We’ve seen a ton of reactions to Microsoft’s Surface tablet, but one group of companies has remained fairly mute — Microsoft’s hardware partners.

Acer, the world’s fourth-largest PC vendor, is breaking that silence.

“I don’t think it will be successful because you cannot be a hardware player with two products,” Acer vice president Oliver Ahrens told Reuters.

Ahrens’ comments mark the first time that a hardware partner has publicly criticized Microsoft’s latest strategy. Acer’s distaste may be justified, if not a bit resentful, given the rumors that Microsoft didn’t warn its hardware partners of its tablet plans.

He points a finger at Microsoft saying the company is emulating Apple’s hardware strategy. That is, Apple controls the hardware and software, giving it complete reign over both platform direction and profits.

But Ahrens doesn’t believe Apple’s strategy will work for Microsoft. Unlike Apple, what Microsoft creates affects the direction of over two dozen other hardware companies.

“Microsoft is a component of a PC system,” he said. “A very important component but still a component.”

Instead, Ahrens would like to see Microsoft focus on the Windows 8 user experience and leave the hardware creation to its hardware partners.

“I worry that this will lead into a defocus internally for Microsoft, and then we have to suffer because we are working with their products,” he said.

Microsoft has a mixed record with hardware products thus far, and while the company scored a major victory with the Xbox 360, products like the Zune and Kin were less successful. But the Surface tablet is another matter entirely. It puts Microsoft in direct competition with its hardware partners, which may be why Ahrens is speaking up at all.

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