Microsoft poisons its partners

Microsoft poisons its partners

Summary: First, Surface wrecks any plans Microsoft's PC partners might have had for tablets; now, Windows Phone 8 ruins existing sales for Microsoft's phone partners. Welcome to the future of Microsoft "partnerships."


The real red alert is for all of Microsoft's betrayed hardware partners.

The real red alert is for all of Microsoft's hardware partners.

With friends like Microsoft, who needs enemies?

First, Microsoft announces a vaporware tablet, Surface. On paper Surface is much better than anything its partners were building. Now, Microsoft has announced Windows Phone 8, a smartphone operating system that instantly makes every existing Windows Phone obsolete.

On behalf of ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Nokia, thanks for nothing Microsoft!

In the days since Microsoft announced its hybrid tablet/laptop I've talked to most of the major PC original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). None of them would go on the record with me on their reaction to the Surface. What I can tell you though is that every last one of them is as angry at Microsoft as a Boston Red Sox fan is at the New York Yankees after being swept at home.

Most of them, with reluctance, had decided that they were going to ship Windows 8 tablets. A few were going to try Windows RT tablets. Now, the OEMs must throw all their tablet plans out the window. With the Surface announcement, Microsoft has done to them exactly what Microsoft used to do all the time to its enemies: frozen the market by announcing something that sounds much better than what the OEMs had been planning on shipping.

Think about it. Let's say you really want a Windows 8 or RT tablet. I actually don't think between Apple's iPad and the various Android tablets that there are that many people who do, but there must be some people out there who want one.

Now, would you buy say a Dell tablet that would have been pretty much like every other tablet except that it runs Windows 8 or would you hold off until you could buy a Surface? Exactly. You're going to buy a Surface. At the most, you'll wait until the big name OEMs have something that looks like a Surface.

The problem is the OEMs don't have anything like that in hand. They've tried combination laptops/tablets before. They've all been flops. See for yourself:

A rogues' gallery of Windows tablets (pictures)

So, their plans had been to build conventional tablets. Of course, Surface may crash and burn too, but at least Surface aims high. It's just too bad that Microsoft neglected to tell any of its hardware partners of the last few decades about it.

As ticked off as the PC OEMs are though it can't be anything like how Microsoft's few smartphone partners are feeling. Every Windows smartphone in existence has just become yesterday's news. Even if you just bought a Nokia Lumia 900, the one bright spot in Windows Phone darkness, you can't update it.

Microsoft has just pulled an Osborne on every one of its mobile device partners. Osborne? That was an extremely popular early PC maker. They made the first portable (well luggable really) PC, the Osborne 1, in 1981.

Then, in 1983, Osborne made the fatal mistake of announcing its great new PC, the Osborne Executive, months before it was ready to ship. Suddenly everyone stopped buying the Osborne 1 because they were waiting for the great, new PC. The company went bankrupt before the end of the year.

Osborne effects: Death by pre-announcement

Windows Phone 8? Just like Osborne, Microsoft hasn't announced a hard shipping date. We expect it will be out at the time as Windows 8, which we think will be by October 2012.

So what the heck, for example, is Nokia to do for the next two quarters? Nokia, which has tied its future to Microsoft, is (or was) the Windows Phone's biggest backer. Even before the Windows Phone 8 news the Finnish company looked like it was dying. Only last week CEO Stephen Elop, and former Microsoft big-shot, had said that Nokia would double down on the Lumia line. Elop looks like a total prat now.

So what next? It looks to me like Nokia's only hope for survival is if Microsoft buys the company. If they don't, Nokia may not make it past the end of the year.

What should Microsoft's other spurned hardware partners do? I have a couple of suggestions: Talk to Google about Android and Chrome OS and Canonical about Ubuntu Linux. For your company's lifetime, you've stuck with Microsoft. Now, Microsoft isn't just abandoning you, it's poisoning you. It's time to move on.

Related Stories:

Topics: Software, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Nokia, Operating Systems, Tablets, Windows

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  • Hasn't this always been the case?

    From the moment IBM failed to secure an exclusive license for PC-DOS, Microsoft has been taking advantage of its partners.

    Nokia (et al.) are just the latest in a long line of victims.
    • Youre right of course

      The judgements in the various antitrust cases spells out MS treatment of their partners and competitors. The difference today is fewer reasons for them to put up with MS - they aren't what they use to be.

      WordPerfect, Novell, IBM, Lotus, Sun, ...
      Richard Flude
  • Now ZDNET positioned itself below the level of a tabloid for sure.

    The technology guru, pundit or whatever hath spoken the golden worlds and now the whole technology world "should" take it whole-heartedly to do their businesses with their partners. ;-)
    Ram U
    • Only now?

      ZDNet has been a on-line tech/business tabloid for some time now (measured in years).
    • I know. I read someplace that Steven started out as a fiction writer

      guess he still is. Funny he never said anything like that when Google purchased a cell phone maker, even after creating a Nexus phone of their own, and are looking into buying a carrier of their own.

      But that's all good as Google's partners desearve to get dumpped, or something silly like that.
      William Farrel
      • there can't be a parallel

        between google & M$ unless you are a M$ shill.
        Google is 1000X better than M$.
        for example, only M$ plants moles to destroy FOSS:
        The Linux Geek
      • William Farrel you FUD sounds just like something Loverock Davidson

        would say, your related or just have the same mindless mind set if someones opinion just dosen't agree with your everything Windoze line of dribble?
        Over and Out
    • old news

      You should know by now that's how zdnet is operated. They " so called zd journalist" get together and talk about whos going to write the flame bait article so all the fanboys get worked up start writing comments. Phase one complete! Then they move on to phase 2: who is going to write the counter argument so the other fanboys begin writing comments. That my friend is how they're able to keep their jobs, otherwise no food on the table.
      • Poor SJVN

        Why does he always get cast in the Corky Thatcher role?
        Your Non Advocate

      I'm giving SJVN my few cents by posting. The more you object to his deliberately controversial drivel, the more you make him happier and richer.

      Just count to 10 and move to another blogger.
  • Go to Ubuntu or Chrome OS? Nonsense.

    Do you really think other OS than Windows can save OEMs? Bullshit.

    It's true MS is not helping them but they have no choice. They have an option called Android in tablet market but it have not helped them either against Apple's iPad juggernaut. MS needs OEMs but OEMs needs MS much more. I bet the one who abandons Windows and bets on Ubuntu or Chrome OS will bankrupt before the end of the year.

    Pain is the part of the life of OEMs. It has been always there and it will be. if they don't want to endure endless pain, then just quit business.
    • They already tried to abandon Microsoft...

      I couldn't agree more. These OEMs have already tried to dump Windows & Microsoft, but they can't really make a buck off of Linux, Android, or Chrome (aside from Samsung). So now they're whining because Microsoft released a better product than they did? Whatev!

      The reality is that Apple has been leaving these other OEMs in the dust because their loyalties were split. That left Microsoft no choice but to do it themselves with Surface. The end result is a better OS & tablet than what Apple (or anyone else) has going.

      I do admit that Nokia is getting the short end of the stick with WP8, but I expect Microsoft to buy them anyway, so that point is almost moot.
  • Nexus?

    I don't see how MS introducing its own tablet is any different than Google's flagship Nexus phone. If anything, the Surface tablet will serve as a reference for OEM's... just like the Nexus does for Google. As for the Win8 Phone, I don't see how it's different than us iPhone 4 users not getting Siri. Really, the new NT kernel is GOOD NEWS and your spinning it to seem bad.

    You recommend Android. Do you know how many Android phones can't or won't run Ice Cream Sandwich? How is Android any better?
    • Yeaaah

      Please review the first Google phone's history. People at the time thought that it was going to pose a problem to Google's patrons, the ones who put Android on a phone. The phones were bought directly from Google and were effectively withdrawn from the US market a few weeks after release.

      At the time OEMs had no answer to the iPhone for the rapidly growing smartphone market, except for Android. Google may have been relying on that assessment. Still, it looked to this semi-casual observer that some folks did read the riot act to Mountain View and it was discussions from the heart followed by group hugs all around, after Google promised to stop doing what irritated the OEMs and/or paid compensation for the privilege to have an unadulterated Android phone*. After all, it's the carriers who dictate to the phone makers what is and isn't in the phones the carriers buy.

      *Citation needed.
    • Really, trolling on MS behalf again huh?

      It's different because Nokia was headed by an ex-Microsoft exec who tied them irrevocably to the Windows 8 OS then watched as Microsoft submarine them. It is debatable that this was the plan from the beginning to force them into a buyout so that MS could have a hardware division like Google\Motorola and Apple. It wreaks of antitrust and conflict of interest.
      • LOL!

        You reek of stupidity and retardation.
    • Dumb or stupid?

      Which one are you? Google didn't make the phone. They commissioned their own partners i.e HTC, Samsung to build them and actively looks for other partners. Yes they bought MOTO but hey have yet to produced their own cellphone completely branded as just google so don't be an idiot and do some analysis. I do think this is a bit overblown by these bloggers. Microsoft needed to do something to stay in the game and its clear that its partners are not really that committed into windows as a mobile brand. It looks like they're just throwing darts to see if they stick.
      • It doesn't matter......

        if they brand the phone as their own. Motorola has access that other Android OEMs don't, and every Motorola phone is a Google phone, since they own them. So Motorola is competing with every Android OEM.
        • You mean just like

          Every Nokia crap phone, is a Windows Phone? The only difference is Microsoft is intentionally destroying Nokia, mostly for the patents, as Nokia does not design or manufacture phones any longer. All Nokia phones are designed, and built by Foxconn.
          Troll Hunter J
    • RE: Nexus?

      [b]Microsoft's Signature PCs[/b] are a better analogy to Google's Android-based, Nexus smartphones.

      All are crapware-free devices created in full partnership with their respective OEMs.
      Rabid Howler Monkey