Something happened yesterday (June 18, 2012) that will have repercussions for technology development for many months to come. With more than a little showmanship, Microsoft announced that they were going to manufacture and market two Windows 8 tablet devices. This is a major shift for what is typically considered a software company, but I don't think Microsoft had a choice. It had to be done.
Normal PC manufacturers specializing in Windows-based products are just not going to give Windows 8 tablets the technological kick in the pants required to compete with the elephant in the room -- the Apple iPad.
Microsoft has learned this harsh lesson from the lackluster reception smartphones running Windows Phone 7 have received. Leaving the manufacturing to barely interested partners gets you nowhere, even if the product is decent and deserving of at least a look by the average consumer. It requires a certain amount of will to make a marketable product.
Microsoft had to make a bold move and bypass foundering PC manufacturers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Both of those companies are reeling in a market that has devolved into a commodity play based on the slimmest of margins. Neither Dell nor HP would be willing to take on the risk of developing a truly competitive Windows 8 tablet. Only Microsoft had the will to make the Surface a reality.
By most accounts the Microsoft Surface line of tablets is going to be devices worthy of consideration by anyone looking to purchase a tablet. Now, that doesn't mean that the Microsoft Surface RT or the Pro are going to displace the iPad in the near future, or ever even, but at least they will be in the same ballpark. If Microsoft waits for Dell or HP to get to that ballpark, they lose by forfeit.
So let's start considering the potential for the Microsoft Surface. Are you more likely to buy your tablet hardware from Microsoft now that the company has jumped in with both feet? Do you have relationships with Dell or HP? Will those relationships have to be reconsidered now?
Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.