Microsoft's Surface Pro and RT tablets made a lot of noise when they were first announced. The Surface marked Redmond's first big foray into consumer hardware manufacturing, and its intention was clear: Take away some of Apple's iPad momentum.
Despite the Surface gaining some devoted followers, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Although Microsoft boasted about the Surface Pro selling out its first week on the market, analysts have been noticeably down on the tablet's potential, with some even calling it a misfire. Why didn't Microsoft just let other computer makers build Windows 8 devices like it usually did?
Asked whether or not creating the Surface on its own was worth risking Microsoft's relationship with OEMs, the company's Craig Mundie didn't hesitate to say yes.
""One of the big challenges that the company faced in the last couple of years was just the question of, would there be a very high quality physical device that would go up against Apple?" he said to The Verge. "We set out to prove with Surface that you can do that. I think that certainly people have acknowledged that."
Prior to that answer, Mundie explained how Microsoft typically left it to other companies to build products showcasing its software, even as it started seeing diminishing returns on end quality. Especially since hardware makers were reluctant to produce high-end touch-enabled devices for Windows 8, Microsoft found it necessary to get in the game themselves.
"We said, 'oh the OEMs, that's their design, they deal with it.' We got huge diversity out of that at all possible price points, but it became hard to guarantee a uniform quality of experience that the end user had," said Mundie. He specifically mentioned the touch capabilities on Microsoft's first entries into the phone market, saying, "If you were in front of a bad one then people said that was a piece of crap; it didn't work a damn."
Microsoft's jump into consumer hardware also comes at a time when PC sales are trending down while mobile sales keep climbing. With PC makers increasingly willing to experiment with alternatives like Google Chrome OS, it's up to Microsoft to highlight the benefits of Windows software with quality products.
Mundie looks back on Microsoft's past with some disappointment, too, considering how many devices the company had on sale that preempted Apple but never took off.
"It turns out we had all four categories of devices [music players, touch devices, phones, and tablets] in the marketplace, more than one year or two years before Apple even did their first one, but for a whole variety of reasons - just business choices we made at the time - we didn't end up capitalizing," he said.
Looking forward, that's something Microsoft wants to change.