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Microsoft's Next Surface Tablets: 7 Must-Do's

Microsoft Surface tablet sales flopped. Here's what the next-generation devices must have for a comeback.

4. Include LTE Support

The current Surface RT is outclassed by iPads and Android tablets in many ways -- but its lack of cellular support is a big one. After all, a mobile device is only as mobile as its access to data.

The next Surface RT's rumored Qualcomm chip should provide LTE support, and Microsoft will hopefully negotiate attractive data plan options. Microsoft has already made enormous investments in cloud technologies, and the company indicated at Build that Bing-powered mobile apps will be a future developer focus. To advance these ideas, though, the company needs Windows 8 and Windows RT users connected to the Internet as often as possible.

5. Price The Surface Pro Like A Companion Device

The Surface Pro is too heavy, too expensive and too limited by the Windows Store to be a great tablet. It's also too small and ergonomically compromised to be a full-time laptop. If viewed as a companion device, the tablet has uses. But if viewed as a single do-it-all device, the Surface Pro is only satisfying to niche users.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro is priced more like a full-fledged computer. If the next Surface Pro maintains the first model's build quality, includes Intel's Haswell chips, costs a couple hundred dollars less and throws in the Type Cover for free, customers will perceive the device in a whole new light.

6. Get The Metro Version Of Office Out The Door

A version of Office optimized for the Modern UI is allegedly in development -- and the sooner Microsoft releases it, the better.

On most Windows tablets, including both Surface devices, Microsoft Office is a functional but sub-optimal experience. Microsoft is keeping Office from iOS and Android tablets in order to promote Windows 8, but so far, that strategy hasn't translated into strong Win 8 sales. But if Microsoft releases a version of Office that is optimized for tablets, and that actually makes productivity viable on small screens, the tactic could pay off.

7. Know Your Priorities

The Surface tablets have flopped because Microsoft misread the market. The company seems to have assumed that by simply throwing Office on a tablet, it could immediately command premium pricing.

This attitude focuses on market gaps -- on looking where competing products lack a feature, instead of where end user experiences can be improved. Business customers have always cared more about productivity and stability than about user experience. But BYOD and other consumerization forces have changed that, and now, Microsoft has to balance two goals: Keeping its products feature-rich enough for business, while also learning how to make great products that consumers actually want to use.

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User Rank: Apprentice
8/4/2013 | 2:11:29 AM
re: Microsoft's Next Surface Tablets: 7 Must-Do's
I really love all of these "must do" or "don't do" advice-type articles to Microsoft. Usually, they offer very good advice. Unfortunately, Microsoft never pays any attention to them, just like they no longer pay attention to their customers or what their customers really need. Microsoft products now seem to be designed almost solely from the perspective of whether they maximize their revenue streams for Microsoft, and not whether they will benefit the people who might need to buy them.
Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
8/3/2013 | 10:58:28 PM
re: Microsoft's Next Surface Tablets: 7 Must-Do's
Did you mean in general? Probably because, between the two Surface tablets, RT appears to be the bigger flop, which encourages commentators to pile on. But if you meant within the article, items 1 and 5 refer quite specifically to the Surface Pro, and all but items 2 and 4 are equally applicable to either tablet. People are also talking more about the Surface RT right now because not much is known about the next Surface Pro. For the RT, there have at least been a few somewhat legitimate reports, and lots of rumors. That said, I think some of enhancements I mentioned - such as a Haswell chip - are basically a given for the next Surface Pro. I just don't know that Microsoft will sell many in the meantime if it waits until next year to make the move.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/3/2013 | 10:27:00 PM
re: Microsoft's Next Surface Tablets: 7 Must-Do's
Why is only the RT talked about? MS should never have made the RT at all.. Then the full windows on a tablet would have been what is and was intended to be the innovation.
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