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One example of the innovative work being done by hardware OEMs is Lenovo’s Yoga product, said Ballmer. That Lenovo laptop has won raves for its ability to flip backward transforming into a tablet. “Is that a tablet or a PC?” asked Ballmer. “I don't know. I don't know what to call that. I think most people call it a notebook. And yet it looked pretty tablet-ish to me.”
Microsoft is introducing two Surface tablet products: Surface for Windows RT, a consumer tablet running Windows 8 on ARM microprocessors that Microsoft expects to be used in the workplace, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro, an Intel Core-based tablet that runs the edition of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system for business professionals.
Tim Harmon, an analyst for Forrester Research, a Cambridge Mass. market research firm, said he sees Surface as a winner that is destined to put a dent into Apple's iPad market share. He praised Microsoft for its innovative keyboard design and for positioning its new Surface for Windows RT product squarely in the business market.
As for the competition with hardware OEMs, Harmon called Microsoft’s concept that it will charge itself royalties “monopoly money.”
“If I was an OEM partner I would be a little disconcerted,” said Harmon. He suspects that if those OEMs step up with strong innovative Windows 8 tablets, Microsoft could back off from its Surface push in three or four years.
“They did it to spur OEMs to get their houses in order,” said Harmon of the Surface launch. “We’ll see a fairly clear distinction between the consumer market and the business market. I think Microsoft will cede the bulk of the business market to the the OEMs.”
Harmon said the business market for tablet computers could be as “big or bigger” than the consumer market for tablets. While many talk about the consumerization of IT, he said, there is also the “businessization of the consumer” which could spark business customers to use their Windows 8 tablets at home. “That is where the battle lines are being drawn,” he said.