Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons - InformationWeek

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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,
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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.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
8/12/2013 | 3:25:48 PM
re: Microsoft Needs 3 Surface Tablets: 3 Reasons
A $200 or $300 Microsoft tablet would change the nature of this whole discussion. An attractive entry-level price point has to be an option at holiday shopping time this year. But match the Nexus price? That's going to be hard for MS.
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