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.