Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says the very first person he showed Microsoft’s Surface PC to outside of Microsoft was Michael Dell.
Ballmer says that Dell’s reaction was “very thoughtful.”
We’ll bet it was. Microsoft had finally done what all of its PC partners feared it would do, create its own PC that competes with them.
Ballmer and Dell discussed the story during a rare joint interview to the New York Times. Ballmer says that in 2012, there will be about 400 million PCs sold worldwide and Dell admits that no single PC manufacturer could handle that volume alone.
“When you think about those 400 million PCs, we want that to be 450 million. There’s no company on the planet that can build all those,” Dell said. “As I see it, the prime goal is to ensure the success of Windows 8. We’ve never sold all the PCs in the world. As I’ve understood Steve’s plans here, if Surface helps Windows 8 succeed, that’s going to be good for Windows, good for Dell and good for our customers. We’re just fine with all that.”
How gallant for Dell to say that. But in a strange sort of way, he’s right. When Microsoft built its own PC, that was a slap in the fact to its partners, no doubt. And some people blame PC makers for the move, saying that PC designs had become uninspiring and vendors were loading their PCs up with so many unwanted, “bloatware” apps, that Microsoft had to do something.
Microsoft had even created an anti-bloatware service, called the Signature Upgrade, where it charged users $99 to remove unwanted advertising-ish apps from new Windows PCs.
But Microsoft Surface is more than just a finger wagging at it’s partners. With the Surface PC, Microsoft is shouldering more of the risk of its new operating system — which is a vast departure from earlier versions of Windows.
Seen in that light, Dell is right. If Surface is a hit, then Windows 8 is a hit and consumers will want to shop and compare Windows 8 devices before buying one. This could help Dell rebuild its flagging PC business.
And if Surface is a bomb, then Windows 8 is a bomb and Dell would have more motive than ever to shrink its PC business and grow its enterprise data centre and services business instead.
Dell has previously predicted that Windows 8 won’t be an immediate smash hit with corporate user.