Microsoft’s New Surface Devices Aimed at Apple’s Sweet Spots

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Yes, you have to try to compare Apples to whatevers, because Apple is doing so well. But MSFT’s commitment to the hardware is an odd mix. If you love the hybrid laptop/tablet model, it seems the Surface line has done a good job of establishing itself. But most users don’t want them together, and if you’ve seen a comparison of the three Apple vs. Microsoft product lines you begin to see the miss. At least, I begin to see the miss.

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From The Verge, here’s the heart of Microsoft’s strategy.

Surface sales are on the rise. They accounted for $888 million in revenue during Microsoft’s last quarter, up more than double from the same period last year. That’s nothing compared to Apple’s $6 billion in Mac sales and $4.5 billion in iPad sales, but Microsoft seems to be looking at those numbers and envisioning a future where it’s grabbed a chunk for itself.

Okay, I can get behind that idea, but let’s take the details apart in a real simple way.

Apple sells three devices: tablet, ultra-light laptop, ultra-powerful laptop.

And Apple sells these devices in numbers that make all other manufacturer’s envious. But here’s the big AH HA moment. People are buying Apple devices because the overall experience and the desktop and mobile OS experiences are vastly superior to anything from Redmond. Yes, Windows 10 does a lot to repair the damage done by the “innovative fiasco” of Windows 8, but the fundamental flaw is still present.

Windows doesn’t care about the user experience. Sure they say they do. They’ve got huge teams of UX and UI people working to make Windows better. But they still fail on the big fundamentals.

UPDATES Part 1: Forced updates in Windows 10 are the dumbest idea Microsoft has pushed since the Metro interface on non-touch devices. (RE: Windows 8)

UPDATES Part 2: Ever felt confident when Windows says, “Don’t shut down, we are configuring updates for your computer.” UG. And when it happens might be the moment you were closing down to head into a meeting with your boss. Microsoft Windows doesn’t care. And how about consolidating the updates as they age over time? Ever seen this message: “62 Recommended Updates were found for your configuration.” WHAT? They simply don’t care.

UPDATES Part 3: And to set the tone for the NEW Microsoft, the innovative Microsoft, they’re downloading Windows 10 update files onto your Windows 7 and 8 machines without your permission. Because they know you’re going to update eventually, I mean, it’s free.

THE RAGING SUCCESS OF WINDOWS 10: You’re being told how many copies of Windows 10 have been downloaded. How many Windows 10 devices are showing up at popular Windows-interested websites. And yes, the WTF fix of Windows 10 seems to be gathering haggard Windows 8 users by the droves and tired Windows 7 users by the handfuls. But there’s a bigger, much bigger problem. The IT departments of large corporations have not put their endorsement on Windows 10 yet. They want the 200-or-so updates to be taken care of before they begin investing their real money in Windows 10 migrations for their companies. And guess what, MSFT doesn’t make their real money with consumers, they make the real cash when the Dell’s of the world begin to upgrade their entire workforce with Windows 10 machines.

OH YEAH, WINDOWS 10 IS FREE; This was another slight problem for Microsoft’s development partners like Dell, HP, and Lenovo. If people can get their technology refresh on their current hardware by simply upgrading Windows for free, why would they be buying new hardware? Answer, they’re not. At least not yet. And a quick trip to Dell.com and HP.com will validate a very serious piece of evidence towards my premise.

lat-win7Dell’s top laptops for business are still shipping with Windows 7 with the Free Windows 10 upgrade. Well, if you know anything from “inside dell*” you know that two things are going on here.

  1. Dell gets to sell a high-end laptop to a business customer who’s still happy with Windows 7. (The majority of corporate IT departments across the world.)
  2. Dell and Microsoft both get to count this as a sale for Windows 10. Yep, that’s how the numbers work. A new machine sold today, with “free update” qualifies in the metrics as a SALE for Windows 10.

Don’t believe everything you read about how great Windows 10 adoption rates are. In the consumer world and the media/writers world, we are downloading, testing, playing with Windows 10. In the business world, no one is jumping aboard the good ship 10 just yet.

But what about the Microsoft hardware?

Apple believes that people either want a tablet or a laptop. Period. When you begin blending the two devices, the functionality and user experience degrade significantly. And Apple seems to be sticking to their guns on this one.

Swipe, Pinch, Touch, Poke, Zoom, are all nice features of a touchscreen interface. But when you’re writing an email or working in PowerPoint, those options become fairly novel. I have reached up to swipe my MacBookPro screen once or twice after spending a lot of time with my phone or ipad, but I don’t want swiping on my laptop. The one friend I’ve sat with who had a hybrid machine, the touch interface seemed more like a hinderance. Or maybe that was the Windows 8 clumsiness.

Get this straight: The iPad Pro might look like a Surface competitor, and in that light you might say things like “it doesn’t have a real OS, or real version of Office.” Or you might say the processor is under-powered. But the iPad pro is a very niche device. And now the iPad comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large. And if you’re determined to add a keyboard there have been bluetooth solutions since the day the iPad was released. But of the three years I’ve owned several iPads I’ve only used my keyboard once. And it was to write a review of using the keyboard and the iPad as my primary machine.

Apple says, go tablet or go laptop and then make the best machine money can buy, while the PC competitors can duke it out at the low-end of the market.

Microsoft has said, we’ll stay at the high-end of the market, thank you and we believe that this hybrid thing has got real benefits to the end customer. And 800+ million in sales would tell you a bunch of people believe them.

But the only person I know who runs a Surface Pro also has a laptop. Why? If the hybrid model is more than a novelty or an experiment by Microsoft, why would people who love them need both.

As Steve Jobs asked at the launch of the first iPad. “Do we need a third computing device?” His answer was yes, we need iPads. And the tablet market exploded with Apple pushing the innovation, the software, and the design. But the question is still relevant today.

Do we need a third device? I’d say no. My phone and my laptop cover my requirements quite nicely. Do I like my iPad mini? Yes, but it mostly gathers dust between Kindle readings, or streaming programming from my cable channel.

Do we need and love touchscreen interfaces? Yes. For what they do, when they do it well, the touchscreen is amazing. Perhaps the iPad pro will open up some new capabilities for everyone else to follow. But the iPad pro turned-into a MacBookPro with a touchscreen simply isn’t going to happen because the user experience when you’re using any Office product with your touchscreen is a pain in the ass. You can do it. But given real work, you’re going to want your real keyboard and your mouse or touch pad. Sure, the Surface gives you both, but when I’m computing (like right now, using WordPress, Chrome Browser, Outlook, and PowerPoint) the idea of taking my hands off the keyboard to fiddle with the touchscreen, well… It simply does not make any sense.

Microsoft’s Hardware play: You want a touchscreen and a laptop combined. These combined devices will not run quit as well as their separate Apple counterparts, but hey look we can do both. It’s a neat trick, but not one that holds much value for me, or my colleagues who are just trying to get our work done.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

reference: How the Microsoft Surface and Surface Book Compare to Apple – The Verge

*Inside Dell – John McElhenney worked for Dell between 2007 and 2010.

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