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Things are getting a little “Mean Girls” in the PC manufacturing market, as Microsoft pushes a product that competes with its top partners while simultaneously telling the world how great those partners are.
On Friday, Business Insider spoke with Terry Myerson, Microsoft Windows’ vice president of windows and devices. We were at an Asus event announcing a bunch of new Windows 10 gaming laptops, and Myerson was onstage to show solidarity with the company’s PC partners.
Myerson told us that the company had been “transparent” with its partners about its ambitions to create new Windows devices, including the new Surface Book laptop announced last week.
But Myerson later admitted to Recode that Microsoft had not told Asus – or any of its PC partners – about the Surface Book before it was announced.
Recode reporter Ina Fried had been standing near Asus Chairman Jonney Shih at the company’s event, and when the Surface Book came up, Shih reportedly said, “I think we are going to have a serious talk about that.”
Playing nice is a crucial tactic. If Microsoft is going to meet its goal of getting Windows 10 onto a billion devices in the next few years, it needs to make sure that the big PC manufacturers, like Dell and Asus, are on its side.
With the introduction of the Surface Book, Microsoft is now competing in the same laptop market as its partners, making it critical for the company to smooth any ruffled feathers. Myerson spent much of the last week speaking at PC launch events from Asus, Dell, and HP.
For its part, Microsoft insists that the Surface line of hardware, including the Surface Book laptop and Surface Pro tablet, are solely meant to grow Windows 10 with a wider line of devices – Myerson identifies the Apple MacBook Pro as the main competition for the Surface Book, not any Windows PC manufacturer.
All of this is up against a backdrop of the shrinking PC market, which analysts expect to keep going down until a brief resurgence in 2017, at which point it will start going down again. This means that, ultimately, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and the rest are competing for a bigger slice of a smaller pie, as laptops give way to smartphones as the primary computer.
Microsoft is working really hard to push its laptop/tablet hybrids as the future of computing, trying to beat the rush out of a dying market. But trying to sell the computers of tomorrow may come at the expense of Microsoft’s partners of today.
A Microsoft spokesperson gave the following comment:
“Microsoft strives for a complementary approach with our OEM partners, with transparent communication on our vision for Microsoft devices and how we intend to compete with Apple to grow the Windows ecosystem. We shared details about the Microsoft devices event with our OEM partners, but we did not share details about specific devices in advance. Confidentiality is common across the ecosystem, but our relationships with our OEM partners are paramount. We’ve enjoyed traveling the world over the last week to celebrate new Windows 10 devices with many of our partners.”
Asus had no comment on this report.