But other analysts, like IDC's Tom Mainelli, said an estrangement was unlikely. "Partners aren't going anywhere," said Mainelli in a June interview. "Most of them have tried Android tablets, but without any success. So although this might irritate them, Microsoft knows that [the OEMs] need them."
In fact, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has continued to praise OEMs and their role rather than to admit any fear that they may shun either Windows or the Windows tablet market because of the Surface. At the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto two weeks ago, Forbes publisher Rich Karlsgaard conducted a staged interview with Ballmer where the chief executive claimed Surface was simply a "design point," or guide for OEMs, not a replacement for what they might design and sell themselves.
"Surface is just a design point. It will have a distinct place in what's a broad Windows ecosystem," Ballmer said. "And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have that design and produce Windows computers will not diminish."
Microsoft has not yet disclosed important facts about the Surface tablets, notably the price of the two models it will sell, one powered by Windows RT, another by Windows 8. The Surface RT, as many have come to call the former, will rely on an ARM processor and will launch the same day as Windows 8, Oct. 26. The Windows 8 Surface, based on an Intel processor, will ship in late January 2013.
In the WPC presentation earlier this month, Ballmer said the company "may sell a few million" Surface tablets, but did not put that into a timespan context.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.
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