Microsoft Explains How It Keeps PC Makers Happy While Also Competing With Them
The partners that license Windows haven’t always supported Microsoft’s moves to step on their turf with its own tablets and laptops. So how is Microsoft navigating those relationships now? From a report: The CEO of Acer told the Financial Times Microsoft should “think twice” when it first introduced its Surface tablet in 2012. And Asus reportedly felt blindsided when Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay unveiled the Surface Book — which was more like a traditional laptop computer — in 2015. When Panay speaks at Microsoft events about the latest Surface computers, he almost unnaturally enthusiastic and oddly specific about hardware components. Now, he said, he’s excited — he likes to use the word “pumped” — about the diversity of options for consumers and organizations, no matter who builds the hardware.

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“OEMs provide choice for customers,” Panos said of Microsoft’s partners. “Not just choice for choice’s sake. What do you want to accomplish? You can pick a device that suits you.” In 2016, Microsoft announced a partnership with Lenovo, the world’s biggest seller of PCs, in an effort to prevent conflicts that might arise between the Surface business and Windows. “We came to a very simple approach…we call it a level playing field,” said Lenovo’s leader of worldwide strategic alliances, Christian Eigen, who has known Panay for 15 years. “It means Microsoft does not give, from an operating system point of view, any feature exclusively to Surface.”

The CEOs of Microsoft and Lenovo communicate four to six times per year, and teams lower down in the organizations talk 12 to 24 times per year, Eigen explained. Microsoft also improved its communications with partners around Windows 11. “It was definitely, by far, more transparent and open and kind of cooperative development,” Eigen said. […] “My whole goal is, ‘Hey, what do your customers need?’ This is from an OEM brand perspective,” Panay said. “Same with Surface. ‘What do the Surface customers need?’ Ultimately, they’re all Windows customers.” He said has has had input on every Surface model, including the Surface Laptop Studio PC that went on sale this week.

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