Microsoft Surface tablets: Target is mainstream, not enterprise

Microsoft Surface tablets: Target is mainstream, not enterprise

Summary: While the new Surface tablets may find a place in the workplace, the target to get mass reception is in the home.


Image credit: Ed Bott/ZDNet

A lot of the buzz generated by Microsoft's impressive new Surface tablets is aimed at how the enterprise may be the perfect fit for Windows tablets. That may be, but to reach the sales numbers that Microsoft needs to be a competitor to the iPad the primary target is not the enterprise. Surface tablets need to appeal to mainstream consumers to have the impact Microsoft wants.

That's why word that the initial Surface tablets will be Wi-Fi only is not that important. Indications are that Wi-Fi iPads are the choice of many mainstream consumers as most folks rarely use them outside of hotspots. The 3G/4G iPads sell in much smaller numbers, and then only because Apple has such good deals with the U. S. carriers to keep them contract free.

Microsoft needs to make a big initial push to get the Surface into the home, not the workplace. Wi-Fi is all that is needed to make that happen, so it won't be a problem if a 3G/4G version comes later. When the mobile broadband versions of the Surface are released, one thing is an absolute necessity for it to compete well with the iPad.

There better be similar deals for data plans to those on the iPad with carriers for buyers to snap up the 3G/4G models. No contracts, and easy to turn on/off the mobile broadband as needed right on the tablet. Consumers do not want, nor will they tolerate, another data contract. The monthly rates need to be cheap, too. This is one area in which Microsoft must copy Apple to the letter, or pay the consequences.


Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets

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  • Clearly...

    This is aimed at the home, not work. 20 different colors for work? Come on people, are we all kindergartners these days? Tired of all the Apple comparisons. People want alternatives to iPad and sadly, there hasn't been one for the past 2 years until Surface. This has everything that I wanted on the iPad but never had. People still like having USB ports, SD Card slots, and full OS's that don't compromise anything. I don't need "Retina" displays when 1080P still looks great on my 42" monitor, so why wouldn't it look great on a 10" screen? I have compared my 1st gen Focus' screen to an iPhone 4S' and I really couldn't tell any difference, I honestly felt like the screen on the Focus had much better blacks, and when set on high it just pops out at you, the iPhone4S looked dull. All I am saying is we are putting way to much emphasis on screen resolutions these days, I personally don't care about MBook Pro screen res or iPad screen res, Apple has been making better screens than EVERYONE for the past decade, it's not news. It doesn't mean I am going to go out and buy one because of the screen, all I care about is the software. I know there are millions of us who have been holding out for Windows 8 tablets for a while now, it doesn't mean Msoft is going to sell 50 million of these the first year, but I know I will def be getting this at launch.
    • Just because you're at work

      Doesn't mean everything needs to be drab and boring. Places like that lower productivity. Letting your employees have a little fun at work won't kill your business, it'll probably help it. Yes, there are situations where you don't want a flamboyant pink keyboard, but it's not something most people really need to worry about and those that do should be smart enough to keep it professional. I'm not 100% sure, but I'd assume Windows will offer a black keyboard, which would be fine.

      Aside from the mostly irrelevant color argument, there are many other features that could make this great for business. Especially if they include a version of the "business center" that they've shown for Windows 8 phones.
      • What is the number one selling iPad Smart Cover color?


        If I buy 200 Surface for my business, they will all come with the same color - Black. Bet it's the norm.
    • Re; Retina Display

      Charles, one thing to remember about display density (pixels per inch) is that part of the reason 1080p looks great on a 42" TV is that the TV most likely is not within the reach of your arm. To get a true comparison, you need to consider pixels per degree of field of view. If you sit 5 feet from your TV, this is 55 pixels per degree. If you hold your new iPad 15" from your head, it s at 69 pixels per degree. An iPhone at 15" is 80 pixels per degree. A Galaxy Nexus is 82 pixels per degree. A 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab (original resolution) is 46 pixels per degree.

      So, yes, the higher resolution of the iPad makes a difference (and it is a pretty screen). But I also live with the 7" Samsung GalaxyTab and don't have complaints. It comes down to how much value you place on the screen.
    • Why not?

      Why have you not purchased one of the many nice Windows 7 tablets that have been on the market for over a year? If what you want is USB ports and Windows software, you could have it right now. So could the rest of the "People who want a full OS." Yet these products languish at the bottom of the sales charts. It's not the price: I see one right now on Newegg, an Acer Iconia with Windows 7 Pro, for $599. That's no more than an iPad.

      When people say they're waiting for the cow to jump over the Moon, but they won't drink the milk that's on the table now, I'm wondering how serious they could be.
      Robert Hahn
      • I've had two tablets with Windows 7

        HP Slate 500 and now the Samsung Slate, though I've installed Windows 8 as a dual boot on the Samsung and have been using that almost exclusively. Windows 7 is workable with a tablet, but Windows 8 is much better. So there are people who are using Windows 7 tablets. Of course it was 800 for the HP Slate 500, and 1300 for the Samsung (though its specs make everything else look weak).
    • Who are these people you're speaking on behalf off?

      [i]"People still like having USB ports, SD Card slots, and full OS's that don't compromise anything."[/i]

      Then why haven't these "millions" of people purchased the various Windows Slates and tablet PCs that predates the iPad, by a decade. They had full OS, SD slots, USB, I think some even had ethernet ports. As Robert mentioned, you don't have to wait on the Surface to be released, you can find many of these full OS tablets with USB ports now.
      • It is called lack of touch capable UI, libraries, API and OS

        People needs full OSes since they use full OSes for work and creation activities in consumer areas which is impossible without a PC or these days a PC-like Mac.

        Try living along with a tablet and you will find even the touch enabled iOS comes short.

        And if iOS itself lack a lot of PC-like functionality and if its mobility is not enough to make it replace a laptop in all cases, dont you think users wish to combine the mobile simplicity of an iPad with the usability of a Windows OS on a PC?

        Windows OS till Win8 lacked complete touch sensor based libraries, SDK, API among other things. Dont you think that explains why a stylus enabled Win7 tablet alone did not sell much?
      • @calahan

        [i]"It is called lack of touch capable UI, libraries, API and OS"[/i]

        But we were told for years that Windows 7 (and every other Windows OS going back to XP) was built with all the necessary touch capabilities one would need for desktops, notebooks and tablets. Ballmer stood on stage with an HP Slate in 2010 to prove the point that Windows with its touch capabilities was every bit a competitor to the new iPad. Years before that we had 'Windows XP Tablet PC Edition' and the multitude of slates/tablet PCs, Origami/UMPCs, laptops with convertible screens in the market. What happened? Were we lied to all these years about Windows Touch capabilities?

        HP in 2007 launched their TouchSmart PCs with "touch capable UI" running above Windows (much like Metro is today). It too bombed hard in the market. I don't know anyone who bought TouchSmart PCs from 2007 - 2012.

        [i]"People needs full OSes since they use full OSes for work and creation activities in consumer areas"[/i]

        Sure people need full OS's. I am a designer and require a full OS and powerful beefy specs when working/creating (truck). And a full size display (at least 15") not a tiny 10" - 11" tablet display. That would truly be a compromise. When consuming and in leisure mode (car), I am not looking for a full OS with Intel chips and internal fans, and Ultrabook specs. That's overkill.

        Just because Microsoft said all we need is one device for work and play (for their own benefit) doesn't mean it's ideal solution for everyone. There's many compromises Microsoft and fans refuse to discuss when talking hybrid-type products. For instance that 16:9 aspect ratio of the Surface is not the ideal ratio for comfortable tablet use at any orientation/position. 4:3 aspec ratio is. Unless all you want to do is watch movies on your tablet.

        Anyway like I said we've been hearing how people (consumers) needed full OS's on tablet form factors for a decade and still we've yet to see any proof of this in the market. Failed! Why should we believe it now?

        What Microsoft and fans are afraid of is the modern tablet (iPad) market continuing to develop and flourish in its own post-pc category. As a new form of Personal Computing [b]device[/b]. Unrelated to x86 PCs or Mac OSX computers. Apple is not the one with the 90% OS market share so I get it why Microsoft must tie everything to that ol' "Windows" OS and ecosystem.
      • It's not about OS, it's about input. I have a touchsmart tablet PC...

        I bought it in 2009 when my 2003 ACER T100, first gen, tablet PC died update death (video card no longer supported). I bought it because I had become used to handwriting straight to any word processing app, and red-penning my documents on screen - 'writing' on a file printed to journal so that I can have a record of my edits without using the ridiculous layering of version control - that all requires a stylus, and accurate e-ink, nothing compares to it except printing out reams of paper - which I don't want to do.
        MS is right about hardware getting in the way of tablet PC adoption. If I hadn't already discovered the beauty of working that way, I'd never have bought the HP product I have now (at the time it was the only option on the market) the damn thing is so thick and heavy (4 times thicker, and heavier than the 2003 ACER) and has such bad battery life that I can't take it anywhere, the screen is fuzzier than the 2003 ACER, and I spend a lot of time removing and re-removing HP bloat-ware. I don't blame anyone for not getting excited by the appalling hardware.
        The original failure to adopt was a software fault, though, and it happened in 2005, with the removal of the 'write anywhere' feature. As an early adopter, people were mesmerized by my tablet in 2003-2005 - everyone wanted to be able to write like that straight onto a word doc, straight into their planner - they were just waiting for the price to come down a little. Then in came SP2 and the sneaky little "tablet 2005", removed write anywhere, and installed the ergonomically disastrous TIP (an input panel for handwriting which covers your work and requires wrist gymnastics to use), and MS screwed themselves - the average person couldn't see the magic anymore, and those of us already addicted could only pray for third party apps to replace the function (it took months, for them to arrive, years for them to be much good, and still only worked with some apps.) After that, even I warned everyone off wasting their money.
        That's in the past. Win7 IS an excellent tablet OS for finger-painters who want to use a tablet as an entertainment unit - that's what I use mine for while I'm drafting, because handwriting anything of length on the TIP is still impossible. I don't understand why anyone would complain about the size of the buttons or, frankly anything except the TIP. Vista improved the TIP somewhat, Win7 much more, but no improvement of the TIP will ever replace write anywhere - the best they could do is to have the TIP rotatable, but it will still block your view of your work and won't be like writing on a page - which was the "magic" of it, and a little 'magic' is what is required to get the punters to buy.
        I've been waiting for 3 years for a decent replacement for the original, 2003, genuinely portable tablet and if any of the toyblets had a stylus, accurate e-ink, and compatibility with my word processing apps, then it might come close. The surface looks to be the upgrade I've been waiting for, it may also have the functionality of an iPad, but I really don't give a damn about that, if I need anything more than my phone can provide, then I need more than that, anyway, I just want a portable tablet PC again.
  • targetting enterprise: its all about vpn

    All they need to do to target the enterprise is allow access to shared folders through ipsec vpn. If the surface can do that, our company will buy a bunch of them.
    • Surface Pro

      The Windows 8 Pro model will do that, join the domain, support all of your existing VPN connections and 3rd party clients. And it has a touch optimized interface. I work for a major player in the IT space and I can absolutely tell you that our management is very excited at what these will do to open the door to a larger VDI push. Since that's one of our areas of expertise this has an incredible potential. And in all honesty the Surface RT will be suited for VDI since they'll still have RDP and we'll undoubtedly see a Citrix Receiver for them.
      • Are we positive on that?

        Original detail said no VPN support for the Surface.
        Hope it does support it.
  • New Verizon Shared Data plans . . .

    . . . call for $10 per month to add a tablet to the account. You have to assume that's going to mean iPad, Surface, Droid, whatever, don't you? We'll see what AT&T does.

  • I think the Surface RT has a decent shot with the consumer

    It will all depend on build quality, retail price, and Metro app availability. If the actual shipping device is chintzy, forget it. If the actual shipping device is $750, forget it. If the actual shipping device doesn't have high-quality Metro apps that do what users want, forget it! Those are some pretty serious challenges. If Microsoft can meet them, they'll have [b]enormous[/b] success, and they'll deserve it. However, I don't think they can. We'll see.
  • it is both( apendage)

    do you even know how to read you own site news.
  • Consumer? Don't think so.

    For one thing, the price will be an issue. Nobody has the volume and supplier pull that Apple does, so the hardware itself will be more expensive. And judging from what Microsoft wants for the OS, the cost will be at the high end of the iPad 3 range, not to mention the discounted iPad 2.

    But the real killer is on the apps side. I've had my new iPad since launch day, and it has about a hundred apps on it, about 50/50 paid vs. free, and I haven't even scratched the surface of what is out there in the Apps store. If Microsoft wants to succeed in the consumer space, apps are going to be the deciding factor, not specs.
    terry flores
    • Apple won't have an advantage on the supplier side, and, Microsoft

      might even get better prices for the components needed to build their equipment. After all, with Microsoft's potential market, which is many times bigger than Apple's, no supplier or manufacturer is going to deny Microsoft an advantage that is at least equal to Apple's, an in fact, because of its size, Microsoft may end up with much better prices from suppliers than Apple enjoys. If I were a soft-drinks distributor, and I had a choice between selling to a grocery store, versus a supermarket chain, which one do you think would be more advantageous for me to do business with? Apple is like a grocery store compared to the size of Microsoft's market potential.

      Furthermore, when it comes to the apps "stores", Microsoft already has a much bigger and better store with better applications than Apple, and that would pertain to the x86 Surface tablets, which will be able to run the millions of applications which have been written for Windows in the last 10+ years. In addition, when it comes to apps, when most of them are duplicates and/or garbage, then, the only ones that count are the ones that are useful. Furthermore, most people won't have a use for more than 100 apps or so, and most will probably settle for a lot less than that. So, the apps ecosystem is an overhyped advantage, and all that are needed are really useful applications, which I'm pretty sure will be available to all different platform, including the iPads and Android tablets and Windows tablets. Advantage for iPad? Not at all. In fact, the iPads are being left behind, when compared to the capabilities of the new Windows tablets. Those capabilities will insure that there will be a lot more apps coming out for Windows tablets than for any other platform.
      • Lol

        Heh heh. Good one.
        Robert Hahn
      • Lots of "potentials" in that post of yours.

        Also on one hand you boast how Microsoft have "millions" of Windows applications for their x86 platform but refuse to give Apple credit for their 225,000 iPad apps.

        Don't stop dreaming though, one day all those "potentials" you mentioned may just become reality. Keep holding down the fort.