighed against the facts.
Taiwan hardware maker Acer, which also owns Gateway, is the first to complain about Microsoft going into the hardware business with its Surface tablet, something Microsoft knew would happen and acknowledged in its recent 10-K annual filing.
From Microsoft's fiscal 2012 10-K filing, page 14: "Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform."
Acer CEO JT Wang fulfilled that prophecy in an interview with the Financial Times yesterday. "We have said [to Microsoft] think it over," he said. "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."
Campbell Kan, Acer’s personal computing president, added "If Microsoft … is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?"
And there is the end of the debate. The answer to Kan is no. What else do you have, desktop Linux? They've been trying on that for 20 years and it's gone nowhere. Microsoft has had the hardware industry by the you-know-whats since the MS-DOS days and has been unchallenged since the demise of OS/2.
It's obvious Wang and Kan are scared of Surface because if it does well, Microsoft can take business from second-tier players like Acer. And let's not mince words: Acer is second-tier, at best. Its products are boomerangs - they go out the door at Best Buy and come right back. They have a high return rate and are not known for quality.
Microsoft's hardware history is mixed as well. Other than input devices, its sole experience has been with the Xbox 360. Red Ring of Death, anybody? But they handled that problem extremely well, about as best they could.
And then there's the rather pitiful fact that Microsoft is doing something none of the OEMs have done, and that's release basic laptops with no bloatware. I was glad to see an effort like the Signature line, where they take all the freeware, samples, etc., and just give you a brand name laptop with Windows 7 only on it, and had to wonder why it took so long for Microsoft to do this in the first place.
Rattle those sabers all you want, Wang and Kan. You've got nowhere to go and Microsoft knows it. It's time to up your game and stop producing cheap products.