Microsoft Surface vs. Google Nexus: The numbers don't tell the whole story

Microsoft Surface vs. Google Nexus: The numbers don't tell the whole story

Summary: Despite some recently released data comparing the two tablets, a fairer comparison would pit the Surface against the Nexus 10.


The tablet market is often viewed as a two-horse race, with Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms fighting it out for domination. But there's a new player in the arena that could stir things up, Microsoft's Surface tablet, and it is far too early to start focusing on usage numbers.

Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika advertising network, examined a sample of tens of millions of tablet impressions drawn from the U.S. and Canada between November 12 to November 18, and compared Web traffic from Google's Nexus family of tablets and Microsoft's Surface tablet. 

After crunching the numbers, Chitika Insights found that Google Nexus tablet users are generating more than seven times the Web traffic compared to Microsoft Surface users. The data gives the impression that things aren't good for Microsoft and its Surface tablet.

While I don't doubt Chitika Insight's numbers, comparing the Nexus to the Surface is a little like comparing apples and oranges because there's a lot more to this story than can be conveyed by the numbers.

First, it is important to note that the there are significant pricing differences between the two tablets that result in a very uneven playing field.

See also: Best Android-powered tablets (December 2012 edition)

While both Microsoft and Google both offer a $499 version of their tablet which comes with 32GB storage, Google offers the Nexus 10 with 16GB of storage for $100 less, which appeals to those on a budget. The Nexus 7 isn't even in the same class as the Surface, with prices starting at $199.

Putting a $199 tablet in the same category as a $499 tablet will skew the data significantly, especially where price-sensitive buyers are concerned. People in the market for a $199 tablet are unlikely to give one with a $499 price tag a second thought.

The $300 difference is a lot.

Another factor to consider is that the Nexus 7 has a significant head start on the Surface. The Nexus 7 was first released in July, while Surface tablets didn't make an appearance until late October, and its launch was buried in the general Windows 8 fanfare.

Another factor to account for is the ecosystem. Android is an established and well-known platform, and people who own Android handsets are already familiar with the platform and know how it works. Microsoft's Windows RT platform is, despite the Windows branding, new and relatively unknown, and brings with is a new ecosystem and a new way of doing things.

Finally, Surface tablets running the full Windows 8 Pro operating system hasn't yet been released, and despite the price tag and poor battery life, it could still be a game changer. A tablet that brings all the features of Windows 8 on the desktop is going to be far more attractive than one that only brings a whiff of the desktop experience.

A fairer comparison would pit the Surface against the Nexus 10. The form factors are similar, and the difference in price isn't as great.

Image source: Chitika Insights.

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Android, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Combined, the Nexus Family and Surface account for just a bit over 1%

    Of tablet traffic. If we take the Nexus family and Surface as having "sold" about 4,000,000 units (3.5 million Nexus tablets and .5 million Surface RT tablets), this would imply about 400,000,000 other tablets out there and we know that is not the case. This is optimistic giving this is US traffic and not overall world traffic making the numbers even worse.

    Is anyone using these things or do they just sit on table tops? Or the unreleased sales figures that are guessed at by companies like Forester and IDG are simply WAY WAY WAY off.
    • Wow

      Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
    • To sell 4M ... you have to produce 4M

      How can you sell 4M, when the company produced less than 100K??
      • Pre-order.

    • You've disproved one of two premises

      If the logical conclusion ("about 400,000,000 other tablets out there") is false, one of the premises is false. In this case, your two premises are "Nexus family and Surface as having "sold" about 4,000,000 units" and "Combined, the Nexus Family and Surface account for just a bit over 1%." You've only succeeded at disproving one of them. I'm betting the combined traffic of these two product families exceeds 1%
      Patrick Aupperle
  • in theory

    "A tablet that brings all the features of Windows 8 on the desktop is going to be far more attractive than one that only brings a whiff of the desktop experience."

    Its only attractive in theory, on paper, in some peoples imaginations. In practice these surfaces are the definition of compromise in every way. There is a group of consumers who will run out to buy these thinking its some dream device, only to be disapointed once the novely wears off.
    In fact, I will go so far as to say the tablet is only a transitional device on the road to glasses or contacts with perhaps kinect like motion inputs. The desktop PC is in decline but will level off as people who truly need them will continue to buy them.
    The iPad got the tablet right by keeping it simple and staying as far away from being a desktop PC experience as possible.
    • It's less of a compromise than Android or iPads...

      Windows RT is only a compromise when compared to Windows 8, but when the Surface is compared to an iPad, it is the iPad that is rife with compromises--no USB port, no expandable storage, no Microsoft Office, etc.

      The Surface RT may not be as powerful as a Windows 8 ultrabook, but it's not supposed to be. But it IS more powerful than an iPad or Android tablet, and as the app store grows, it will become even more powerful.

      I say this as someone who owns one. And I don't feel I've had to compromise at all.
      • Me Too!

        My decision to purchase an iPad2 cellular turns-out to be one of the best computer purchases I've ever made (can anyone say Vista? Yeah, I did that!). Having the 32Gb model and about $100 of app purchases I can't see why anyone would state that it was a "compromise". I admit that I also purchased a $29.95 Kensington bluetooth keyboard and this allows me to do ALL of my business work with no problems.

        I've used a couple of RTs now and compared to the iPad, they're downright primitive. I just purchased a Nexus 7 for my girlfriend for Christmas and with the little bit of playing I've done setting-it-up, I'm very encouraged so far. Can't wait to mount that N7 on the Harley to replace my iPhone 4s (the screen is too small for all that vibration).

        I wish you luck with that Surface purchase - I don't think they'll be around to see 2014...
    • I was fascinated at first

      With tablets like iPad, Android... but have quickly found out, that flipping over few hundred euros just to be able to browse web and read email with client, that I have to relearn, is just not the solution.
      Now, I have older Dell hybrid XT2 and I can claim, that this is just what I was waiting for. If I put such features into a thinner body, like Surface or any other W8 tablet, THAT is what I was waiting for all that time.
      I just don't feel like supporting different platforms in everyday's use. For curiosity yes, but not investing in such thing. Then there is WP platform, either 7.X or 8, that simply adds to all this.
  • Maybe they should have used "Surface family of tablets"

    that included tablet / convertible offerings from OEMs?
    William Farrel
    • Those are Windows RT family and not in the Surface family.

      Unless you are thinking the Big A$$ Table MS made called the Surface.
  • Oranges and Apples

    The Surface RT is only available through a very limited channel. Here in Canada, if you want to try one, you have to buy one online from the Microsoft store. There are no Brick and mortar POS for now. It's a shame because it is a very decent product. Microsoft needs to focus more on the customer and the overall buying process because they are not succeeding right now.

    You can buy Nexus products anywhere. Futurshop, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc. So before making and comparison, could we talk about the same thing? It might take a while before we can make this kind of comparison.

    Surface rt is the first of probably many more to come portable devices from Microsoft. Even Bloggers that hates MS won't change a thing about that. MS seems to be focused on finding its place on the market like they were able with the Xbox. The rt is not perfect and several issues needs to be addressed. But even how it is right now, it is a more useful tablet that any iPad. MS need to rethink its marketing and the product will sell like hot cakes.
    • Surface issues...

      The main problem with the Surface, is 1) price 2) functionality, 3) availability. The price is absurd! I was ready to scoop up an MS Surface Pro, until I found out it was going to list for $899! I'm getting an Asus tablet with dual cameras, with expansion for half that price. 2) The RT is a joke. How can you possibly sell a MS product that is not backwards compatible with all your existing Windows software? 3) availability - as another user indicated, Android (and IOS devices) tablets are available damn near everywhere, whereas MS is "trying" (gulp), to be exactly like Apple. I'm a loyal MS Windows user, and have been for every version of Windows since 3.1. They're trying to do something right, in all the wrong ways. Just my 2c worth.
      • RT

        Was talking about the 499$ RT tablet. The Pro is, I must agree, too expensive.
        • Pro is too expensive?

          I find that funny, because nobody says, that any ultrabook or mac book is too expensive and now, the Surface pro or Slate is too expensive?
          I understand that all of us would like to have allmighty power at low price, but in reality such tight integration with stile, display and other features (i5, 4Gb ram, 64 or 128 SSD, Full HD resolution etc... ) comes at a price.
          • Macbooks are too expensive.

            Macbooks are too expensive.
            Patrick Aupperle
      • Surface issues

        Main problems:
        1- is from Microsoft
        2- Is not Android
        Very few people wants a Microsoft product, is not a good name; consumers are running away. That's why resellers are shy from selling it. The Surface ReTard 1st generation soon will become collectible item, in the sense they will be very hard to find.
        • Those are ADVANTAGES to most consumers...

          Um, your little list there is made up of what many consumers (probably most consumers) consider advantages.

          And BTW, Microsoft is ramping up production of the Surface and expanding its availability.
        • You must be

          ReTard connosieur? You spend a lot of time among ReTards?
  • When is a tablet not a tablet?

    "A tablet that brings all the features of Windows 8 on the desktop is going to be far more attractive than one that only brings a whiff of the desktop experience."

    When it's saddled-down and compromised by Windows desktop experience. I consider the Pro to be a notebook with touch capability (tablet-pc) rather than what is considered a modern tablet today. This should be separate category from consumption tablets like the iPad and Nexus 10 and should not be compared.

    To get that desktop "experience" that you say is more attractive, consumers will have to deal with a measly 4 hour battery for a mobile pc, extra large/wide screen, heavier and bulkier, internal fans to keep the "PC" cool. More complex. And a much larger 10.6" screen when everyone is going smaller. There's a reason tablets like the iPad took off the way it did - partly because it was not weighted-down by the desktop pc of yesteryear. It is a tablet in its purest form of the word. Lite and efficient, long battery-life, easy to use mobile appliance-like device.