Microsoft Seeks to Exploit 'Snatch & Grab'

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Software giant Microsoft ( MSFT) continues to be the soup of the day on Wall Street. However, if Mr. Softy has its way over the next couple of quarters, simply referring to it as "software giant" will soon become an offensive tag.

As we know, the company made it clear that it is no longer satisfied with that moniker by having announced its presence into the realm of hardware vendors with its Surface tablet, a device expected to take a bite out of the dominance of Apple's ( AAPL) iPad. The only question is, will it?

While Microsoft has been fraught with stock and product disappointments over the past decade, expecting it to narrow the gap with Apple, which has a considerable lead, is a tall task. Microsoft can only hope it "scratches" the Surface.

For this reason Apple is not concerned, nor does it have a reason to be -- at least not until Microsoft can prove that it can build an ecosystem of its own. However, from that standpoint we are talking about execution, an area where it has failed to impress even its most ardent supporters. What will be different this time?

Well, it depends. Early indications suggest both consumers and investors have already made up their minds one way or another. What is clear is the brass on Wall Street has adopted a "wait and see" attitude and don't want to tip its hand to avoid falling on its face.

Interestingly, this was the same group that pumped Facebook's ( FB) initial public offering ad nauseam and got it wrong. Be that as it may, the pro-Apple bias is in full effect. As far as these investors are concerned, "disappointment will fall to the Surface."

I'm not going to be quick to rush to Surface's defense but it bothers me to hear from doubters of how Microsoft lacks the ability to compete. How quickly we forget. Has anyone heard from Novell or Netscape lately? When was the last time you signed into your suite of programs by Lotus? In fact, it might be because you're still using Word Perfect.

The fact of the matter is, Microsoft has never had a problem competing as it has steamrolled over these once formidable opponents, even Apple at one point.

Microsoft is not Apple, and only for this reason is it perceived to be permanently down even though its numbers tell a different story. It goes without saying that this is not the pre-2000 Microsoft when it was Apple before Apple. Its current businesses from software and enterprise still produce a considerable amount of cash and decent growth.

By and large, I think this is the reason that the company has now decided to do something about this disrespect it's getting from Wall Street, essentially altering how it is perceived. How better to do that than to venture into a new area for which you are not known such as hardware?

While some have taken the stance that this is too big of a risk, I see it differently. I think the bigger risk would have been to maintain the status quo and do nothing. I say this because search giant Google ( GOOG) took the same risk and it worked -- except it became a hardware company by acquiring an existing hardware player in Motorola. What then happened was Google immediately became a competitor to its existing partners including Samsung and HTC that relied on Google's Android operating system.

Similarly, Microsoft is risking alienating its existing partners including Dell ( DELL) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), which now raises the question about their survivability.

However, I don't think that is Microsoft's concern, nor should it be. Its primary focus should always remain the sustainability of its own business. For this it deserves a considerable amount of credit -- if Surface can deliver on its promise of turning the company into a "hardware giant."

Bottom Line

It remains to be seen what will become of Surface. But I think investors need to realize that at this point, regardless of what happens, Microsoft is not going anywhere although Wall Street wants nothing more than to see it fail. However, to the extent the company is perceived to be alienating Dell and HP, I think this move actually helps them.

If Microsoft can take a pretty "decent" chunk out of Apple's share of the tablet market, it opens more opportunities for Apple's competitors similar to a "snatch & grab." These rivals, including Samsung, Research in Motion ( RIMM) and Amazon ( AMZN), whose Kindle Fire has been the only true contestant within the space, can now capitalize on Microsoft's potential success and flood consumers with comparable devices as well as exploit opportunities for new ones.

All Microsoft has to do now is execute. Do you hear that? I've just let out a hopeful sigh...

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.