Acer's chief executive has urged Microsoft to rethink its planned move into the tablet space, warning that it will take the software vendor out of its comfort zone and vex its hardware partners.
Microsoft announced in June that it will launch a series of tablets under the Surface banner, potentially throwing it into conflict with its OEM partners.
In an interview with the Financial Times yesterday, Acer chief executive JT Wang became the first head of one of the big PC vendors to publicly criticise Microsoft's tactics.
"We have said [to Microsoft] think it over," he said. "Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice."
Microsoft is itself acutely aware of the dangers associated with becoming a hardware player, having recently filed a report outlining the potential risks surrounding its Surface launch. This included an acknowledgement that Surface "will compete with products made by our OEM partner, which may affect their commitment to our platform".
Acer told the FT it is debating internally how to respond to the Surface and any further incursions into hardware by Microsoft.
"If Microsoft... is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?" said Campbell Kan, Acer's president for personal computer global operations.
Onlookers are split on whether the Surface can cause ripples in a tablet market dominated by Apple.
According to a recent CRN poll, 42 per cent of readers thought it could challenge the iPad, 34 per cent said it would depend on pricing – which has yet to be disclosed – and 24 per cent said it should stick to software.
However, some analysts are convinced that Microsoft will price itself out of the market.
Only last week, Tim Coulling, analyst at Canalys, said the information available to date suggests both the Surface and Surface Pro will be priced too highly to capture significant market share.
"We expect the Surface pads to have a similar impact on the PC industry as the Zune did in portable music players," he added.
Canalys principal analyst Chris Jones agreed with Wang's damning assessment, arguing that the move had upset some partners.
"Marketing, distributing and servicing such hardware profitably is hard," he said. "Once the Surface makes a material dent in Microsoft's P&L, it will need to repair relationships with PC vendors, who are already preparing lists of demands."
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