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HP's Whitman pegs Microsoft as an 'outright competitor' over Surface

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 11, 2013
CEO acknowledges reality, joins others like Acer, Lenovo to criticize partner's move into hardware

"HP could have stomached Microsoft's consumer piece [of its devices strategy]," said Moorhead, "But the commercial piece took them to the point where they had to say something."

Microsoft has been expanding its efforts to push Surface, notably the upcoming 2-in-1 Surface Pro 2, into businesses, its historic stronghold. Although it waited until July, six months after the launch of the original Surface Pro, before it allowed distributors and resellers to handle the tablet, and even then limited the number of eligible resellers, a report Wednesday by long-time Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet claimed that in at least some markets, all resellers would be able to sell the Surface Pro 2 — and its less-expensive cousin, the Surface 2 — to businesses.

At the presentation yesterday, Whitman and other HP executives noted the changed computing landscape, where Microsoft's OS and Intel processors are no longer the only choices for OEMs.

"We're in a new world now with multiple operating systems, new architectures, new silicon, new graphics, new subsystems," said Dion Weisler, the leader of HP's personal computer division. Later, Weisler acknowledged that HP is pursuing a four-OS strategy that includes not only Windows, but also Android, Chrome OS and Ubuntu, one of the more popular Linux distributions.

"This was all more about the future direction, as opposed to what's happened in the here and now," said Moorhead of both HP's plans and its complaint about competition from Microsoft.

Indeed, Microsoft has big plans for the first half of its devices-and-services strategy. Not only has it not given up on the Surface, particularly the struggling Surface RT (renamed the Surface 2 after a refresh, but it will spend $7.2 billion to acquire Finnish phone maker Nokia, which will drive Microsoft's own smartphone sales and may contribute to the Redmond, Wash. company's tablet portfolio, too.


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