Microsoft: Here's what you need to do with Surface tablets

Summary:It's common knowledge that Microsoft hasn't done too well with the Surface tablets. Here's what the folks in Redmond need to do to get Surface in customers' hands.

Branding and software

Surface logo

To get advertising right we need to address branding. Since the whole idea behind this new Surface is to make it simple, do the same with the product name. You already have a great name right in front of you. Surface. Not Surface This or Surface That, just Surface. It's simple, direct, and catchy. It conveys the idea it's for everyone.

There's a great slogan that can drive this home in all ads:

Simply Surface

You've probably figured out the primary focus of the hardware and the advertising of same -- keep it simple. No crazed dancing children, no dancing on the conference table, just show real people doing real things with the Surface. The nice, easy Surface. Simply Surface.


Hardware concept aside, don't overlook the software. Sure it's full Windows 8, and owners can install their own software, but that's not the message you want to push. Microsoft, you won't like the truth, and that is that mainstream tablet shoppers do not want Windows. They want a simple tablet that does what they want. Besides the nice hardware they want great apps.

What you need to have, I'd go as far to say you must have, is at least one app that takes advantage of the Surface in a way that the competition can't take advantage of their tablets.

The ads should show people capturing and creating ideas from the information that is around them using the special app on the Surface.

Microsoft, remember the concept you killed, the Courier? Leave the device dead but bring back the software for the Surface. A graphical, free form type of journal that can be whatever the user wants it to be. Have full drag and drop capability, easy sketching, and searching of the user's note pages. 

Users of the Surface should be able to drag anything, from any Metro app, directly to any page of the Courier app. They can drop it anywhere on the page they want and draw a link from it to anything else on the page. They can capture anything, or write anything they want on the fly with either the pen, onscreen keyboard, or by dragging it by fingertip. While anything but simple under the hood, the Courier app is drop-dead simple to operate. 

This app is like nothing currently on any platform or tablet. It can be many things to many people, which can be clearly shown in ads. These ads will show how easy it is to use this most creative of apps. Real people using information from existing sources, e.g. the web, and easily using it to create ideas and even art. Simply Surface.


This is my unsolicited advice to Microsoft, which it can take with a rather large grain of salt. It can take it or leave it as it sees fit. But I feel pretty confident that this plan for the Surface would make it a household word.

To bring the Microsoft tablet to the mainstream, which is where it needs to be to get the sales big enough to justify retooling Windows 8 to fit the slate, a new Surface needs to be built. A thin, sexy tablet that will appeal to the mainstream tablet shopper.

The Surface, and that's what it should be named, will be targeted at the market with an ad campaign that shows off the attractive tablet being used by real people doing real things, and simply. No mention of Windows nor Office, simply show the tablet doing the things tablet owners want to do.

The Simply Surface ad campaign should spend a lot of time showing off the new Courier app written just for the Surface. People capturing and creating ideas from the information that is around them. The ads should show not only how easy Courier is to use, but how fun it is to grab pertinent stuff and drag it to the user's page. It's like capturing ideas on a napkin but way more fun.

Run an ad and show a bride-to-be dragging a photo of a wedding gown to the Courier page. She sketches personal changes she'd like to see, then drags the changes to the Mail app to send it to her best friend. The friend drags it from the email to her Courier page and writes notes on it to send back.

In another ad show a couple standing in front of their old fireplace. They snap a photo using the camera on the Surface, which appears instantly on their Courier note page. They write notes on the photo indicating what they want their contractor to change and then drag it to an email to him. He gets it and writes an estimate of what that would cost on his Surface and then emails it back.

Last but not least, end each ad, no matter the medium, with the following catch phrase:

Simple. Surface. Simply Surface. By Microsoft.

Topics: Mobility, Tablets, Windows


James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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