Acer, which has long been publicly critical of Microsoft's Windows 8 strategy, now says that Microsoft has started to listen to its hardware partners. And the company's chairman has offered a strange, backhand compliment, saying that Microsoft has finally learned "how people living on earth think." With compliments like that, who needs to hear criticisms?
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Acer President Jim Wong said that Microsoft had begun to listen to the complaints and recommendations of its hardware partners, something he said the company hasn't done in the past. He told the Journal that Microsoft has become more "considerate" of its partners, and that it has begun adopting their recommendations "at a high percentage."
The Journal also quotes Acer Chairman J.T. Wang as saying:
"In the past we consider they (Microsoft) live in heaven. But now they go down to earth and they start to learn how people living on earth think."
That's a backhanded compliment if ever there was one. It very clearly says that Acer believes that in the past Microsoft has ignored the needs of its users and business partners, but that now the company is amending its ways.
Acer has been critical of Microsoft and Windows 8 before the operating system even launched. The company was upset that Microsoft was going to sell its own brand of Surface Windows and Windows RT tablets. Wang told the Financial Times: back in August:
"We have said [to Microsoft] think it over. Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction...It is not something you are good at so please think twice."
In January, Acer President Wong told Bloomberg that Windows 8 had been a bust:
"Windows 8 itself is still not successful. The whole market didn't come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that's a simple way to judge if it is successful or not."
Acer's comments come after Tami Reller, Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Office, went on a publicity blitz saying that Microsoft will make changes to Windows 8 based on customer feedback. In a Microsoft blog, she said that Windows Blue will address customer complaints:
"The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we've been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT."
All this isn't to say that Acer is convinced that Windows 8 will quickly become a rousing success, or that it agrees with part of Microsoft's core strategy for Windows 8. Acer President Jim Wong clearly doesn't agree with Microsoft's belief that all computers will become touch-enabled, and the way it designed Windows 8 primarily for touch. He told the Journal:
"When we were talking to Microsoft, our input to them is balance. The world in the next five years is not going 100 percent to touch. Although touch makes a lot of possibilities for PCs, you need to take care of the rest of the world that doesn't need touch."
Still, given Microsoft's rocky relationship with Acer, Asus and other partners, Microsoft must be pleased to hear Acer's compliments, as odd as some might be. Now comes the hard part, though. Listening to feedback is one thing. Making significant changes based on them is another. Windows Blue's arrival will provide a first look at how serious Microsoft is about listening to customers and partners.