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The possibility that Microsoft will go it alone with the manufacturing and integration could damage its partner relationships, Convery said.
"It would damage Microsoft's relationship with its hardware partners," he said. "As a channel partner, we have a stake in the success of our hardware partners. And getting into a new market is not easy. Just look at HP with its TouchPad."
HP in August exited the tablet PC market by ending development of its TouchPad tablet.
There is more to partnering than just having a product, Convery said. "You also need partner profitability and ease of partnering," he said. "Microsoft is in the top four or five (in this regards). But Microsoft has many alliances, including with HP. I'm not sure it would make a lot of sense for Microsoft to go at it alone. We've seen too many cases of what happens when strategic partnerships change."
Microsoft's introduction of the Surface tablet is different from its normal new product introductions in that the vendor gave no advance notice to partners, Convery said.
"I haven't seen anything non-disclosure from Microsoft on this," he said. "It's unusual for them."
Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder who like all system builders depends on partnerships with Microsoft, said he is not too concerned there may be no hardware play for partners.
"I can't iimagine Microsoft will jump into hardware just like that," Swank said. "I can't believe Microsoft will stab partners in the back. This has to be more of a software or application play."
However, Swank said, the Surface tablet PC is something Microsoft had to do to respond to Apple's iPad.
"Microsoft has to respond to what Apple did for people who use its devices or who increasingly bring them to the workplace," he said. "The iPad has Microsoft worried. It's a reaction to the iPad. And Microsoft realizes it can't rely on OEMs to fight Apple."
There is the possibilitly that Microsoft will cut out hardware partners like HP and Lenovo, Swank said. "But Microsoft has to protect itself," he said. "In any event, the tablet PC is not always a channel play. For us, the Microsoft tablet is just another tablet to offer customers."
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