Microsoft Pulls From Apple Playbook With Surface Tablet

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By Ian Sherr

Microsoft Corp.’s first personal computer, the Surface tablet, provides further evidence that Apple Inc.’s strategies and success continue to shake up the tech sector.

The software giant is for the first time emulating Apple’s longtime practice of managing both elements in a computing device—one that will directly compete with products from its biggest customers.

Though insisting it remains committed to helping other hardware companies make successful tablets using its software, Microsoft also endorsed Apple’s philosophy in forceful terms.

“We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects of the experience—hardware and software—are considered and working together,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, during the Surface launch event Monday.

Indeed, the Surface mirrors the signature traits of many Apple products: It has sleek edges and it is encased in various metals. The device is also thin and light, with specifications very similar to the newest iPad, which went on sale in March. Microsoft also touts the interplay of software and hardware, particularly with its magnetically attachable screen cover, which also doubles as a touch keyboard and trackpad.

The Redmond, Wash., company even borrowed from Apple’s well-worn playbook of remaining very secretive about its launch event, keeping unusually quiet about details like where it would be held and leaving partners in the dark about its plans.

“This is a drastic change for the company,” Raimo Lenschow, an analyst for Barclays, said in a note to investors. “With Microsoft taking on the end-to-end design and manufacturing of the device, it is clear that they realize the competitive threat that tablets present and are thus taking steps to compete in the tablet market directly.”

 

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(Published June 22, 2012, on The Wall Street Journal’s website.)