Microsoft’s Surface Strategy Will Flop with Holiday Shoppers

| Editorial

Microsoft took a considered approach to its Surface tablets with Windows, MS Office and a keyboard. That's fine in a business environment.

However, with the Christmas shopping period fast approaching and really fun items on people's minds, I think Surface tablets will be the last thing anyone will be thinking about as a Christmas present.

Microsoft likes to think that the Surface Tablet is a full-fledged member of the modern tablet family tree: just like the iPad, the Kindle Fire HD, the Galaxy Tab and the Nexus. But, in fact, the Surface is orthogonal to the mainstream tablets. And so, one has to wonder about Microsoft's timing—for the second year in a row, the company has rolled out a business device for the holidays.

The problem I see with that philosophy is that that Surface tablets aren't really what people are thinking about during the holidays precisely because of that considerable business focus. When people think about gifts to individuals or to their own family, they think about fun things, like:

  • Watches
  • Jewelry
  • Smartphones, including iPhones (which is a kind of jewel, with its gold cover and sapphire lens, and all)
  • Tablets, including iPads and iPad minis
  • High Definition TV sets
  • iPod touches
  • Fun computer accessories

While it's true that there are some fun games for the Surface, this product isn't well known for that. It's known as a business computer. In contrast, shoppers think about how much fun it will be to give or receive a cool tablet that's also mainstream.

In fact, the mainstream idea is exactly what helped Microsoft in previous years in the business environment. IT managers didn't want to look like foolish renegades and buy Macs when their whole company (and its government contacts) were running PCs and Windows.

Now the situation is reversed. No shopper wants to disappoint a friend by giving them something awkward, buttoned down, non-mainstream and business-oriented as a gift.

Going With the Flow

It's a great experience going into one of the hundreds of Apple retail stores to buy a gift during the holidays. Plus, it's no accident that Apple's rumored iPad event will be on October 22nd, just in time for products to be ready for the holiday period. One can also gift an Amazon Kindle Fire HD or PaperWhite at Christmas, as a mail-order item for several good reasons.

  1. Everyone has an Amazon account.
  2. These Amazons tablets are priced affordably.
  3. The giver knows that the Amazon tablet will be used primarily for reading and for Amazon shopping. That's what these tablets are designed to do, so there's no disruption with the computing life of the recipient. Who doesn't need another faster, cooler eBook reader that also runs Netflix?

I imagine that Microsoft executives will think, "Hey, the holidays are upon us. It's time to put a festive touch on our Surface TV ads." You know, the ones that telegraph the idea that the iPad can talk and the Surface is mute.

I don't expect the Surface tablets to sell particularly well this holiday shopping season, no matter what Microsoft does. And that's just par for the course. Never bring a Windows notebook in disguise to a tablet fight.

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Surface Pro 2 image via Microsoft.

Comments

wab95

John:

I think the Surface will as welcome a stocking stuffer as a lump of coal. Just what one wants during the holidays - a reminder of the office.

aardman

Yes.  The Surface will be one of those holiday presents from Grandpa and Grandma that tested one’s character and upbringing.  Goodhearted Tommy will swallow his disappointment and give his grandparents hugs as tight as never before.  Bratty Tommy will throw a fit and yell at his grandparents about how stupid they are that they don’t know and couldn’t tell the difference between an iPad and a Surface.  Fun holiday memories about to be made.

Paul Goodwin

If they drop the price a little more, it will be the same price as Windows 8. “Do you still think I’m pretty?” ....well ... yeah. ” Oh dear. I need a little help here” ..... well… Yeah. “This isn’t going to end well for me, it’s it.” ..... well ... NO.

FlipFriddle

They have a strategy? I didn’t think throwing things at the wall to see what sticks counted.

KitsuneStudios

Windows RT is as good as dead. Intel’s Bay Trail processors offer strong competition to Android offerings, while allowing full Windows 8 compatibility.

The Surface Pro does still seem to be the tablet hybrid of choice for the deviantArtist crowd, thanks to Windows 8 and the Wacom digitizer. It faces competition from Samsung with both the Note and ATIV lines.

That art cred might change now that Wacom is introducing the Cintiq Companion series, which offers either an i7 Windows 8 model, or a Tegra 4 Android model. Superior pressure sensitivity, tilt control, on-bezel programable hotkeys, and the full Wacom Cintiq control panel software. Those little details make it far better suited for production work than the more consumer-oriented surface.

While Wacom’s offerings are $1000 more than the Surface and Note, it’s a professional art tool. It’ll probably inspire more Android-based pressure sensitive art programs too.

Steven Richardson

Sorry guys I’m now ditching my Ipad, Surface is just more productive.

Simon Little

Sorry but this isn’t journalism its just an excuse to denegrade the Surface and promote everything Apple does is wonderful.  Step out of your bubble and realize there are 2 types of tablets need,  ones that support productivity and those that are great consumption devices.

Amazon is onto something regarding producing a highly affordable consumption device.

Btw we have 2 Ipads and 2 iphones and I can tell you I’m not convinced the Apple products are still worth the premium. 

I and many others still need a device that is productive for their own use, not just work and for that Surface seems a much better fit.  RT has a way to go, but you can be assured this type of product is needed and Ipad ain’t it.

John Martellaro

Mr. Little:  In this editorial opinion (see the header of the page), I never questioned the business capabilities of the Surface family of tablets. But I did question whether they’ll make a fine Christmas gift for people in the mainstream of the tablet market.

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