Microsoft incentivizing chipmakers and tablet manufacturers to form 'sole alliances'? (updated)

A trio of sources speaking to Bloomberg have seemingly shed light on Acer's concerns with Microsoft's new tablet strategy. Seems that the boys beneath Ballmer hope to speed delivery of the company's new tablet OS by limiting variations. To accomplish this, Microsoft is offering incentives to chip and computer makers that agree to form sole alliances (i.e., one chipmaker works exclusively with one computer manufacturer) including enhanced feature sets and lower prices on Microsoft software. Under the plan, chip suppliers will be able to select a second company to produce a clamshell-style laptop using Microsoft's next wares. The plan is not mandatory and does not apply to desktop use of Microsoft next operating system, according to Bloomberg's sources. However, if true, then it represents a dramatic departure from Microsoft's traditional war-of-attrition approach to the laptop and tablet market that has resulted in a near limitless choice of brands and configurations so synonymous with Wintel. It all sounds incredible until you consider Microsoft's approach to Windows Phone that already marries its mobile OS to a highly restrictive specification sheet. With Windows Next (or Windows 8, if you prefer) set to support both Intel architectures and ARM (and all its licensees), we can understand Microsoft's desire for tighter control over its partners in hopes of accelerating development and testing. After all, Microsoft is conspicuously absent from the tablet discussion these days. We guess Steve wasn't kidding when he called this OS Microsoft's "riskiest product bet" yet.

Update: And now DigiTimes has jumped in with support for Acer CEO, J.T. Wang, claiming that Taiwan's PC makers have been excluded from Microsoft's Integrated Development Program (IDP) for Windows 8 tablet PCs. According to the Taiwanese rumor rag, long time Microsoft partners Acer, ASUS, and even HTC have been shut out of the proceedings. Instead, DigiTimes claims that chipmakers Intel, AMD, TI, Qualcomm and NVIDIA have been invited by Microsoft to choose manufacturers from a first-round list of participants limited to Dell, HP, and Samsung. Hopefully Microsoft will add some clarity to all this later today when we get our first look at its next generation OS. [Thanks, Pradeep]