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4/9/2013
03:29 PM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices

Microsoft can maintain its market dominance with Windows 8 if it tries something not in its normal playbook.

When consumers evaluate personal electronics purchases, one principle can generally sum up the experience: good, fast, cheap -- pick two. It's a tried and true business formula, a twist on the notion that customers get what they pay for. Microsoft needs to erase that two-out-of-three strategy from its tablet playbook.

With the first wave of Windows 8 tablets, consumer mileage has varied on the "good" and "fast" fronts. "Cheap," though, has rarely been a blip on the radar, least of all for Microsoft's Surface tablets. With both Windows 8.1 (Windows Blue's current nom de jour) and a new spate of devices on the horizon, this needs to change. Redmond needs to rush satisfying tablets to market -- and they can't just be competitively priced. They need to be downright cheap.

Here's the reasoning: The Surface RT, decried though it's been, is actually a pretty nice device. If Microsoft had charged $250 for the tablet and maybe another $50 for the Type Cover, I probably would have bought one at launch, and I suspect I'm not alone. At that price, I'd have been willing to remain patient while Microsoft developed its lackluster app library. Yes, the iPad would have offered more variety and polish, but the Surface RT would still have been a decent media-viewing tablet that, with its watered-down version of Office, would have featured better content-creation tools than anything on iOS. That's enough use to justify a couple hundred dollars.

[ How much does touch matter? Read Windows 8 Doubt: 3 Ways Touch Won't Help. ]

Unfortunately, the Surface RT costs nearly twice as much as I am willing to pay. Ultrabooks and even the Surface Pro -- the most thought-through Windows 8 device to date -- are no better. Newer, faster and more energy-efficient models that run on Intel's next-gen Haswell processor are just around the corner, so why should someone buy an expensive item today when a better, and perhaps less costly, alternative is only a few months away?

Windows 8 and Windows RT have struggled, in other words, due only partly to their UI awkwardness, mediocre apps and various rough edges. Cost has been the other culprit; there's a price beyond which customers simply aren't willing to deal with learning curves, impatience and other frustrations that might be more palatable with cheaper devices. For many consumers, the Windows 8 devices evidently cross that discouraging cost threshold, and the result has stuck Microsoft in a holding pattern of bad press.

Microsoft seemed to assume that Windows 8's dual identities would be an obvious game-changer, and that Windows RT's native Office app would trump the iPad. Had Redmond been correct, the story would be different. People deal with learning curves if the payoff is a premium experience. But it's become clear that most customers have decided Windows 8 asks too much while offering too little.

Asking less of the consumer would not only help Redmond stimulate adoption, but also help address its other lingering problem: apps. Where the user base goes, developers will follow. According to MetroStore Scanner, the Windows Store currently has around 57,000 Metro-style apps, and app submissions, which had been on a downward spiral since launch, but have risen steadily throughout March and April. The progress is nice -- but the libraries of iOS, Android and even BlackBerry 10 put Redmond's catalog to shame.

Microsoft allegedly spent $1.5 billion to promote Windows 8. It's an astronomical sum, enough to fund a typical Hollywood marketing blitz three or four times over. All that money was directed at the consumer market, which, as analysts have recently made clear, has the power to determine whether Microsoft remains a leader or regresses into a role player. Imagine if Microsoft had instead tilted its budgets such that an iPod Touch was more expensive than a Windows RT, and a MacBook Air more costly than a Surface Pro. Imagine if OEMs had been incentivized from the start to produce low-cost models, a process that has, according to unverified reports, only recently unfolded. How many millions of additional users might be in the Live Tiles ecosystem? How many more apps might there be?

But there's not much use at this point in criticizing Microsoft's earlier strategy. Hindsight is 20-20, and Redmond has probably reconsidered a number of previous decisions. The point in bringing up the company's earlier missteps is not to pour salt in the wound, but rather to prescribe appropriate remedies.

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DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2013 | 6:26:24 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
You are right on the mark on all accounts here but Microsoft isn't going to change. The main reason is greed. It is greed that directed all aspects you address. The windows 8 UI is developed around greed, pushing Metro for apps. The hardware features or lack there of is greed. The price at market, again greed. When greed is the predominate director, chances are its going to fail. If the RT was $250 at start Microsoft would have impressed but at $600 they might as well have put Edsel on the front.
lgarey@techweb.com
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lgarey@techweb.com,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 9:07:41 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
Two words: $250 Chromebook!
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/12/2013 | 9:59:52 AM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
No, MS needs to slash Windows 8 and its business plan based on killing independent software distribution.
Slashing prices would bring no benefit to W8 adoption rate: it was largely ignored during the much hyped beta stage (1/3 W8Beta than W7Beta!) and it was totally free, so price is not a factor in W8 failure.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
4/12/2013 | 8:58:18 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
What a dilemma! Which to care less about, French or a Windows 8 tablet?
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
4/12/2013 | 9:03:30 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
The question for a lot of us is how much would Micro$oft have to pay us to get us to use a Win8 tablet. Free may not be cheap enough, and cost-equivalent with a similarly spec-ed Android tablet is far more than I would pay. Unless I can get a free 'downgrade' to Win7, of course!
amitiekassis
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amitiekassis,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2013 | 7:33:12 PM
re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
If you think Sandra`s story is astonishing,, three weeks-ago my cousin's step-mum basically brought home $4554 workin 10 hours a week at home and their roomate's half-sister`s neighbour was doing this for 4 months and got a cheque for over $4554 part-time on there labtop. use the information on this page............. ZOO80. Gom
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