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Microsoft Raises the Stakes With the Surface

And as all Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) trackers have acknowledged by now, this also marks a serious strategic shift for the company. Taking a leaf out of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) strategy perhaps, the Surface launch marked Microsoft's desire to embrace both hardware and software, rather than relying on a set of hardware partners, as has been the trend till now. While that might prove to be a dampener for companies such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and Asustek, all of whom are gearing up to launch Windows 8-based tablets of their own, it's probably a sensible move on the part of Microsoft by taking a leadership role and ensuring a seamless integration of their newest operating system.

So, has Microsoft jumped the gun? Probably not, considering that it just cannot afford to sit back and watch tablet computers displace PC's and laptops from their seat of dominance, upsetting the planet's most popular software (Windows) at the same time. And in the process, it wants to be the big daddy of them all. In fact, that's the whole idea behind Windows 8 -- creating software that can be smoothly operated on different hardware platforms such as desktops, laptops, smartphones, and now tablets. And with Microsoft's Windows-based mobile ambitions in clear and present danger, courtesy of a certain struggling Finnish mobile company, the Surface may be its best bet to take on Apple.

All said and done, some basic and unanswered questions remain, starting with the differentiating factors that make the Surface stand out vis-à-vis the iPad. Microsoft has failed to update its followers with the software enhancements which should strengthen its primary stance -- that the Surface offers the best of both worlds, a serious workplace device, and the convenient form factor of a tablet. The other issue centers around its price. While Microsoft claims that it will be on par with similar devices available in the market so far, the company should have a strategy up its sleeve once Apple launches a mini, 7-inch (and obviously lower priced) version of the iPad as rumored. It's gearing up to be a great show this holiday season!

To find out what happens in this race for survival, investors have to pay attention to every move Apple makes. It's at the heart of our new premium Apple research service, which offers an inside look at our senior tech analyst's analysis of the world's most popular company. Aside from Apple, and potentially Microsoft, there are several others looking to cash in on the next trillion dollar revolution in mobile computing. Our special free report on the topic outlines one company with great potential both in the U.S. and booming emerging markets, so grab a copy now while it's still available.

Fool contributor Subhadeep Ghose doesn't own any shares in any of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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