re: Does Microsoft Really Need To Make Its Own Hardware?
I don't think manufacturing per-se is the issue, as noted by others already. It is the entire thing--the hardware, software, marketing, selling, support, etc. I hate to use the ecosystem word but that pretty much describes it. However, everyone thought Apple had that sewed up and although they are doing "great" Android phones lead, Google apps has caught up, everyone else's phones have bigger screens, more optimized for video, and can run flash, and Apple just figured out small tablets with a copy of themselves (typically a bad idea--"new, now with less than before!!"). So it is not impossible to create a system and gather a following.
When I saw the update for Xbox OS it was perplexing. Then Windows 8 appeared and it started to make sense. Microsoft has for over 10 years had a vision that the Xbox can become the portal into the home, and everything else relates to that. Apple would like to get there with Apple TV etc., but that is where Microsoft has a huge lead having so may Xboxes already out there. If they complete an OS convergence, figure out the TV and other entertainment aspects across platforms (they already have Netflix on Xbox live so if they can make sharing completely seamless, and make the OS transparent...) they might suddenly emerge not only as a threat to Apple but as a threat to set top boxes, cable companies, and the like.
I agree that from what I have read about RT vs. "real" 8 it is a half-step to launch Surface with RT. Part of the whole "ecosystem" argument from the PC side is Office software. Surface with RT cannot run that suite, so I won't touch it. But if the Surface with full 8 and Office compatibility meets expectations, that could be my 1st tablet, and my iPhone 4 could go away once my Verizon contract runs out, in favor of a Windows Phone. We'll see.