Well. We’re all clairvoyant, aren’t we?
What a clusterfluck that was.
Microsoft yesterday released a rather smart looking tablet device on the back of all the Windows 8 launch shenanigans. It looks wonderful. I haven’t had hands-on yet. Yet it’s already a substantial disappointment.
Let’s set aside the clear technological innovation. There is no debate there. Microsoft have outdone themselves. This is plain to see from a billion miles away. You just need to watch the various ‘making of’ Surface videos highlighting the touch keyboard accomplishments. Great job. Super work. Better — or at least on par — with what we’ve come to expect from the likes of Apple.
My problem is the market entry. My problem is excitement. My problem is price accessibility when the market has already been constructed.
There is, classically, nothing wrong with bringing out a device that looks to at least rival the iPad. (There are questions to answer by the way — battery life being an important one). But introducing it along the same price point is quite possibly the worst thing Microsoft could have done.
I’ve been banging on about this for some time. Price is incredibly important in the tablet market, especially given how many people already have a perfectly fine iPad — or a cheaper Android one (Nexus, Kindle Fire, Galaxy Tab… and, er, PlayBook — I still do see those around now and again!)
When the current market is saturated and is still heavily ‘owned’ in the mind by Apple, you need differentiation. The product does look phenomenal and there’s a big chance that it will impress on-the-ground. But that’s it. That’s what you’re competing on now Microsoft.
If you’d changed the pricing model — innofuckingvated — then you’d have a legion of people salivating, ready to pick up a Surface. Ready for the next generation.
Because, frankly, we are. The technical elite — that’s you and I, dear reader — are ready. We’ve done iPad. The last version was fine. The Retina display is lovely. The flipping stupid large battery, which increased the weight and thickness is not lovely. And the Apple iPad Mini… a clear statement of panic from a company that should, by all rights, be handing out sandpaper with every new Mini (see the Steve Jobs quote about 7″ tablets).
I think we’re ready for some serious competition in this marketplace. I think a lot of people would have bought the Surface “RT” (What the FLUCK does that mean, REALLY? COME ON!). I think about half the MIR readers would have logged on to Microsoft.com and purchased a Surface this morning if it was appropriately priced. There are a heck of a reasons why: 1) Experimentation, 2), it’s new, 3) it’s got Office, 4) so it’s basically a laptop, 5) or everything that’s missing from the iPad in terms of an enterprise function.
The moment that we all knew the entry level device was going for $499, we all switched off.
Oh there’s nothing WRONG with this. It’s just… well I’m fine, thank you very much. I’ll wait-n-see. I’ll look with interest at the plod in the office who buys one. I’ll do fake smiles at it and feel entirely content with my existing strategy. Unless, that is, the Surface begins to blow people away. That’s the company’s only hope.
What Microsoft needed was momentum. Huge momentum. They needed huge, huge stupid demand from people who don’t really need one. You’ve got an iPad, right? Of course you have. You either bought it yourself or the company bought it. Or you selected another tablet. You just had to. It’s you, dear reader, that Microsoft needed to go bonkers.
It’s you that they needed to appeal to.
Because from you comes the delicious momentum that the company needs to sustain forward excitement across it’s whole portfolio. Don’t forget Windows Phone 8. Don’t forget Windows 8. If you’re lusting after a Surface then you’re half way toward getting yourself a new Lumia 920. Because when you begin to see the integration between the devices you’ll start to recognise Another Way. We’re not in an Apple world any longer.
Except for the fact that Apple’s competitors can’t seem to innovate their way out of a wet paper bag.
The issue is price.
I’m thinking, for example, about my friend Tom. He works in technology. He used to work for a big operator before the incredulity of the company’s position became intolerable. So he’s exited mobile and is now working in technology in the travel industry. He bought an iPad. He’s the default Apple fan, actually. He got me into the whole thing years ago actually. He — obviously — owns an iPhone. He is not buying a Surface. He will have his head turned, yes. But he’s a sensible chap. And although Windows does hold a small place in his heart, he’s done, thank you very much. He’s content. He’s not that impressed by Apple, despite being a shareholder a while ago. He sees through the spin now.
And if you offered Tom an entry level Surface at $69/£69 up front and $26/£26 per month for 18 months — which comes with a free XBox subscription — I think he’d be on the site this morning ordering. Or, at the very least, he’d be in the departure lounge getting ready to board flight MS101 to Surfacetown. (My rough costs are based on $499 plus $50 for an XBox subscription, just an example).
That’s what Microsoft need: They need the Apple world to step into the departure lounge.
Now, let’s keep some perspective. It’s certainly possible that the Surface could sell a ton. I seriously hope they do. I’m just disappointed that there wasn’t an innovative model offered — something that Apple would never do. Going head to head is … fine. Fine.
We should also consider enterprise. For about twenty seconds. Unfortunately, Apple has had a silly amount of time to lock up enterprises rather dramatically. The iPad is now hugely pervasive. You only need to read about shopping chains dumping their existing cash registers and buying 10,000 iPads to get that message. The Surface will fit into the existing enterprise infrastructure nicely. Active Directory and all that jazz. However Apple has spent a good few years forcing — and I do mean FORCING — CIOs to radically alter their viewpoint to technology and “old” quaint technology like domains and such nonsense. The iPad forced everyone — at virtual gunpoint (i.e. the CEO telling you where to get off if you said no) — to change their mindset. So there is certainly room for some wholly enterprise compatible devices. I can see a good few companies evaluating and possibly deploying Surfaces.
It’s just… I’m disappointed we haven’t seen a huge, huge thrust from Microsoft. Pricing it in this manner than blowing a billion dollars to try and sell it (along with Windows 8) is certainly one way.
I’d have sooner seen it much easier to purchase. The fact people are having to think about it, rather than just snap one up, is a real pain.
Still. I think I’ll go and get one to take a look.
If you’ve got a few moments, I encourage you to have a read of these one-sentence opinions on the Surface from the MIR audience too — they’re brilliant.
I’m off to get some caffeine and calm down.