Microsoft Surface RT "likely to be a one-off" device, claims source


The forthcoming release of Microsoft's first own-brand tablet, the Surface RT, is unlikely to herald a wholesale move into the hardware business for the firm.

This is the view of a Microsoft supply chain source, speaking to IT Pro under condition of anonymity, who claims the device is likely to be a "one-off" foray into hardware manufacturing for the vendor.

Microsoft is not planning to become a hardware vendor, they just want to create some disruption.

"Microsoft is only selling the [Surface RT] through Microsoft Stores and online...because they haven't got the manufacturing capacity to make it global," our source said.

"It is probably going to be a one-off product...they are not planning to become a hardware vendor, they just want to create some disruption in the tablet, iPad market."

The ARM-based Surface RT tablet will go on general release from 26 October to coincide with the software giant's wider Windows 8 launch.

The Surface RT will not allow end users to run desktop applications, apart from those that come pre-installed.

Instead, users of the device so called because it runs the Windows RT operating system will only be able to use Metro-style apps.

A more businessfocused version of the device, Surface Pro, is expected to go on sale in early 2013, which will allow users to run both desktop and Metro-style apps.

Andrew Buss, service director at IT analyst house Freeform Dynamics, said Microsoft's go-to-market strategy with Surface is probably a concession to its OEM partners, who may have felt sidelined by the product's release.

"They know having a device of their own is in conflict with their OEM partners and it won't be long before we see ARM-based devices from other vendors, including Lenovo, Dell and HP," said Buss.

"So, I think having the device available through limited channels is a way to minimise the competition with their partners."

IT Pro was awaiting a response from Microsoft to this story at the time of publication.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.