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8/9/2013
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Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons

Microsoft is having trouble selling the Surface tablets it already makes. But here's why adding a third would be a smart move.

2. Multiple Surface RT models would help Windows RT survive OEM skepticism.

On Friday, Asustek announced that it has abandoned its plans for future Windows RT products. CEO Jerry Shen told The Wall Street Journal that the entire industry has perceived that Windows RT "has not been successful."

Indeed, aside from Dell, which is mired in a soap opera of its own, Microsoft is essentially the only major producer of Windows RT products.

By producing multiple Surface RT models, Microsoft can reassure its partners that Windows RT is worth supporting. If Microsoft chooses to release only one Surface RT model, the company could still face OEM challenges; a successful 8-inch Surface tablet, for example, might inspire OEMs merely to produce "me too" 8-inch tablets of their own, rather than to explore the OS's potential more thoroughly. But if Microsoft can succeed with a variety of RT options, it can inspire OEMs to approach the platform with enthusiasm and creativity.

3. Microsoft needs device fanfare to accompany Windows 8.1, and to coincide with enterprise hardware upgrades.

Microsoft has only opaquely acknowledged that new Surface models are coming, and it hasn't confirmed any release dates. Nonetheless, multiple models could help Microsoft increase Windows 8.1 fanfare in several ways.

If the company releases one of the models before the end of the year, the device would arrive in time not only for the holiday season, but also to cash in on user interest in Windows 8.1, which will be released later this fall. Surface devices released next year, meanwhile, could capitalize on enterprise hardware upgrades, which are expected to pick up as Windows XP's April 8, 2014 end-of-service date nears.

For business years, a refreshed Surface Pro could have an obvious appeal, especially if Microsoft prices the device no higher than the current Pro's discounted base price of $799. But with a variety of other Surface models, Microsoft would have more flexibility to target specific use cases and business verticals. A larger Windows RT tablet might be attractive to a mobile salesperson, for instance, whereas a 7-inch model that syncs perfectly with a Surface Pro could be a nice secondary device for a traveling executive.

If Microsoft follows this strategy, it will still have to find the right prices and features to make the various devices attractive both individually and together. Still, with a larger Surface family, the company could have more flexibility to make the right moves.

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Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2013 | 4:11:28 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
As someone who spent an hour in the Microsoft store the other day, I think it's wrong to dismiss RT "sucks" despite its obvious limitations. The problem for me as a consumer was price. The Surface RT is a good little machine for people who don't need to run a wide array of applications. For example, it's fine for a journalist on the road or a student in a classroom. The big problem for me was price -- it should be considerably cheaper (it's currently on sale for $359, including Office for students). I think Redmond would sell a ton of these at $250. It might not make much money at that price, but it would gain a following.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2013 | 1:44:19 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
I don't see how any good can come of a smaller Surface RT tablet, even if it's priced at $200 or even less. It will head into even more competitive terrain dominated by established players like the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and iPad Mini. If the people didn't like the Windows 8 tile-based UI big they won't like it small either.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2013 | 12:01:32 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
The key problem with the Windows 8 modern app world is crappy apps. It's kind of like when Java introduced a whole bunch of character-mode interface folks to GUIs. If you recall, Java AWT/Swing allowed the creation of some really, really BAD GUI apps. I believe it's possible to make great Windows modern apps but right now, experienced touch developers don't seem to be focused on Windows. That leaves us with predominantly inexperienced touch developers and crappy apps. That's a huge problem for Microsoft.

Of course, IMO, even Microsoft's own modern apps aren't great. Take the mail app. When you create a new message, the right side of the screen shows what appears to be some sort of template but it doesn't give you any clue as to the fact that you are to touch(click) the "Subject" part of the template and start typing or touch(click) the "body" area of the template and start typing. It looks like a sheet of paper with no obvious input areas or shadings to provide hints as to what the hell do I do with this? Plus the TO, CC and BCC areas are on the left side of a split screen. This is a complete departure from how Outlook presents information and accepts input.

After a while you get used to it but this is from a company that has a long history of GUI standards regarding placement of buttons, tool bars, menus, accelerator keys and default operations when ENTER is pressed. It's like some creative nut job fired all the pragmatic people and went wild. Of course it doesn't HAVE to be this way. Modern is fully capable of offering input boxes of various shadings that would immediately make the mail app more intuitive.

Windows problem is the apps and in Stevie's own sweat-slinging/spit-spraying/foot pounding words, "Developers, developers, developers."
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2013 | 11:48:07 AM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
Oh... I thought WP meant Windows Pro (WP). Regardless, I thought Windows Phone 8 (WP8) was using the same kernel. Isn't this shift why WP7 devices could not be upgraded to WP8? Isn't it all one OS and one experience as the slogan touts?
jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2013 | 3:51:03 AM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
If M$FT can't sell one model, how will they sell 3 models of more or less the same junk.
I live near the Oak Brook, IL mall which has both an Apple and Microsoft store.
Guess which one is always crowded, and which is not?

If this was a soccer league, M$FT would be relegated.
Edwin_Arneson
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Edwin_Arneson,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/12/2013 | 9:16:13 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
"WP"==Windows Phone
He's saying Microsoft tablet devices should be running Windows Phone and not Windows or Windows RT. The name is a bit of a problem, though.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
8/12/2013 | 6:01:11 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
So many pointless articles about how M$ could save Surface or save Win8. The bottom line is that people in general just don't like Win8 very much, and for most folks, the pain of using Win8 on a tablet outweighs the (very) few minor advantages over the alternative products. They can't be saved.

M$ clearly believes that if they don't make inroads into the mobile device market, they are doomed, but Win8 is a colossal failure and it just isn't going to work for them. Frankly, I can't imagine anything, including a super-cool gee-whiz replacement operating system, that would let them make a significant dent in the Apple/Android duopoly; there's just too much momentum there. There is absolutely no way short of giving devices away that Microsoft can entice people into buying Win8 tablets or phones in significant numbers.

Frankly, I'd pay $200 for a Nexus7 before I'd pay $100 for a similarly spec'ed Win8 tablet. I don't think I'm alone on that.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2013 | 5:46:11 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
I sometimes wonder if some of you know what an "IT Pro" is and what we do. One clue, we could care less about o/s, only what applications can run on the o/s. An o/s by itself is worthless.
COBOL is still around, running key things like taking care of your money in the banking system, after 50+ years. It runs on servers, not client devices. For business applications on the server side, COBOL still makes more sense than java, regardless how many people actually use it today for such applications.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2013 | 5:28:46 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
In the days leading up the first Surface release, people were PUMPED. Microsoft had the opportunity to make a substantial impact.
However, in simple terms, RT sucks. It was a massive mistake; there should never have been a Windows RT. People were not so stoked. By the time the Surface Pro was released, MS's window was long gone.
The problem isn't the hardware, its RT. Having more RT tablets isn't going to help MS at all.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2013 | 5:17:48 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
RE: Join RT and WP. Other than the software Microsoft includes with RT(namely office), RT is a subset of Pro. When you say join them, Pro is already everything RT is except for add-on software. Is that what you mean by join (i.e. include free Office in Pro)?
RT is nothing more than a version of Pro that runs on ARM. It's been recompiled and combined with an ARM HAL. IMO, it's Pro's genetic clone that ended up being Dr. Evil's "mini me". Of course RT won't run any x86 software because the ARM architecture doesn't speak x86.
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