Concerns linger over Surface as Windows 8 goes RTM

Posted by Shane McGlaun & Trent Nouveau

The final Windows 8 preview build went live in June, signaling the latest iteration of Microsoft's flagship operating system was almost ready for the masses.

Yesterday, Redmond officially confirmed Windows 8 had been released to manufacturing (RTM). Essentially, this means product development and testing of the operating system has ended, with the final code handed off to OEM partners for installation on upcoming desktop PCs, tablets and laptops.

As TG Daily previously reported, Windows 8 will hit physical and virtual shelves on October 26, with typical upgrades priced at $40. However, anyone who purchases an eligible Windows 7 computer today will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $14.99 via the Windows Upgrade Offer.

Personally, I'm particularly excited that Microsoft is finally offering a cheap upgrade to Windows. I stayed with Vista for a long time simply because it worked for me, and had little interest in paying for an expensive OS upgrade.

Now athough there is a certain amount of industry anticipation for Microsoft Windows 8, concerns still linger over Redmond's latest foray into the lucrative tablet space. Indeed, a number of PC vendors - including Hewlett Packard (HP) - are quite perturbed over Redmond's recent decision to enter the  tablet market with its indigenously designed Surface device.

The ongoing furor prompted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to reassure jittery partners that Redmond's recently unveiled Windows 8 Surface tablet is simply a "design point" - rather than a competing device.

"It will have a distinct place in what's a broad Windows ecosystem," Ballmer told attendees at Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference. 

"And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have that design and produce Windows computers will not diminish."

Unsurprisingly, Ballmer's rather vague attempts to assuage vendor concern were followed an official admission that its upcoming Surface lineup could weaken support for Windows 8 amongst Microsoft's partners in the PC industry.

And now a Taiwanese analyst is warning that Surface is likely to cannibalize the market for ultrabooks, put price pressure on Android tablets and confuse consumers.

"Surface may stand out in the market by sacrificing profits or getting subsidies from Microsoft, while the remaining brands are unlikely to possess the ability and will to do so," Eric Chiou of TrendForce explained in an industry note obtained by The Register.

"Undoubtedly, customers are expected to take the price of Surface as a benchmark for every single prospective Windows 8 tablets; that is, Microsoft’s Surface with an intentionally lowered price may decrease the price flexibility that affects its brand partners’ earning capacity, and even further impact their desire to launch new products."