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1/18/2014
09:06 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Can Windows Tablets Break Out In 2014?

One lesson to date: While Apple can still command top dollar, Windows tablets only become widely desirable when they drop to Android-level pricing.

 Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
Microsoft Surface: 10 Best And Worst Changes
(click image for larger view)

After mostly sitting out the Consumer Electronic Showcase earlier this month, Microsoft touted its Surface tablets last week at the National Retail Federation's Big Show in New York City. But are the devices, which were frequently out of stock during the holiday season, actually making progress? InformationWeek breaks down the good and the bad indicators, both for the Surface line and Windows tablets in general.

The good

Throughout 2013, Microsoft highlighted a number of corporate and institutional Surface deployments. It also established partner programs to build a third-party community around its Surface products. While initial Surface sales were poor, these efforts helped Microsoft to make an important point: Whether for reasons of manageability or utility, the Surface line serves at least some productivity-minded professionals better than an iPad, laptop, or even both.

Microsoft's Surface 2
Microsoft's Surface 2

Microsoft furthered this agenda at NRF, where it welcomed AnywhereCommerce and MagTek, both of which make mobile point-of-sale products, into its Designed for Surface program. In a blog post trumpeting Microsoft's Big Show appearance, the company also profiled a new Surface Pro customer, Scandinavia-based retailer MQ.

The Surface Pro allowed MQ to reimagine its store layouts, Surface senior manager Biran Eskridge told InformationWeek in a phone interview. The tablets are installed in kiosks that connect customers to the retailer's warehouses, meaning that if the desired garment isn't in stock, a shopper can summon it to the store by the next day. As a result, MQ keeps less inventory on hand, which Eskridge said has led to less-cluttered stores, greater attention from passersby, and higher revenue.

[Which tablets ruled last year? Read 10 Best Tablets Of 2013. ] 

The MQ deployment joins a collection of Surface success stories Microsoft has highlighted in recent months, ranging from Delta using 11000 Surface 2s as "electronic flight bags," to real estate management firm Pedcor choosing the Surface for its entire IT division, to physicians using the tablets to provide more personalized care.

Eskridge said Microsoft probably won't share any Surface sales figures before it reports quarterly earnings on Jan. 23. But he pointed to some public data that shines a favorable light on holiday Surface sales.

Ad network Chitika calculated Microsoft's Surface and Surface 2 snared 2.3% of all post-holiday U.S tablet usage in the United States and Canada. That figure was up from 1.8% before Christmas. It also beat the share of well-regarded rivals, such as Google's Nexus tablet.

Retail analytics firm InfoScout found Surface was a popular Black Friday item, particularly the original model, which was on sale for only $199. It was the top-selling item of any sort that day at Best Buy. 

Various online reports have also indicated that certain configurations of the newer Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 (both which were better received than the first models) were out of stock at many locations throughout the holidays. Eskridge said Microsoft has found that some shoppers who were tempted into stores by the steeply discounted Surface ended up leaving with more expensive models.

Microsoft's customer satisfaction data shows that Surface owners use the device more than they used their previous tablets, Eskridge said, adding, "It validates our point of view."

Outside of the Surface, at least a few new Windows devices, such as Dell's Venue 8 Pro, generated limited buzz during the holiday season. 

The bad

Microsoft has clearly made progress, but put in context we're talking about baby steps, not major strides.

Forrester analyst David Johnson told Informationweek that demand for Windows 8 is "pretty flat" in the enterprise. He noted that employee demand for Windows tablets has risen but said businesses still show a "strong preference" for iPads.

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concrete
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concrete,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2014 | 5:44:23 AM
Re: Business sales?
The latest generation of Windows ads for tablets make a big deal out of being able to use MS Office fully. This should have been the main thing they pushed on launch and there should have been a finger friendly version of office ready at launch
anon0466204498
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anon0466204498,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/22/2014 | 3:12:20 PM
Re: Microsoft needs to push an alternative vision of portable computing
>Why on earth would you buy a tablet expecting a desktop experience?  Do you travel by air expecting >a train experience?  (although that may be what you get these days with air travel) This is the >mistake Microsoft is making with their tablets, the same experience reguardless of the "windows" >device with a UI that's best for none (touch or point and click)

 

Exactly, the experience should not be the same, that is one of my points; when you plug in a big screen, mouse and keyboard, you should get a desktop experience, not the touch expeirence; trying to combine the two experiences into one UI is the mistake MS made with Windows 8.x;

When in touch mode, you get a touch-optimized UI, when in desktop mode, you get a desktop-optimized UI.

BUT it would be quite handy to not have to carry around multiple devices. Once device to rule them all?

Incidently, take a look at this, maybe not quite there yet, but you can see a glimmer of what the future might look like, people really love this device:

http://www.amazon.com/Dell-Venue-Pro-Tablet-Windows/dp/B00FFVYV4K

 

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2014 | 8:38:27 AM
Re: Business sales?
I think the confusion is one of the reasons the Surface Pro isn't selling well. I know a handful of people who have them and they love them.  I just purchased one and I'm waiting for it to be delivered.  The difference between RT and Pro haven't been presented well and when I try to describe the difference to people the first comment I get is "so the RT version is a stripped down version"  I know that wasn't Microsoft's intention but RT versions are being seen as Windows lite or as limited use devices.  I think in their push to get a homogeneous feel across every device they fired some shots at their own feet.  Time will tell if any of those shots hit home.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 6:53:48 PM
Re: Poor horse for Microsoft
Check the SP2 battery specs.  The reviews I read claimed 6 hours w/constant video playback.  Typical use cases exceed 8 hours.  It's better to express dimensions in common terms.  There are 25.4mm/inch.  Based on your inch figure, the SP2 roughly half that at ~13mm.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 6:30:02 PM
Re: Business sales?
I think it was the Surface "1" RT for $199 (i.e. the debut model running on ARM).
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 4:29:53 PM
Re: Microsoft needs to push an alternative vision of portable computing
> I do NOT think the desktop is dead in any way

The desktop isn't dead, but it's not likely to be a growing market.
DDURBIN1
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50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 2:03:05 PM
Re: Microsoft needs to push an alternative vision of portable computing
Why on earth would you buy a tablet expecting a desktop experience?  Do you travel by air expecting a train experience?  (although that may be what you get these days with air travel) This is the mistake Microsoft is making with their tablets, the same experience reguardless of the "windows" device with a UI that's best for none (touch or point and click)
DDURBIN1
0%
100%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 1:17:31 PM
Poor horse for Microsoft
iPad Air 128GB is 799.  A Surface Pro 2 128GB is $999.  The iPad is one pound and 7.5 millimeters thick with a 10 hour battery life.  The Surface Pro 2 is 0.52 inches thick, is two pounds with a 6 hour battery life.  iOS 7 is as intuitive as it can get.  Windows 8.1 is as un-intuitive as it gets.  Poor and out dated technical features built on an UI nobody likes at a price few want to pay. These are Microsoft's biggest problems. 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 1:07:14 PM
Re: Business sales?
The windows aspect of a tablet is a bit more confusion because not only has Windows RT done badly but Windows 8 has also not performed well on the desktop. If windows 8 was as good as win 7 then it would have been a bit easier to gauge the value of a windows tablet based on its OS.
Brian.Dean
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50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2014 | 12:53:52 PM
Re: Business sales?
Yes you are right. I was searching online and the average prices for the surface pro 2 that I found was $850. I do recall that before the holidays an article was up here about a $199 surface, I guess it was also the surface 2 and not the surface pro 2. 

Yes Microsoft should not be keeping such similar names considering that anyone who is writing off tablets as not being productive might assume that the pro 2 is also the same. The surface 2 does fit the criteria of a consumption device. Firstly, like you said about the weak processor and secondly, it does not support legacy application.

 
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