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2/11/2013
09:59 AM
Mike Feibus
Mike Feibus
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Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?

You might not want to buy this almost-a-PC, overstuffed-tablet hybrid. But your boss might buy one for you.

People who have monkeys for pets should just go ahead and have kids, Jerry Seinfeld years ago joked in a standup bit about pet ownership. "If you need a pet that can roller skate and smoke cigars, it's time to think about a family."

When you boil it down, that's why Microsoft's new Surface Pro, which went on sale over the weekend, won't rack up much in the way of sales volumes. It comes across as a computer stuffed into a media tablet. That it is a tablet-first device is underscored by a display that is in the 10-inch range. It does boast the full Windows 8 OS, however, not the abbreviated Windows RT found on the original Surface tablet. So it will run all Windows 7 and Windows 8 applications, and connect to any and all of the peripherals you already have. And it's built around a full-fledged PC processor, a Core i5 from Intel.

All that capability in such a small package comes with tradeoffs on both ends, however. Battery life is far below tablet standards, and the weight is far above. The base configuration costs $899, which is out of sight for a tablet. To make it worse, the Surface Pro comes without a keyboard and affords less capacity for your data than what many MP3 players today offer. (The entry-level Surface Pro model comes with 64 GB, but the OS leaves only 30 GB for data.)

[ Is Surface Pro for you? See Microsoft Surface Pro: 7 Questions To Ask. ]

With apologies to Seinfeld, if you're thinking about Surface Pro ownership, then you're so close. Just go out and get a real computer.

Most will, I predict. There are plenty of sleek new Ultrabook models available in the same price range. Many of them are designed as touch tablets. Acer's Iconia W700, for example, is available in the same price range, but with a larger display, superior battery life and better I/O options. Oh, and the detachable keyboard is included.

As poorly as the original Surface (now called Surface RT) sold, expect the Surface Pro to do worse. News out of Taiwan suggests that even Microsoft expects Pro shipments to be lower, with orders to manufacturing that reportedly are a fraction of what they were for the Surface RT.

Hopefully we can all agree by now that the Surface Pro won't sell well. So let's move on to why it will be successful.

The reason: enterprise buyers like it.

Last week, InformationWeek associate editor Michael Endler wrote about a new Forrester survey, which found that more information workers want a Windows tablet than an iOS or Android device. Whether that translates into Surface Pro sales is another matter entirely, he pointed out. True enough.

It's also true that Microsoft is well entrenched in the enterprise, and that is helping the Surface Pro get attention from IT buyers. They're ordering small lots today as proof-of-concept devices for their Windows 8 tablet software development programs.

So the sales numbers may be trivial in the near term. But today's pilot programs hold promise for higher volumes once they blossom into companywide deployments. Maybe that doesn't mean quite as much as it used to, in the days before BYOD crept into the IT vernacular.

(I prefer to call it IBMODD, BTW. It's short for "I'm Bringing My Own Device, Dammit!" I think it better reflects the tenor of the BYOD movement, which arose when execs started bringing their iPhones to work and ordered IT to integrate them.)

Regardless, the potential for a windfall in the enterprise exists for Microsoft with the Surface Pro, although that's a bit further down the road. In the meantime, Microsoft could improve on the appeal of the Pro line by bifurcating it into a clear tablet-first model and a computer-centric offering. With that approach, the company just might end up leaving the monkey business to Seinfeld.

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Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
2/19/2013 | 1:49:26 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
Why would Microsoft order only a million Surface Pros? Because they don't want to have a huge inventory to manage. (Think of the costs to hold these devices in storage.)
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/15/2013 | 10:23:19 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
I don't think a pure enterprise market is enough for devices like Surface Pro, just as I suspect it won't be enough for BlackBerry in the smartphone market. Either such devices have sufficient consumer appeal to fire BYOD/ consumer-business crossover use, or they won't fly. Yes, there will be a niche for some specialized industry tablets, but would that alone be big enough to keep Microsoft interested in the hardware business?
JimC
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JimC,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2013 | 9:29:20 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
"... execs started bringing their iPhones to work and ordered IT to integrate them." Yes, that's correct and I'll bet that the children aged 15-25 of CXOs were enthusiastically doing iPhone demos for their parents, which I think triggered RIM/BlackBerry's slide in the corporate world. BlackBerry might keep their most loyal customers and rebound if IT departments insist on BlackBerry's very latest offerings. I'm now curious to see if Microsoft can deliver on the promise of one operating system for desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones -- and the benefits (stability, convenience, security, etc.) the corporate world is to derive from it, considering the ubiquity of Windows and Office. If BlackBerry and Microsoft can gain BYOD market share via corporate IT departments, then the top four platforms will even out a bit. Right now, it's too heavily dominated by Android and iOS.
MFeibus
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MFeibus,
User Rank: Strategist
2/14/2013 | 4:24:07 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
Hey David, Good to hear from you. Yeah, I do think the new tablet form factors like the Surface Pro are stoking vertical app developers. Interestingly, though, my sense is that a lot of the development is in Win7 apps that are stylized with a Win8 look and feel.

I've seen a few. They default to full-screen, and have a big top-or-bottom border with a few large buttons. Interesting, huh?

Anyone else?
MFeibus
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MFeibus,
User Rank: Strategist
2/14/2013 | 4:13:21 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
LOL, there will always be monkey-likers such as yourself. You are the reason Baskin-Robbins had to add that 31st flavor ...

Just teasing, of course. Enjoyed your comments!
Mike
David Berlind
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David Berlind,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 6:59:18 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
I guess one question I have is whether or not the Surface Pro could possibly re-ignite the market for mobile, tablet-based apps (based on Windows of course) in certain vertical markets (eg: medical) where an $899 cost is unlikely to hold back purchases. For example, Lenovo has quite a few convertible systems (popular with vertical industries) that are north of of $1000 (eg: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/lapt.... Granted, these Surface tablets don't have a keyboard built-in, but you can no-doubt accessorize with Bluetooth as many have with iPads.

Any thoughts on that? Is there something about the Surface that will appeal to corporate verticals above and beyond current solutions. Is $899 actually a better price point than current options?
RobMark
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RobMark,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 6:57:30 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
The weight and battery life will be much better with Clover Trail. So, the Surface Pro 2 will likely be more tablet like in that regard.
macPCguy
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macPCguy,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 6:47:51 AM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
If I want a kids I'm not going to get a monkey. But I want a monkey. SP is crimped on space, yes. But I don't store data on my devices anymore. Also I can run office natively so that's nice. And I've got a convenient device as a reader. I don't need to sacrafice video or CPU for battery because I don't need that uber battery. As some point it appears I can buy a battery "cover" if that's the case. And yes, I'm in IT. So I can run office apps, management apps as well as web apps. Finally, I can play games. Guilty as charged. I like monkeys because they play games.
MFeibus
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MFeibus,
User Rank: Strategist
2/12/2013 | 7:11:17 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
Good points on the quantity ordered. I suspect that MS engineered the selling-out-in-hours news. Recall that they did the same thing with the original Surface. Shortly after it went on sale, MS reported a three-week wait for new orders. By the time the three weeks were over, though, it was clear that most everyone who wanted the Surface already had one ...
AsokAsus
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AsokAsus,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 3:53:36 PM
re: Microsoft Surface Pro: Too Much Tablet?
There's really some serious disconnects going on here. Why would Microsoft order only a million Surface Pros if they truly believed Forrester's ridiculous claim that every other worker on the planet was salivating for a Surface Pro at work, the very same Surface Pro that comes with Windows 8, the most hated operating system on the planet right now, especially if you work for the enterprise.

Also, if Microsoft ordered a million units, where are they? It appears that they had only about 30,000 or so for sale on opening day and they're all gone.
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