Microsoft passing on Nokia for Surface tablets -- it's a branding thing

Microsoft passing on Nokia for Surface tablets -- it's a branding thing

Summary: Microsoft is entering the hardware market with its own Surface tablets. Some are wondering why the company didn't rely on its hardware partner, Nokia, to build the Surface together. Simple, it's a branding thing.

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Surface No Nokia

The Surface tablets wowed the tech world when Microsoft threw its surprise unveiling party. The sleek Windows tablets with distinctive kickstand and thin keyboard cover captured the attention of a lot of folks.

With Microsoft entering the PC hardware business with the Surface, some are wondering why the folks in Redmond didn't team up with Nokia to build them. The alliance between the two companies is strong, billions of dollars strong, yet Microsoft passed on Nokia to make the Surface tablets.

Why did Microsoft leave Nokia out of the Surface strategy? It's a branding thing. Microsoft is finally taking control over the Windows brand by offering a top-level tablet in the Surface. The hardware will carry the Microsoft logo in addition to the Surface logo, and the company must take that very seriously.

Had Microsoft allowed Nokia to build the Surface that branding would have been watered down. Nokia would no doubt have insisted that its logo accompany Microsoft's on the hardware. Such co-branding would not have sent as strong a message to the world that Microsoft wants to send. We are building the best Windows tablets ourselves.

Nokia has admittedly been working on at least one tablet of its own for a while, so this is certainly awkward for them. Microsoft not only passed them by with the Surface, but will end up competing directly with them. Talk about a double-whammy to Nokia.

It is great that Microsoft is producing its own hardware for showcasing Windows 8. The OS is a radical departure for the platform and needs outstanding hardware to show it off. Microsoft has done that with the Surface, and all on its own. It is Microsoft's brand through and through, and that's the way it should be.

Topics: Microsoft, Nokia, Tablets, Windows

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40 comments
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  • Sure. Branding.

    Nokia's future prospects had nothing to do with in.
    symbolset
    • I'd doubt it.

      I think James is more on the money. Just as Google and Amazon have lept into the developing market hoping to grab a piece of the "Apple-style" hardware/software pie.

      Finding a tech partner to build it for them would not have been difficult. They certainly weren't too worried about Nokia to let them become the public face of WP in the run up to the WP8 launch. At the end of the day, had they got Nokia to build their designs and Nokia gone bust, they would have just commisioned someone else to build them.

      The point is that MS design is behind the surface products, so the real question is why would they get someone else to build them? Sure Nexus phones are Samsung and tablets are Asus, but Google are newwer to hardware. With soon to be three generations of Xbox, the Zunes and their Accessories spanning well over a decade, MS have the production experience to attempt this themselves. The designs for the Surface pro in particular really did get us excited, why wouldn't they want that all that kudos landing on their Logo? After all it was the biggest change in Tablet approach since the iPad. I love my Nexus, and was very impeessed with the 10.1n, but let's be honest, they didn't deviate much from the script, relaticely speaking.

      On the other hand, it's a huge risk for MS, we aren't talking a closed platform like apple, or designing for someone elses OS like HTC or Nokia, it's creating a template for a platform, them selling the OS that identifies it directly to the competition. It has the potential to be an IBM-PC situation. We've already heard lots more info regarding specs and prices from Lenovo and Samsung than we have from MS regarding pro tablets. Part of the risk may now be that the W8 tablet market is already full when they get there.

      I've got a lot of good wishes for them; it does take guts to go out on this one and I wish them luck with it. It's on their own back; given the competition, a budget option will be obliterated, they've got to produce quality and a brand image to pull it off.

      Nokia will be fine making their own W8 tablet range. They may be new to tablets in general, but they seem to have learned their lessons in the mobile market and have started offering devices more akin to what people want than their old model of "this is Nokia, people follow us" that got them into the mess.

      The Lumina's are excellent, and they've found a good physical identity ( HTC clearly thought so) going back to the meego days that they'll definitely be able to carry over to the tablets. If they go under, it'll be a huge shame for mobile history, but at least rhey'd go out swinging.
      MarknWill
  • Because Nokia...

    ...is Finnish for "dead man walking."
    dsf3g
  • No big deal!

    There is enough pie left for nokia to grab in the smartphone world...tablets will be an added bonus...so MS jumping up and down with Surface is no big deal...Mr. Elop would have probably known about the MS plans anyway...
    owllnet
  • Surface is no big deal

    As long as Microsoft only sells it through its Microsoft store which only have a web presence and very few brick and mortar locations.

    And for one I'm not going to invest into a Surface tablet unless I can get my hands on one and try it in store before I buy and there are no Microsoft store in eastern Canada so unless I can see and touch it in Bestbuy or similar store, no way I'm buying.
    lepoete73
    • If MS only sells the surface online

      it will be like when Google sold their first phone only online. no one got a chance to try it, and not many people bought it.
      theoilman
      • Yeah, the Google phone went nowhere, huh?

        And they are still selling it online. When will they ever learn?

        Oh, wait ...
        Still Lynn
        • I think the point oilman was making

          Along with others, is that you really need to get display models into stores like PCWorld so that consumers can have a go.

          Nexus one sold virtually no units to people not interested in google while it was exclusively on their store. This is why they closed the store and moved to a traditional phone sales route. It wasn't a sensation for the price but it did okay, and has now lead on to the successful Galaxy Nexus, that is also available in carphone warehouse at theoment.

          The point that MS need to get the devis into peoples hands to try for quick market growth seems sound to me.
          MarknWill
    • I agree

      I think it's got the potential to be a really great device, but like I do with almost everything else I buy, I want to try it out first. If it's only available in MS stores that'll be a problem for a lot of people that don't want to buy blind.
      dsa791
  • MS could have had Nokia build the surface with zero branding but

    Id think both they and Nokia would rather not. I think Nokia would rather make their own tablet and be in total control of its destiny. I think they'll be building a tablet for a different price range of the market that is not competing with the surface. If I were Nokia Id first go after the consumer market with a 7" tablet starting at $199 and a 10" tablet starting at $249 with the same keyboard connector as the surface. I'd use the same polycarbonate casing as the lumia 900 has as bring them out in several colors. Im sure nokia and ms strategized about the tablet market together and each staked out a piece for themselves well aware of each other.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Lawyers' heads explode

      No, you are not "sure of that" and you should not accuse Microsoft of colluding with competitors in a conspiracy to restrain trade. I don't know about Finland, but such agreements would be absolutely illegal in the United States.
      Robert Hahn
  • Home and Office

    I imagine that any device Nokia makes will be colorful and generally appeal to consumers/individuals (as opposed to corporate purchasers).

    Maybe we'll hear something on September 5th.....@ Nokia world.
    Tojuro
    • the surface

      is pretty colorful. metro (oh no! not supposed to call it that anymore!) in general is really colorful, so I don't think nokia design was factored into this so much.
      theoilman
      • Only the keyboard/cover is colorful

        The tablet itself it very standard looking if the keyboard is not attached.
        lepoete73
  • Surface was probably created before Nokia deal...

    The Surface tablets were probably conceived before the Nokia deal was realized, or maybe it was even too secret for Nokia to know. I don't see what the big deal is. If Nokia wants to make a tablet, Microsoft will probably give them the nod. Most likely, however, a Nokia tablet will look like a Nokia product (something like its phones), and not a Microsoft product (or the product Microsoft had envisioned).
    newyorkcitymale
  • Mountain out of a mole hill time?

    "so this is certainly awkward for them."

    LOL!

    Come on, how many companies in the world make their own brands, and also make store brands that sit on the shelf next to their name brands?

    More then quite a few. General Mills makes their Cheerio's brand, while on the line next to it they're packaging the Acme or Giant market brand "cherrios". Appliance manufactures, windows, doors, ect. Not a new concept, nor awkward. Business.

    Why suddenly is this awkward, or whatever?

    This is just another blog trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, IMHO.
    William Farrel
  • "The Surface tablets wowed the tech world..."

    Yeah. Especially that part where it quit working in the middle of a demo.
    Userama
    • Did you pay close attention to the Surface presentation?

      And by close, I mean close. When the dude was demoing the Surface Pro, you could see a little watermark on the desktop saying "This is only for testing purposes only". You had to look close to see it. So then it obviously wasn't a RTM (Release To Manufacturer) product yet. So it only makes sense for the Surface RT to be beta as well if the Surface Pro was beta. Regardless, it wasn't the final software. And as a side note, Apple releases their products not long after the keynote is showed (with the exception of the iPad 1), so their software is the final build in the keynote. But it still had some glitches and failures during the presentation (like the iPhone 4). I have an iPhone 4 by the way so I'm not hating on Apple.
      Jabe124
    • There was a 'wow'...

      ... but I think that had everything to do with Microsoft doing their own labelled hardware. Doesn't look like the Surface tablets are horrible or anything, but they're not terribly unique, either. It remains to be seen if the rubber cover/keyboard is actually useful, or just a gimmick. There have been many attempts at the very same thing, going back to the days when calculators were cool.

      And there are many reasons MS doing hardware at this level is interesting. Sure, we all knew that MS could develop hardware, and given the rise of gigantic CMs, the barrier to entry is smaller than ever -- MS doesn't need to own factories any more than Apple does. They have done well on the X-Box, at least at present (there were some growing pains -- then again, Microsoft actually developed the chips for the X-Box).

      But this is the first time they're really going up against "the usual gang of idiots" that comprise the PC industry. And here's the thing: given the very, very tight specs Microsoft dictates for Phones, is it really the case that they needed to do this just to ensure some good HW was built? After all, particularly for ARM systems, they've basically set screen size, resolution, SOCs that should be used, etc. And they control the software. So there's no chance of the old Wild West (both good and bad) that we've seen on Android.

      Which begs the question... are they more concerned about the Windows 8 tablets being a non-event with their involvement? Given that Microsoft is risking so much on the desktop to deliver on the tablet interface, they're in dire straights if they give tablet, and no one shows up. Microsoft getting into the mix here ensures there's at least some industry interest in the Windows tablet.
      Hazydave
      • Well I wouldn't necessarily call them "idiots"

        Sure in the past, OEMs have screwed up Windows greatly by uploading bloat ware (some call it crapware) and making the PC slow and less productive. But this year, 2012, is a different year for most of the OEMs and Microsoft. Have you looked at Asus' Tablet 600 and 800? They are definitely something an IT Pro or a geek would want to take a look at. And I hear Lenovo is creating their second ThinkPad aimed for the enterprise. Speaking of Lenovo, they have said something which you said. The Microsoft Surface isn't anything that is hugely unique. It's mostly because of the brand that it has become popular. Lenovo has said something very similar to that, and as a result, they don't feel threatened by the Surface and are creating good tablets, unlike Acer who is complaining. As for me, the Surface isn't a bad tablet at all, but I see myself getting an Asus Taichi in the future (look it up on Youtube, it's pretty nice).
        Jabe124