Time for Microsoft to make a big consumer PC hardware play

Microsoft has primed the pump to make a play into PC hardware with the Surface line. It's time to leave the partners behind and make a Microsoft line of PCs, notebooks and desktops.

MSFT Surface tablet

The folks in Redmond shook up the tech world with the surprising announcement of the two Surface tablets running Windows 8 to appear later this year. Speculation was rampant as to what pushed Microsoft to potentially upset its partners in the hardware business. The move was welcome in my view, and I believe it is time for a full line of consumer PCs bearing the Microsoft brand.

Ed Bott has a great look between the lines of Microsoft's latest filings as a public corporation. Bott points out that in the 2012 10-K filing, Microsoft touts an ecosystem that it is in a unique position to build out. From the filing:

"The strategic importance of a vibrant ecosystem increases as we launch the Windows 8 operating system, Surface devices, and associated cloud-based services."

It's plain that Microsoft is looking to build such an ecosystem, with the Surface devices an integral part of the plan. While the company admits that building such devices risks the ire of its partners in the hardware business, this new hardware play is important enough to live with the risk.

I believe the time is ripe for Microsoft to take it even further than just the Surface tablets. Build a notebook using the sleek design principles behind the tablets, and leave the Ultrabook in the dust. Microsoft has the talent and resources to do so easily.

Even a Microsoft desktop would be a welcome sight, as frankly the entire PC business is in doldrums. Intel is pushing the Ultrabook design as hard as it can, but nothing in particular is exciting the consumer space.

A Microsoft notebook and an all-in-one desktop as sleek and attractive as the Surface tablets it has shown, designed with Windows 8 integrated into the very core of the hardware, would be the jolt that both Microsoft and the PC industry needs.

Microsoft is in a position to take advantage of the biggest lesson learned from Apple, that software and hardware must be tightly integrated to provide the best user experience. That could be built right into a Microsoft line of Windows 8 PCs which would blow the competition away.

Sure it would tick off its hardware partners but they've had their shot and blown it. They are content to muddy the Windows reputation with crapware and shoddy support, and that is not going to change. It's time for Microsoft to take the PC by the horns and own it. Do it the way it should be done and consumers will come.

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