Microsoft Surface – Windows 8 for $199?
By Jim Lundy
The Microsoft Surface isn’t a secret anymore; it is coming to market in October. There is lots of speculation around this, particularly since it has taken Microsoft so long to respond to Tablets, such as the iPad, that were introduced in 2010. The question that we have wondered about was whether it would be revolutionary or just a Windows 8 machine. So far, it looks like the latter at a low price.
Rumors are that it might be given away at a price of $199. That is a lost leader and while that will attract the attention of the press, it isn’t enough to counter Apple or Google’s momentum, but it might be enough to land them in third place. Note also that Microsoft did have a shot at the Tablet space years ago with a winner called the Courier.
The Courier was a skunk works Tablet project that Microsoft killed off several years ago. That device and the OS that surrounded it was the real iPad Killer, or was it? Our argument is what has made the Apple iPad successful is really the Mobile Ecosystem that surrounds it. Hardware does matter, but if there is no content or apps, there won’t be that much demand. We wrote about this in our Research titled “The Five Elements of a Mobile Ecosystem” (click here for free access to the report).
So far, most of the coverage of the Surface has had to do with the built-in keyboard that is part of the Cover for the Surface. Clearly an area of weakness for the iPad unless one thinks that the growing network of keyboard suppliers for the iPad or the fact that Voice based Digital Assistants will increasingly be happy to type for you (note, part of this Blog post was dictated via Voice).
The biggest thing you haven’t heard about is the Ecosystem that is needed to sustain the Surface, the Apps and the Content.
Microsoft Surface – Multi-Device OS Support
Will the OS on the Tablet also be the same for the Microsoft Phones? While we know they use the same kernal, right now, they appear to be different: WinRT is the OS for the Surface and Windows Phone 8.0 is the OS for Windows Phone. The Developer Platform for both is WinRT, so that smacks of potential. That said, Microsoft’s strategy is to support PCs and Tablets with Windows 8. The problem is that works for the Intel based machines, it won’t with the Surface, which is ARM based. We do expect Microsoft Office file compatibility.
Microsoft Surface – App Support
The issue is Apps and Content – in other words the Ecosystem. It is convincing developers to shift to a new platform. Apple has had its content ecosystem in operation for eleven years (aka iTunes). The iTunes App Store launched in 2007. On Microsoft’s approach, we’re pretty sure the app store itself will be enterprise grade, the question is, how many years will it take for great apps and content to appear. Note, Microsoft is working on this; they have blogs that have been instructing developers on how to submit apps.
Microsoft Surface – OEM Partner Support.
Some large device manufacturers, such as Dell, Lenovo and HP have been counting on Microsoft to deliver them an OS worthy of a Tablet. If Microsoft is doing its own tablet, what is left for their partners? Initially, Microsoft’s comment about their partners was ‘no comment’. Later they softened their tone. We suspect most of their main partners will focus their efforts on Windows 8 on Intel.
The biggest and most critical issue for Microsoft is building a device with a seamless user experience that is consistent and works. Think XBOX or Microsoft Office, both hallmarks of success in user experience and consistency from release to release. There can’t be any false steps this time around. While we are sure Mr. Balmer is pounding his fist on the desk demanding product, it isn’t the Tablet that is the giant issue.
The salvation – Microsoft Office on the Microsoft Tablet, will be pushed heavily. Yet, everyday that Microsoft Office is not on the iPad, more revenues go to third parties like Evernote or even the Apple Editing Suite (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) . The double problem for Microsoft is that Tablets bridge the consumer and business worlds. People use a tablet for both and content is king. See our Aragon Research First Cut on Office 2013.
Remember though, that this is not the first time that Microsoft has tried to stop Apple. Here is the link to the Microsoft Slate announcement, just a month before the first iPad was announced in 2010.
While many wait for the Surface to arrive, many others are waiting for Microsoft Office’s arrival on the iPad.
Editors Note: Be sure to check out our premium research, including our 86 page strategic report on Tablets and Mobile Ecosystems.