Let me just start off by saying that I really like the Microsoft Surface. Judging by the initial product announcement in June and even most of the information that has floated around since then. It looks like a quality piece of hardware with a pretty good operating system. Windows 8 should shine on tablets — take one look at the UI and you know that is the form factor Microsoft designed it for.
After four months, Microsoft finally announced the pricing and availability of the Microsoft Surface running Windows 8 RT. The 32GB model will run for $499 and will serve as a full-on tablet with a built-in kickstand. For $599, you get that same 32GB Surface, but that awesome touch cover is thrown in with its magnetic latch and keyboard. This essentially attempts to transform the Surface into a laptop. Lastly, the $699 model will get you a 64GB Surface also with a touch cover included. All of these are available starting October 26th, but you can pre-order now if you like.
The general consensus is that it’s a bit overpriced. I’d have to agree, but I don’t think it’s as overpriced as others are suggesting. The problem Microsoft runs in to by pricing the Surface at $499 to directly compete with the iPad is Apple’s supreme brand awareness. Most consumers who want a tablet (at least with a 10-inch display) just buy an iPad. There’s little to no questions asked about any other tablet. The iPad is what’s familiar, the iPad is what has the most apps, and the iPad is the clear choice.
The reason so many Android tablets have failed is because they were insanely expensive and they also didn’t answer the fundamental question many consumers ask: why should I buy this instead of an iPad? The only good answer Microsoft has for that question with the $499 model is that it has double the storage of the $499 16GB iPad. Windows 8 still has very few apps and requires a huge learning curve for people used to iOS, Android, or Windows 7.
That touch cover, which Microsoft is rightfully marketing the hell out of, is the one unique factor that separates the Surface from all the other tablets on the market, but you can’t get it unless you fork over another Benjamin. I get that Microsoft strategically overpriced the touch cover so consumers will think “Well I’m spending $500 on a tablet, what’s another $100 to get this keyboard cover?” Some will gladly shell out the extra money to get the full experience, but for many people, another $100 is quite simply another $100 in that it’s too much money. That new ad sure makes the damn thing look enticing though.
I suggested yesterday the following pricing model: $399 for the 32GB without touch cover, $449 with touch cover, and $549 for the 64GB model with touch cover. If this were the case, let’s hypothetically compare it to the iPad. The Microsoft Surface comes with a touch cover that can basically transform your tablet into a laptop, has double the storage of the entry-level iPad, and it’s $50 less. Isn’t that a better answer to the question “Why should I buy this instead of an iPad?”
All of that said, I actually understand why Microsoft chose to price it a bit higher. Right now, the majority of tablet buyers use their tablet alongside both their laptop or desktop computer and cell phone. Few tablet owners buy one to replace a laptop altogether. For a minimum of $599, Microsoft wants to convince consumers that they can get the best of both worlds with the Surface.
The one other problem I have with the Surface is that it’s just a total gamble right now. When the iPad came out, people were already familiar with iOS and they trusted Apple to make great hardware. When Android tablets started coming out, people knew how to use the Android OS and generally trusted many of the hardware manufacturers shipping them. The Surface is the first major piece of hardware Microsoft has ever shipped and it runs Windows 8, a brand new operating system that consumers don’t know how to use yet.
Despite my criticism, I don’t think the Surface will be a miss. It looks like a unique product with solid hardware. Whether consumers are happy with Windows 8 is yet to be determined, but within a few months, most computers will ship with it pre-installed and the Surface’s learning curve will lessen. The tablet/laptop hybrid feature should be attractive to plenty who would rather not have to choose between a laptop and tablet or have to buy both.
Still, pricing is just a tad higher than it should be in my opinion. Out of the gate, Windows 8 has minuscule support from developers and those looking for the traditional Windows 7 environment to run older apps won’t find it at all on the Surface — something to consider if you want it to replace a laptop. Plus, if you do want to buy one, you can only get it at microsoft.com and in Microsoft retail stores.
The Microsoft Surface: unlikely to be a miss, but probably not a total hit either. It seems most of all like Microsoft is trying to set a template for the way it wants future Windows-based devices to evolve, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. If the Surface does wind up being a gamble, so far it might just be one people are willing to take.
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