... But loyalty is a two-way street. And just how loyal to Microsoft have those OEMs been in the last few years? The number-one PC maker in 2010 was HP. So what did they do in 2011? Well, first they bought WebOS, which could have been a serious competitor to Windows, and announced that it would be a key component of their PC strategy
. And then, in August 2011, they announced they were planning to exit the PC business completely
I remind you: this is Microsoft’s number-one PC partner.
That didn’t work out so well, of course, and two CEOs later HP has dumped WebOS and reaffirmed its commitment to the PC business. But still, when your longtime partner tells you “I’m just not that into you anymore,” how should you react?
And we can run down the list of other hardware companies and find equally fragile, strained relationships:
Dell and Lenovo are building Android tablets. The CEO of Asus just stood on stage at Google I/O to show off its new Google-branded tablet. Samsung makes the Chromebook and an Android-powered tablet that is so close to the iPad that it’s been banned for import into the United States by a Federal judge. In short: The days of the exclusive OEM-Microsoft partnership are over.
Frankly, I see Microsoft’s hardware moves as defensive, not aggressive. It has opened a dozen or so retail outlets (with plans for 75 more
) and an online store, where it sells products made by its OEM partners. The key differentiator is that a PC you buy at the Microsoft Store isn’t loaded with crapware.