Can Surface succeed as a consumer product?

Christian Kallevig

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Surface is certainly an interesting take on the tablet, and a very polarizing one. Some people, probably most of us, believe that it has potential to be something more and better than what currently exists, while others say that it shows Microsoft doesn't understand what tablets are for. It's an interesting discussion, and I think it's one worth having.

On the one hand, Surface is theoretically capable of doing anything you can do on other tablets, while making it much less painful to use it for writing, note-taking, etc. Also it has the benefit of being compatible with a number of USB and Bluetooth devices, and can effectively be used like a full PC minus backward compatibility with Surface RT and Surface 2, which I would argue is not as important as it might seem for the audience it targets. Most people only actually use their PCs for one or two things and could use an iPad or Android device to do everything else. So if one device could eliminate the need to keep an aging PC around then why not go for that instead?

...On the other hand, many people feel Surface is too large, too heavy and too oddly shaped to be a great consumption device. Certainly they might have a point for people who want to use it for reading eBooks or things of that nature that do not work well in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Also, it is less comfortable to hold than it's competitors as it is designed to accommodate the kickstand, keyboard covers and full USB port. I think these things also make it appear more intimidating to less tech-savvy people. Microsoft's overall perception does little to help either, especially considering many people still work eight hours a day on machines running Windows XP. Also, I think a lot of people will still want to have a larger screen for the few things they use their PC for.

So what do you think? If people can be made to understand what Surface is (and Windows RT by extension), is it something they're going to want? Is it worth getting over an iPad or an Android tablet to the average consumer?
 

Narse77

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I use my Surface RT more than any other device I own. I do work email, calanders etc on it. I use it in meetings to take notes. I use it during site surveys to take quick sketches of the floor plans of new locations and use it when I travel to watch movies and TV shows as well as play some games (Love Halo Spartan Assault!)

Every co worker that sees me use it is amazed at what it can do and almost every one of them say "But everything I read about the Surface RT said it was worthless! Did they even use it one when doing the review?"

The Surface RT is the best tablet out there IMO. Just a pity that no one is using them.
 

WillysJeepMan

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I use my Surface RT more than any other device I own. I do work email, calanders etc on it. I use it in meetings to take notes. I use it during site surveys to take quick sketches of the floor plans of new locations and use it when I travel to watch movies and TV shows as well as play some games (Love Halo Spartan Assault!)

Every co worker that sees me use it is amazed at what it can do and almost every one of them say "But everything I read about the Surface RT said it was worthless! Did they even use it one when doing the review?"

The Surface RT is the best tablet out there IMO. Just a pity that no one is using them.
What software are you using to take quick sketches? I've tried a few apps and freehand drawing is NOT one of the RT's strong suits. That's one of the few things that have disappointed me about the RT so far. Side-by-side comparison of freehand notes between the iPad4 and the RT are striking... the RT is quite inferior.
 

Christian Kallevig

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I should say that I have a Surface RT as well, and for the most part I really like it (there is no denying that it can be quite slow, especially at loading content-heavy web pages though) and I'm really sold on the concept of Surface. I still use my laptop more when I'm at home, but when I'm out and about I always bring my Surface instead. Heck, even just going around the house I use my Surface instead of moving my laptop. The only time I ever do move the thing is when I want to play a game somewhere other than my bedroom.

Edit: Sorry, I got interrupted and posted this half-complete. Anyway...

The question isn't whether any of us personally love the thing, or even whether or not it's a good device. The question is if anyone is going to care whether it's good or not, and if anyone is going to see enough value in what it offers to chose it over cheaper Android tablets.
 
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surfacedude

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Can the Surface succeed as a consumer product? Absolutely. If there's a market for laptops and tablets, then there's a market for Surface, imo. The question, however, is will Microsoft find a way to market Surface in such a way that won't keep people from buying it. That's a real worry as Microsoft has a history of ruining perfectly good products. Just consider Surface RT, Zune, and Internet Explorer to name three. Microsoft marketing decisions created almost a trillion dollars in losses for the RT; Zune was a better product than the iPod, but had poor support and the aesthetics of the first devices were pretty unappealing, especially next to a sleek iPod; IE once carried something like 90 perfect of internet traffic yet now carries at best 20 percent and most of that is generational, ie older folks.

All of that is related, imo. It just show that Microsoft can ruin a fine product for reasons that have nothing to do with the marketability of the product or the potential appeal of the product. Apple has mastered marketing. That's why they can sell five million iPhones despite only making relatively minor upgrades. I hope Microsoft is learning.
 

HeavyHanded

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Internet Explorer losing market share is due to restrictions put upon MS buy. The EU and the USDOJ. MS had been hobbled by these organizations for ten years while Google was able to grow into the mega corporation it is today, while the government held MS's hands behind their backs. Now out from government scrutiny, MS has an uphill battle.

I think for RT to succeed it will have to be due to brave, loudmouthed consumers who spread positive information word of mouth to friends and family.

Also discount sales to corporations to get them to see its advantages over Google and Apple devices.
 

WillysJeepMan

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Internet Explorer losing market share is due to restrictions put upon MS buy. The EU and the USDOJ. MS had been hobbled by these organizations for ten years while Google was able to grow into the mega corporation it is today, while the government held MS's hands behind their backs. Now out from government scrutiny, MS has an uphill battle.
That's not entirely true. The EU forced MS to put IE on equal footing with other browsers... let the customer choose. Interesting that when the customer has a choice, they weren't choosing IE. Ultimately that was a reflection of the reasons for Microsoft's monopolistic market share... customers had no choice. MS hasn't been "hobbled" by government organizations, they were simply forced to "play fair". There's a difference.


I think for RT to succeed it will have to be due to brave, loudmouthed consumers who spread positive information word of mouth to friends and family.
That's an interesting thought. It reveals a belief that an unfair anti-Microsoft bias exists that prevents their products from being a commercial success...and in the process absolves Microsoft of any responsibility.
 

Christian Kallevig

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I'm not sure that qualifies as fairness when nothing similar is happening on Android devices, which are arguably as much of a monopoly as anything. No other company I know of is forced to give you a choice between their software and services and those of other companies, and I'm not sure Microsoft should have to either... However... While IE has improved significantly since IE8, it still seems a little lacking in features and there are still hints of the past there in the form of the terrible Internet Options when other browsers have much more user friendly and better integrated settings.

Also, I don't think the way Microsoft makes it impossible for browsers other than their own to exist in WinRT is a good thing, although I do believe it is their own decision to make. I think that if people don't like it, we should let them know. If you yell loud enough Microsoft will eventually listen (they certainly have been giving in easily lately). Also, you can always bring your business elsewhere if you can't stand it. Microsoft does not have a monopoly on much of anything anymore.

IE11 (Metro) is really nice though and I'm happy to keep on using it myself.
 

surfacedude

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Internet Explorer losing market share is due to restrictions put upon MS buy. The EU and the USDOJ. MS had been hobbled by these organizations for ten years while Google was able to grow into the mega corporation it is today, while the government held MS's hands behind their backs. Now out from government scrutiny, MS has an uphill battle.

I think for RT to succeed it will have to be due to brave, loudmouthed consumers who spread positive information word of mouth to friends and family.

Also discount sales to corporations to get them to see its advantages over Google and Apple devices.

the EU and USDOJ didn't force anyone to not use IE and no one is forced to use chrome over IE. the point is that for whatever reasons, microsoft once had a huge share of the market and lost nearly all of it. if they had an unfair advantage once upon a time, then they had plenty of time to lock in a base. they failed to do that. if they simply relaxed due to that unfair advantage, then shame on them for cunducting business stupidly. how many companies have done something similar? hasn't this lesson been learned dozens of time?

if RT success depends on "loudmouthed consumers" then it has already failed. what microsoft should be focusing on is a winning marketing strategy. offer top of the line hardware that rivals the best user experience available and offer it at a better price then the best alternative. as i have said, long term planning is key here. microsoft should be worried about what their market share of the tablet and phone market look like five or ten years from now, not simply what it looks like next year. longevity is the goal, not a quick dollar. right now, they are planning to fail, imo. i hope i'm wrong and i love my rt and pro and will at least be getting a surface 2, but none of that will prevent me from trying to say what looks to be the reality of the matter w/ regard to microsoft. i don't know how there strategy will unfold in the coming months, but right now i'm thinking surface is dead after the release of surface 2 or maybe surface 3. i hope i'm wrong.

if microsoft sees the advantage of giving discounts to corps, then why not offer the same discount to consumers? there are a lot more consumers. microsoft is starting to sound like the next ibm.
 

Laura Knotek

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I don't think browser market share matters that much. I would actually like to see more browsers available for Windows Phone. I prefer Firefox for desktop Windows. I'm not sure how many people would prefer having different browsers available for Windows Phone, but I'd expect there might be some people who won't use Windows Phone because they don't like IE. Allowing other browsers might attract more users.
 

praveen_varma

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I don't think browser market share matters that much. I would actually like to see more browsers available for Windows Phone. I prefer Firefox for desktop Windows. I'm not sure how many people would prefer having different browsers available for Windows Phone, but I'd expect there might be some people who won't use Windows Phone because they don't like IE. Allowing other browsers might attract more users.
but the uc browser works fine in my wp and even the ie 10 in win8 is pretty fast like in chrome or firefox
 

Laura Knotek

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but the uc browser works fine in my wp and even the ie 10 in win8 is pretty fast like in chrome or firefox

I agree. IE isn't that bad. A lot of people just got used to the ability to choose alternate browsers. I have a friend who uses Firefox and Opera on his Mac (he doesn't like Safari). He isn't fond of iOS, since he prefers browsers other than Safari. I imagine some desktop Windows users feel the same and would prefer something other than IE on RT/Windows Phone.
 

WillysJeepMan

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I'm not sure that qualifies as fairness when nothing similar is happening on Android devices, which are arguably as much of a monopoly as anything. No other company I know of is forced to give you a choice between their software and services and those of other companies, and I'm not sure Microsoft should have to either... However... While IE has improved significantly since IE8, it still seems a little lacking in features and there are still hints of the past there in the form of the terrible Internet Options when other browsers have much more user friendly and better integrated settings.
I suggest doing a little more research on the history of Microsoft's predatory monopolistic practices. Google has not engaged in any of that and therefore no legal recourse was required. If you wanted to draw a moral equivalency, you would have to show that Google forced phone manufacturers to pay a volume license fee for Android for every phone they sell, regardless of whether or not that phone handset shipped with Android.


Also, I don't think the way Microsoft makes it impossible for browsers other than their own to exist in WinRT is a good thing, although I do believe it is their own decision to make. I think that if people don't like it, we should let them know. If you yell loud enough Microsoft will eventually listen (they certainly have been giving in easily lately). Also, you can always bring your business elsewhere if you can't stand it. Microsoft does not have a monopoly on much of anything anymore.

IE11 (Metro) is really nice though and I'm happy to keep on using it myself.
If you think that yelling loud enough will cause Microsoft to eventually listen, then you really DO need to do some research... all the yelling in the world didn't get Microsoft to listen. Only the EU decision with hefty fines for non-compliance caused them to listen. It took a few times too... Microsoft didn't comply the first time.

You believe it is "their decision to make" well... it's our decision as customers to make whether or not to buy their product. This adversarial position is hardly the one to take if they want to grow their customer base with a new product.
 

coolqf

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I'm not sure that qualifies as fairness when nothing similar is happening on Android devices, which are arguably as much of a monopoly as anything. No other company I know of is forced to give you a choice between their software and services and those of other companies, and I'm not sure Microsoft should have to either... However... While IE has improved significantly since IE8, it still seems a little lacking in features and there are still hints of the past there in the form of the terrible Internet Options when other browsers have much more user friendly and better integrated settings.

Also, I don't think the way Microsoft makes it impossible for browsers other than their own to exist in WinRT is a good thing, although I do believe it is their own decision to make. I think that if people don't like it, we should let them know. If you yell loud enough Microsoft will eventually listen (they certainly have been giving in easily lately). Also, you can always bring your business elsewhere if you can't stand it. Microsoft does not have a monopoly on much of anything anymore.

IE11 (Metro) is really nice though and I'm happy to keep on using it myself.

The manufacturer is allowed to choose the browser. On my last two phones I had to download Chrome, also on my Note 10.1. Only the Nexus includes chrome by default. You can also change the default browser. MS required their browser to be the default. It wasn't until the courts that MS was forced to allow other browsers to be made as defaults.
For half a decade IE kept the same web browser the moment they crushed the competition :( Now that they've lost the crown they're updating it again. Almost every year! :)

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 4
 

Christian Kallevig

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Yeah, exactly. These laws, despite being relatively recent (I think this started with Windows 7, although I'm not sure as I don't live in Europe) no longer make sense
 

csiguy1

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Yes if MS will continue to put out good ad's like they have been for the last couple of weeks not those silly dancing ad's.
 

Christian Kallevig

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Great advertising can only do so much though. The secret sauce is more complicated than that, I'm afraid. Everyone in the world could know what a Surface is and have a rough idea of what it does and still not be interested. Part of the problem is in how a product is perceived. For example, if it's featured on the news as if it's the next big thing, or a lot of radio hosts start talking about how much they like it, etc. it's going to get people wanting it simply because most people instinctually want to go along with what they perceive as being what is socially accepted as the best option. In other words, people want a sense of inclusion.

The second thing to consider here- and this is not an easy question to answer right now, is if the Surface is a product that is going to appeal to a mass market to begin with. Is this something people actually want or need? It's certainly different from it's competition and offers unique benefits, but are they worth compromises in other areas? For some the answer will of course be yes. But Microsoft needs to do more than fill a niche here.
 

WillysJeepMan

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In a nutshell, Microsoft must abandon the "If we make it, they'll buy it because we're Microsoft!" mentality and do the hard work of showing consumers why they need a Surface.
 

Christian Kallevig

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Yeah, pretty much. And that's no small task.

I feel that this ad is a step in the right direction ( Surface Frames - YouTube ), but it also makes the huge mis-step of not clearly showing that Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are different products with different capabilities. Typical.
 

1101x10

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Microsoft is currently missing out on the massive market which is the mini tablet. The Surface mini really should of been released last year but is delayed until 2014 while they are working aligning phone and RT. The current Surface is a great product but a lot of people just want a small,mainly consumption device. Tesco, a supermarket here in the UK released a 7-inch Android tablet the other week called the Hudl which has decent specs and costs only ?119. It undercuts the Nexus, is not locked down like the Amazon tablets and is apparently flying off the shelves. Microsoft doesn't have anything to offer in this range and although they are low ( or zero) margin profit wise they need to get Windows 8 tablets out in the wild and build up the app store. I just feel they are losing the battle here.
 

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