re: Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices
I don't disagree that the Surface Pro is a dream come true for certain users. The build quality is strong, it's relatively powerful (though I wonder if it will seem somewhat less so when the Haswell tablets and hybrids hit), and it puts both a real laptop and a real tablet in one portable package. So why shouldn't Microsoft be able to charge more for a premium device? There's an argument to be made that in the case of Surface Pro, maybe a higher price is fine. It hasn't set the world on fire but it's sold much better than the Surface RT. It's also the only Windows 8 device that I've heard companies are currently considering. Still, the Surface Pro enthusiasts are a niche market, and a relatively high price (especially in light of the fact that Surface Pro might not seem so "unique" in a few months) doesn't do much to change that.
Microsoft's potential problem isn't that it's going to crumble into bankruptcy. It has $60 billion in the bank and is going to be around for a long, long time. No, the problem is that Microsoft might not be dominant for much longer. Producing niche products only contributes to Redmond being a mere player, not an industry-leading All Star. One could argue that niche products are fine for now, since Surface Pro is just a start. That's fair. Microsoft has some wiggle room due to the enterprise customer base. But that wiggle room buys only so much time. Analysts currently predict that Microsoft, currently ruler of 90% of the world's PCs, will be battling for second place with Apple OSes by 2017, with Android far ahead. To a company accustomed to being the biggest fish in the pond, this possibility is troubling. We haven't hit the point at which Microsoft has waited too long to produce a real crowd-pleaser-- but it's coming.
But Surface Pro isn't really what the article is about. I think Microsoft should try to produce premium devices that maximize whatever Windows 8 is capable of. Hopefully this will soon include not only elegantly implemented access to traditional software but also unique perceptual computing technology and apps-- not just touch but gesture and voice too. That's a role that, if carved out, could allow Windows 8 to establish its own personality, and to offer pleasing experiences and workflows that iOS and Android can't match. If those devices are excellent, then Microsoft can charge what Apple charges for its MacBook Pros.
But in the meantime, Microsoft needs Windows 8 adoption now. Inexpensive 8-inch tablets will do that.
Michael Endler, InformationWeek