Surface Pro: To Be Or Not To Be

I have already blogged about my thoughts on Surface RT (Surface RT: To Be Or Not To Be (Part 1)).  Much of the same things apply to the Surface Pro such as how it was announced & launched, price & marketing, so I will not rehash those in this post.

Negatives And What Can Fix Them

  • Weight – To Bulky: I have only used a Surface Pro at a Microsoft store, but there are two ways to look at this.  If you are comparing it to a tablet, then yes it is bulkier than most tablets on the market. But it is not a true table, it is a hybrid. So to compare weight/bulk you need to compare it to a laptop or netbook not the other tablets on the market. So, I do not think this is an issue and the Surface Pro is very light for the power that it delivers
  • Price: Not going to go into a lot of details here because I already covered what I thought the pricing should have been at launch (Surface Tablets: The Price Must Be Right).  Microsoft needs to be more aggressive on it’s pricing if it expects to steal any market share away from Apple in the high-end “tablet” market and Android in the low-end tablet market.
  • No Docking Station: I like the keyboards that are available, but they are better for when I am mobile.  When I  am at home though, I really would  like a docking station so I can use my main monitor, keyboard and mouse. I know I can use the HDMI out cable and USB connector to attaches these device, but I don’t want to have to plug in multiple plugs to get my Surface Pro connected.  Just like a laptop with docking station, I just want to walk in and click my Surface Pro  into a docking stations to have access to my main screen, keyboard and mouse. Showing a user “click” into a docking station would be a great feature to show users.
  • Battery Life: The battery life is not very good on the Surface Pro, but it is comparable to most laptops.  That being said, there are other hybrid devices that are being launched by OEM’s that get almost double the battery life.  So I know this can be improved and hopefully we will see a drastic improvement in battery life of the Gen2 Surface Pros that are about to be released. The next generation chips should also help in this area. I hope the next generation Surface devices takes advantage of these chips.
  • Poor Desktop Experience: It is all about the desktop experience for consumers and MS needs to make the desktop experience a first class citizen (same as metro).  There is no harm in doing this and will make more people look at the Surface Pro and other hybrid devices out there.  For those who want to a hybrid devices as a “laptop/netbook” first, the user needs to have the flexibility to configure the devices to get the most out of the desktop.  At the same time for those looking for a tablet first that just happens to run desktop applications, the user need to be able to configure it for their needs.  Microsoft’s biggest mistake was forcing the Metro design on all consumers.

My Predictions For The Surface Pro (And Other Hybrid Devices)

I honestly think that the Surface Pro and the other hybrid devices being put out by OEM’s are where the future lies for Microsoft.  All the numbers I have seen about Microsoft tablet sales have excluded the Surface Pro and other hybrids.  I would be interesting to see what those numbers show.  I am also curious to see whether the industry counts these hybrid devices as tablets or netbooks/laptops. In my opinion there should be another category for hybrid devices. Right now none of the other competitors (Apple or Google) has anything to compare, so Microsoft actually has 100% of this market.  Right now the market is wide open and if Microsoft plays it cards right, it can own this market. But if they make to many mistakes, sooner or later Apple/Google will jump on the bandwagon and Microsoft will lose the advantage of being first to the market.

Google Glasses and the Smart Watches being released (i.e. Agent Watch) are cool and they will sell to a select audience, but I believe the real market in the future is going to be for hybrid devices.  Most consumers don’t want to carry around a tablet, laptop and phones so if they can get rid of one device and only carry around a hybrid device and a phone, then a lot of people will do that. For examples

  • My Apple fan boy nephew sold his iPad so he can get a Windows 8 hybrid device.  His reasoning is he likes Windows 8 as a tablet OS and he can run all his everyday desktop applications as well (including the CAD applications he uses for work). In addition, his wife wants a Surface RT.
  • One of the pastors of my church has the “Dell – XPS Duo 12” and he loves it.  He likes the fact that he can do all the work he normally did on his old desktop.  And when he has a meeting or needs to be mobile, he can put it in tablet mode and take it with him (without closing the applications he was working in).  I have seen him many times walking around the church with it in tablet modes as he is working Sunday mornings.  He told me he would never go back to just having a plain old desktop or laptop. He also loves the stylus and handwriting recognition when in a meeting taking notes.
  • As soon as my laptop dies I am going to buy a hybrid device.  There is no reason to have both a laptop and tablet when I can have the best of both worlds in on device. I just cannot justify buying it until my laptop dies. Hopefully, by the time I am ready to buy a hybrid devices, Microsoft will have the Windows 8 desktop experience rock solid.

The above examples are not a big sampling, but it does show that if Microsoft markets the Surface Pro and the other hybrid devices right, there is a market out there for them. Up till now though, I think Microsoft and their OEM’s has missed getting this message across (except to the technical crowd that understands the differences).  My parents couldn’t tell you what the difference is between a Surface RT and a Surface Pro  (or any other hybrid for that matter).  And I think my parents are a very good example of most consumers out there.


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