Microsoft Surface appears to be a very nice product. It’s the direct result of Microsoft acting on the philosophy of “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Microsoft Surface marks Microsoft’s first real entry into the tablet space that’s dominated by Apple while Google feeds on scraps. In order to be a sizable competitor, Microsoft needed to make Surface the definitive tablet to have. Unfortunately, I don’t think the $500 price gives off that impression.
Microsoft Surface’s price isn’t unreasonable for its build quality, storage space and first-party polish, but I think it’s priced too high to compete. The average consumer isn’t going to look at Surface and say it’s a better deal because it has more storage capacity than the iPad. They’re going to see it next to the iPad, see the $499 price on both and go with the device they’re familiar with. For years, the iPad has been able to burrow into popular culture. It has gotten to the point where my parents are more familiar with the iPad than any other tablet available. To them, the Windows brand on a tablet means next to nothing. It doesn’t even look like the Windows they’re used to. They’ve never heard of Microsoft Surface, and wouldn’t give it a second look if forced to choose between it and the iPad. Then again, that’s assuming people like my parents are even willing to spend $499 on a tablet in the first place.
When the average consumer is convinced to buy a tablet, price is usually the most important factor in deciding on a purchase. When $499 for an iPad is too much to spend, they’ll turn to cheaper alternatives with greater brand recognition. The Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 instantly become the top two choices. Microsoft has a much better chance at taking over the lower-priced tablet market, but it’s clear that’s not going to happen.
It seems to me Microsoft is banking on the Windows brand and its ability to be different. It’s so confident in its efforts, it plans to ship between 3-5 million Surface tablets this quarter alongside a $400 million marketing campaign. The problem is the Windows experience Microsoft is selling is not the Windows the public knows. It might as well be called something entirely different. It’s almost as if Microsoft is saying, “C’mon it’s me, Windows. You know me right?” If Microsoft really wants to attract as many people as possible, it has to assume people won’t simply jump on the Windows ship. People care about price. There’s a reason why no $500 Android tablet is considered a success.
There’s a chance Surface will end up like Windows Phone. It has good hardware and a competent operating system, but not enough people outside of the tech space will seem to care. I hope I’m wrong though, as Surface is a real breath of fresh air.