It’s never a fun feeling seeing old friends become new enemies. Now Microsoft and HP may not exactly be bitter rivals, not yet, but they sure are on the path of becoming frenemies.

Redmond made its hardware ambitions very clear last year, around the time it first unveiled its original Surface tablets. Of course, development on Windows 8 was chugging along at a fast pace back then, but the event itself made other companies stop what they were doing and take notice.

And some, not all, Microsoft hardware partners started seeing the company as a competitor. Acer in particular was undeniably harsh in its criticism of the technology titan, and its foray into hardware.

Now HP is another company that seems upset with Microsoft’s plan to go all out devices and services.

Meg Whitman, HP’s CEO was rather blunt during a meeting with analyst in proclaiming that Redmond is no longer just a simple partner now — instead it is turning into a powerful competitor that is fighting for customers in the same buyer segment.

Barron’s quotes Whitman as saying:

“Wintel-based devices are being aggressively displaced by ARM-based PCs and mobile devices. PCs are declining while tablets are growing… Current long-running partners such as Intel and Microsoft are becoming outright competitors.”

Wintel here is the term used to denote the combined Windows and Intel ecosystem, by the way.

She is obviously talking about Microsoft’s ongoing efforts in the hardware realm — the company just unveiled its second generation Surface lineup, which are about to go on sale later this month. Microsoft is also gearing up to launch even more Surface devices in different form factors and sizes next year.

In reality though, Microsoft is in a unique position that requires it to balance a bunch of factors at once. Unlike Apple that is all about hardware devices, and Google that is primarily a services based company that launches the odd gadget, Redmond’s legacy has been built as a software firm.

Partners have been, and will be important for Microsoft.

But how it manages to handle them moving forward is something that promises to be outright interesting. Then again, how the partners manage to handle Microsoft may be even more interesting.

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