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.
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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