"If Microsoft ... is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?" asked Campbell Kan, president of PC global operations for Taiwanese computer maker Acer, whose product line includes Windows tablets, laptops, and PCs.
Kan made his comments to the Financial Times, in a report published Monday. Acer's non-Windows options for tablets would include Linux or, more likely, Google's Android OS.
In the same story, Acer chairman and CEO JT Wang also expressed frustration over Microsoft's plans to introduce a line of Windows 8 tablets called Surface. "We have said [to Microsoft] to think it over. Think twice," said Wang. "It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It's not something you are good at so think twice."
Microsoft unveiled Surface in mid-June, and CEO Steve Ballmer showed off the device at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto last month. "We had to make sure that we had a piece of hardware that was unique in its ability to be that leading-edge hardware that really showed off Windows 8," said Ballmer.
Microsoft plans two versions of Surface, one that will feature Windows 8 RT running on ARM-based mobile chips, and another, Surface Pro, that will feature Windows 8 Pro on tablets with x86 or x64 processors. The tablets will debut on Oct. 26, the same date on which Windows 8 makes its retail debut.
[ Windows 8 tablets will be too expensive to dent the tablet market, says an analyst. Learn what Microsoft needs to do. See Microsoft Surface The Next Zune? ]
Microsoft has not announced pricing, but reports suggest the Windows RT version could start at about $500, with the Intel-based version selling for more. Some analysts believe Windows 8 tablets will have a tough time competing, given that Amazon's Kindle Fire can be had for just $199, and even the new iPad starts at $499.
One problem: tablet makers who produce Windows 8 devices have to pay to license the OS from Microsoft. Android devices don't carry the same overhead.
"Canalys has advised PC vendors (Microsoft's OEMs) to postpone launches of Windows RT pads until Microsoft rethinks the high license fee," market watcher Canalys said in a report last week. "Once the Surface puts a material dent in Microsoft's P&L, it will need to repair relationships with vendors, who are already preparing lists of demands," said Canalys' Chris Jones.
Add Acer to the vendors preparing such a list.