Microsoft-Intel Push to Combat Apple in Tablets Sputtering: Tech

04 Dec 2012

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(Bloomberg)  A push by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Intel Corp. (INTC) to combat Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad in the $63.2 billion tablet market is getting off to a slow start.

Of more than a dozen tablets Microsoft and Intel touted for the new version of Windows, only five can be purchased for immediate U.S. delivery. Early demand for Microsoft’s first computer, the Surface tablet, seems “disappointing,” said Craig Berger, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. And computer makers have been hampered in introducing tablets by limits Microsoft imposed on which manufacturers got a crack at prototypes, and by delays in Intel power-management software.

The holdup is making it harder for personal-computer makers, already beleaguered by plummeting demand, to challenge Apple and Google Inc. (GOOG) during the year-end holiday shopping season. While PC variants running Windows abound, tablets built on ARM Holdings Plc (ARM) technology-based chips or low-power processors from Intel are scarce, reports Bloomberg.
“You can hardly even find one,” said Bob O’Donnell, an analyst at market researcher IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. “So even if you wanted to buy it, it would be difficult.”

The list of Windows tablets is short. In addition to Microsoft’s Surface, Asustek Computer Inc. (2357)’s Vivo Tab RT and Lenovo Group Ltd. (992)’s IdeaPad Yoga run the RT version of Windows and boast ARM-based chips. Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)’s ATIV Smart PC and Acer Inc. (2353)’s Iconia run Windows 8, and rely on Intel chips.

Microsoft Stores
Two of them, the Surface and the Acer device, are only available at Microsoft’s own stores, which number just more than 60 for the holidays. FBR’s Berger wrote in a note last week that Surface sales “have underwhelmed expectations.” Microsoft has declined to comment on Surface sales, which isn’t a positive sign, said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.
“When Microsoft is stealthy about numbers, that usually means something,” he said.

At a September event, Intel said nine PC makers, including Dell Inc. (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), would have devices with its newest low-power chip on sale when Windows was released in October. More than a month later, only four manufacturers do. Of those, only two have products in the U.S., Intel said.

‘Awkward Launch’
Days before Windows went on sale, Microsoft provided a list of five Windows RT devices it said would be available at the software’s release. Only two made it out of the gate, and Microsoft later said the list contained errors. 

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