I’ve watched with some interest the media kerfuffle around Microsoft creating and manufacturing its own tablet—Surface. News reports stated that HP is the first to walk from their development plans over this affront.

So how many successes has HP had in the tablet space so far? Can someone refresh my memory?  There are some good alternative (to the iPad) choices already available, and, which tablet is right for you, clearly depends on—you.  Here is a current list of the ten best.

Microsoft’s decision, however, has opened a whole new volley of threats and counter threats. The exchanges around this evolving story follow months of public failures by several companies.  The Microsoft decision sits on top of many other attempts by a whole host of companies to thrust new alternative iPads and Kindles onto the world—well, onto you and me.  As we’ve all probably read or heard, these attempts have mostly landed with a mighty thud. Some have had modest success, others slinking off into the land of lost and forgotten toys.

What was Microsoft to do? What are these manufacturers to do?

All this scurrying around by huge brands and corporate giants makes me wonder: Are they trying to play offense or defense? For the life of me, I honestly can’t tell. And if I can’t tell, I’m guessing I’m not alone.

I am not a huge sports fan, and that will quickly show if I try to go any further into a sports metaphor, but I do know an offensive play from a defensive play when I see it.  And I know a muddled play when I see it. Even to a novice observer it is easy to spot a play poorly executed, a pass or handoff that misses the receiver, a team that just isn’t in winning form on a particular night.

Does it matter that these companies (or your company or any company) know if they are playing offense or defense?  OF COURSE IT DOES!  Just like it matters to any team on any sports field in any given game. Depending on the offense/defense answer you:

  • Change the talent on the field
  • Execute differently
  • Evaluate alternative indicators to see if you’re making the moves you need to make to win
  • React to the whole chemistry of the teams in the game—not just the last play
  • Know your goal. You know what you have to accomplish.

Watching the tech wars before us, I see some obvious offensive teams:  Apple, Google and Amazon consistently set their own agenda.  Any recent article or interview about them affirms their clear command of their strategy- like them or not. RIM is clearly stuck in a poor defensive position and so far their game is not improving. Here is just one of the latest reviews.

It is truly hard to understand the strategies of the other players.  At the top of the list have been Microsoft and HP.  They are playing a muddled game. You see it in most discussions of their strategy, for example just the title of this story about the Surface screams weakness and the same is true for HP. This example is just one of their many fights today.

You don’t have to look very far to see evidence of a muddle and it always shows in results.  This post of an interview I did with Jim Notarnicola from Red Mango reinforces the need for clarity about your customers when setting or executing a play.

I’m not a devoted Microsoft fan and have no crystal ball to know whether the Surface will turn out to be a success or not, but it is the first clearly offensive move I’ve seen from them in a long time. That’s refreshing.

So, do you know if you are playing offense or defense these days?