While Microsoft has announced its plans to launch its new Windows 8 operating system Oct. 26, a company report indicates that the software giant also plans to roll out one of its much-hyped Surface tablets on the same day.
The filing, an annual report that offers an overview of the company, makes for interesting reading. In it, Microsoft refers to "Surface devices," suggesting there's more to be unveiled than new keyboards and mice, and notes the need to offer a "vibrant ecosystem" with which to attract and lock-in users, as the number of applications they buy over time becomes "disincentives for users to switch to competing platforms."
The business practices of Microsoft competitors Apple and Google are also described, though the companies aren't named.
In developing the Surface, Microsoft stepped away from its software-based rootsa necessary measure, it believes, for effectively competing against Apple and its complete, vibrant ecosystem.
By creating its own hardware, however, Microsoft put itself in an awkward spot with its hardware partners, which are also working on tablets running Microsoft's latest OS. It was a move, Microsoft acknowledges, that may jeopardize some of its relationships and also income.
"Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners," it states in the filing, "which may affect their commitment to our platform."
Microsoft also wrote that it will continue to invest in both hardware and software, as well as servicesincluding cloud-based offeringsand technologies, working to create a halo effect around its products.
"Our degree of success with Windows Phone, for example, will impact our ability to grow our share of the smartphone operating system market," states the filing. "It will also be an important factor in supporting our strategy of delivering value to end users seamlessly over a variety of form factors, including PC, phone and TV device classes."
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart has likewise forecast that if the Surface is a success, it could help drive sales of Windows Phone 8 smartphones, as well as lock consumers into Microsoft's cloud services, spanning both devices.
Were the Windows RT-running Surface to offer a tie to Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, it could enable Microsoft to cover still another area that Apple is investing in.
Pund-IT analyst Charles King has told eWEEK that the Xbox's installed base is roughly equal to that of the Apple iPad.
"If Microsoft can convert a sizable number of media-savvy Xbox owners into Surface customers, it could cut deeply into the potential audience for [the rumored] Apple TV," said King.
Offering a concise explanation of its big-picture goal, Microsoft writes in the filing, "Whether a PC, Windows Phone, Xbox 360 or the newly announced Surface devices, our goal is to provide users with a consistent and compelling experience through a common user interface and our services such as SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Bing, Skype, and our Windows Azure cloud platform."
Michelle Maisto is a Senior Writer at eWEEK. Follow her on Twitter @eWEEK_Michelle.