The media loves a fight and the media is quite good at making sure there are plenty of fights to report on. It is true that Microsoft could have done a better job of getting its partners onto the Surface bus before it left the station, but it would certainly have sacrificed the secret, and the surprise. And the media also loves a good surprise.
Ordinarily I would put links here to articles supporting my thesis that the media is itching for a MS vs Partners fight, but there are so many articles I could not pick. Just search for "Microsoft Partners Surface" and you will see what I am talking about.
By the time Surface gets to market in the fall, this will all be forgotten. Here are some more specific predictions:
Will Microsoft let partners sell the Surface? Right now it is being reported that the device will only be available in Microsoft stores and on the Microsoft web site. I find it hard to believe that Microsoft will prevent its partners from selling the device. So I predict, that if MS can make enough of them, partners will be able to sell them too. Who knows, maybe MS is in the middle of big deal negotiaitons with Best Buy, or even Verizon, and so they cannot announce the distribution deals yet.
Does Microsoft want other great Win 8 tablets on the market? Microsoft did not refer to the Surface as a reference design, but I think it is a reference design. If the product is a hit, Microsoft will not be able to make enough of them. If it is a dud, no one will care. So Microsoft must want other PC makers to enter the market. In fact there is nothing Microsoft can do to prevent it.
Will this put Win 8 at the front of the line? To date the predictions in the business market have been pointing to wide adoption of Windows 7, and not so much for Windows 8. I do not think this will change that. Windows 7 is a great product and businesses are not going to jump to Windows 8 for this. It will be a great addition to the windows line, and now a business can give an exec a Surface running Windows 8 instead of an iPad. The billion or so installed PCs currently running earlier versions of windows, including 200 million still running XP, will be upgraded to Windows 7 (if possible) or not upgraded at all.
All around, great job Microsoft. You have introduced a credible competitor to the iPad. Microsoft Partners are better off today than they were a week ago -- and I am sure the partners know it.