Monday, August 22, 2011 at 11:01 am.

Should Microsoft do a tablet joint venture with HP?

From Matt Rosoff’s “SURPRISE! The Next 10 Crazy Tech News Stories We Just Might See” at Business Insider:

Microsoft already recognized that it couldn’t compete in smartphones without a deep relationship with a hardware partner, and paid Nokia at least $2 billion up front to take that role. But tablets are WAY more important to Microsoft than smartphones — every iPad sale is one less Windows computer purchased — and Microsoft has said that its tablet and smartphone ecosystems will eventually converge.

Here, Microsoft could enter some sort of joint venture with HP — and maybe another party like Intel? — to share a piece of its newly independent PC business, or might simply strike the same kind of deep partnership it has with Nokia.

This might also give Microsoft another use for its growing retail empire.

But I don’t think this is a good idea. Mostly because HP is trying to get out of the hardware business, and it’s not like Microsoft or even Intel has shown any talent driving hardware projects. (And HP could probably find a much better JV partner for PCs and WebOS devices, anyway, such as Samsung.)

I see why it might be helpful to have one Windows tablet vendor that can build integrated hardware and software in true harmony, like Apple does, so other vendors can see what the ideal Windows tablet looks like, emulate it, sell millions, etc.

But that might not even work, and the new channel conflict may send even more of Microsoft’s Windows partners over to Android.

Windows isn’t like Windows Phone 7, where license fees are minuscule, and Microsoft had to find a partner like Nokia to save the platform. The Windows division still generates almost half of Microsoft’s profits, and preserving it as long as possible is crucial to Microsoft’s survival.

Anyway, I’m still not convinced that full-blown Windows is the right way to go with tablets. Maybe Microsoft will prove me wrong with a version of Windows that sings on a tablet and is still compatible with traditional PCs and Windows apps. But I’m still concerned it’s going to be too complicated and not well-designed for touch controls. (And even if the OS is okay to control by touch, most older Windows apps won’t be.)

A simpler tablet OS, based on Windows Phone software, may still be the better move. And then it might be too late for Microsoft to catch up. (Or that might at least require a preferred hardware partner, such as Nokia.) We’ll see next year.

Related: HP made the right moves: It’s no Apple, so it shouldn’t try to be