The New York Times‘ Nick Wingfield has a good backgrounder on the roots of Microsoft’s decision to design and sell its own tablets. Basically, he says, Surface stemmed from Microsoft’s alarm over both the iPad’s ambition and the lack of ambition exhibited by Windows PC makers:
Microsoft learned through industry sources that Apple had bought large quantities of high-quality aluminum from a mine in Australia to create the distinctive cases for the iPad, according to a former Microsoft employee involved in the discussions, who did not wish to be named talking about internal matters.
The executives were stunned by how deeply Apple was willing to reach into the global supply chain to secure innovative materials for the iPad and, once it did, to corner the market on those supplies. Microsoft’s executives worried that Windows PC makers were not making the same kinds of bets, the former employee said.
Wingfield also says that some observers think that Microsoft will pull out of the tablet business once other manufacturers start making better Windows tablets. We’ll see about that.