Next Thursday night, Microsoft will be spending a bunch of money bringing their in-house tablet to the world. Not only will your eyes be blasted with ads, but Microsoft will be setting up pop-up stores for hot impulse sales for Microsoft’s senses-blaring Windows 8-slash-Surface release. But despite Microsoft’s monopolistic success with Windows, their huge foray into fresh new tablet form factors, ones that don’t involve a huge desktop and a hefty monitor – is still far from guaranteed (meet: Windows Phone). They have some big hurdles ahead as they launch into the holiday season.
1. The Price
I haven’t used a Surface yet, but apparently it’s a fantastic piece of hardware. It’s designed to such tolerances that a piece of Scotch tape would prevent the tablet’s case from sealing shut. The problem is that it has a 800-pound incumbent in the iPad, a device built on other devices built on hundreds of thousands of apps. Windows RT, which we’ll touch on in a second, on the Surface is essentially Microsoft starting over. At $499.99, it’s also $300 more than a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire with a value proposition yet to be proven. It doesn’t even matter how good Microsoft will be, it’s going to be incredibly easy for the crowds to skip over the tablet entirely.
2. The Windows Confusion
Windows is launching in two flavors: 8 and RT. The former is the version you’ll upgrade your desktop and laptop to (or will you?) that supports decades of legacy programs and applications. The latter is an entirely new version built around their Metro-style apps (I refuse to stop using the name!) that has no track record at all. In fact, there are fewer apps available for Windows RT than the two-year old Windows Phone because it’s not compatible with any other platform out there. At the same time that Microsoft is peddling its Surface based on Windows RT, manufacturers like Asus, Samsung, and others are going to be releasing similar tablets and laptop convertibles that will be running one version or another. It will be madness for customers and retailers alike. Oh, and then Microsoft will be launching their own Windows 8 tablet, for hundreds more than their initial RT version, possibly early next year. Muddy those waters!
3. Really, Launching During The Holiday?
I don’t know if you guys are aware, but lots of people release stuff during the holiday season. Mere days before the Surface and Windows 8 release, Apple will be announcing their seven-inch teacup iPad, which is sure to steal the scene. Meanwhile, they launch their primary iPad in February, free from the crowd of any other product and they are incredibly successful, in part, because of it. Now, Windows 7 launched three years ago during the holiday window and wound up just fine, but with so many products competing for so many dollars, do we really need this many more items to choose from? Just release it in the summer when we’re outside ready to use them or something.