Toshiba's withdrawal -- perhaps permanently, maybe just temporarily -- is a blow to Microsoft's efforts to enlist as many OEMs as possible in its Windows RT campaign. Microsoft is betting big on the new operating system; it has virtually no presence in the growing -- and for Apple at least -- lucrative consumer tablet market.
According to numbers released Tuesday by research firm IHS iSuppli, Apple's iPad accounted for nearly 70% of all tablet sales in the quarter that ended June 30.
The lack of OEMs committed to Windows RT, and those OEMs' tablet designs, were the prime reasons why Microsoft took the unprecedented step in June of unveiling its own hardware, experts have said.
But Microsoft has also tried to calm OEM jitters. Last month, CEO Steve Ballmer argued that Surface was simply a "design point" for OEMs, not a replacement for what they might design and sell themselves.
"Surface is just a design point. It will have a distinct place in what's a broad Windows ecosystem," Ballmer said. "And the importance of the thousands of partners that we have that design and produce Windows computers will not diminish."
Microsoft has promised to start selling the Surface RT -- its Windows RT-powered 10.6-in. tablet -- Oct. 26, the launch date for the more inclusive Windows 8 operating system.
Toshiba did not reply to email requesting confirmation of the statement quoted by Bloomberg.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.