I have been eagerly awaiting Microsoft to jump into the tablet arena with a Windows-based offering, or at least provide a tablet-specific version of 7. I bought a touchscreen laptop for Windows 7, and it sucked – mainly because the on-screen keyboard is nowhere near as intuitive as Android or iOS. Now, with the Microsoft Surface being released in October, things look like they will change…
…or not. Let’s look at how Apple has taken over the consumer IT market in six years; simplicity. Whenever anyone buys an iPad, they know that the iPad is universal, there’s no different versions other than increases in memory or 3G functionality. People know that if they buy the latest iPad, it is going to run all the same apps as every other iPad.
Immediately, Microsoft has shot itself in the foot. Going to the Microsoft Surface website and looking at the specs, it is apparent that there are two versions, one running Windows RT and one running Windows 8 Pro. The RT version is $600 (£383) and the Win 8 Pro is a staggering $999 (£639). What’s the difference between the two? No idea, although knowing MS products for so long, I’d say that RT is probably a ROM-like CE version specifically for tablets (and therefore not compatible with your current Windows apps) and the 8 Pro runs the next desktop iteration of Windows, which is going to be the more versatile and future-proof. Based on that, who on earth is going to spend £400 on an inferior and limited model? To get the “real” Surface, a consumer is going to have to invest £600 into the premium version – or, spend the £400 on an iPad instead, which will be the premium product of that range (because it is the only one in that range)? And then there’s the question – spend £600 on a small-powered tablet, or buy a full-blown PC or laptop, or even go for an all-singing and dancing iPad with 64Gb and 3G?
Seriously Microsoft, consumers want little chance of being “caught out” by buying inferior models – that’s why Apple is so successful. One version, no variation of the OS, just different storage sizes if you need to. The lay person does not want to learn about different wifi standards or RAM speeds in order to feel confident they are buying the right product. In other words, you should have had a press release that said “Microsoft Surface available October 2012 for £399. It runs Windows RT, which is our Windows Tablet OS.” Sure, bring out a Win 8 Pro version, but release it as a different product – Microsoft Shine or something, just for business (which the Win 8 Pro variant of Surface practically is). On a personal note, I was going to seriously consider the Surface to replace my iPad, but knowing that I’d have to buy a full-fat Windows-based tablet – which to me sounds like an over-hyped netbook – or invest £400 into an inferior model, I think I’ll be looking at the next iPad or the latest Android-based tab.
Oh, and Microsoft – I am available as a consultant if it helps. 🙂