Microsoft Surface: Analysts’ Reactions to iPad’s New Rival

Microsoft’s big coming-out ball for its new tablet, Surface, dazzled the technology world yesterday afternoon, creating a dervish of reactions throughout the industry from trusted experts to the...
Microsoft Surface: Analysts’ Reactions to iPad’s New Rival
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  • Microsoft’s big coming-out ball for its new tablet, Surface, dazzled the technology world yesterday afternoon, creating a dervish of reactions throughout the industry from trusted experts to the peanut gallery on Twitter. Would this be another Zune or was this a potential usurper to Apple’s tablet throne? Opinions abound, and while there’s still a lot to be learned about Microsoft Surface, such as what the eventual price will be or how the tablet’s software performs, here’s what some analysts around the web are saying the morning after:

    Horace Dediu of Asymco shared some insights with WPN on how Microsoft can compete with Google and Apple, specifically with a mind toward enterprise:

    I don’t consider the tablet market to be separate from the PC market (and neither does Microsoft.) What needs to be estimated is the extent to which Surface will slow the erosion of Windows as part of the overall computing market.

    If Microsoft attempts to stand alone as the primary supplier of the new form factor within the Windows platform then I fear that they will not be able to deliver the volumes, distribution and support that the core enterprise market needs.

    There is an inherent asymmetry between serving consumers and enterprises. Enterprise buyers are not the same as users and those buyers have interests which often contradict users’ needs. Building a platform that tries to reconcile potentially opposing requirements can potentially satisfy neither.

    But, yes, Microsoft is trying to do this. They are trying to position the brand to both address consumers and enterprises.

    Rocco Pendola at The Street thinks Surface can undermine Apple with one simple yet effective move: no Office for iPad:

    Apparently Microsoft has an Office suite ready to roll out for iPad, but it just cannot figure out when to make it available. I hope the hesitation has nothing to do with timing and more to do with a reassessment of the plan in the first place.

    I don’t get it. You’re set to finally make a formidable challenge in mobile and you want to provide the one thing that differentiates you from Apple and the rest of the competition to the competition. This defies logic.

    Microsoft bills the Surface as a tablet you can actually do work on. It differentiates itself from iPad and most tablets running Android with its unique design, futuristic keyboard and, maybe most importantly, Office.

    Endpoint: opening up Office to iOS might have flown in the PC era, but mobile is an entirely different ballgame. Microsoft plays the role of underdog now.

    David Pogue of The New York Times speculates that Surface has a chance to compete with iPad, although a long road may lay ahead.

    I think that Windows 8 represents some of Microsoft’s best work. Fluid, fast, useful, easily grasped — and different from the old iPhone/Android concept of icons-on-black. I’ve been using a prerelease Windows 8 version on a Samsung tablet, and it works beautifully.

    But the iPad’s been around for two years; it’s awfully late for Microsoft to begin its pursuit now. (See also: H.P.’s tablet, BlackBerry tablet, Zune.) To me, the most compelling model is the Intel version; imagine a gorgeous, sleek, thin tablet that can actually run Windows software.

    That said, you need the detachable keyboard to get real work done, and no two-piece PC has ever caught on in a big way. (See also: convertible tablets, Motorola docking phones.)

    And then there’s the elephant in the room. If you’re going to spend around $1,000 for a tablet with a detachable keyboard, why not just get an ultrabook, which is a more complete PC that weighs about the same?

    So I mean no disrespect to Microsoft when I predict that the Surface will have a tough climb ahead.

    But this is a week for celebration, not doomsday analysis. Because whether the Surface tablet sinks or swims, it represents competition, choice and some fresh ideas. For those contributions, we should wish it well.

    Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester sees Microsoft at a crossroads where it could successfully parlay its previous success with Xbox as a model for propelling Surface deep within Apple territory, although she does offer some caveats:

    Microsoft will be its own worst enemy in this market. More so than Apple or Google, the worst thing that could happen to Microsoft’s Windows RT tablets is Windows 8 on x86. Selling x86-based tablets in the same retail channels as Windows RT tablets will confuse consumers and sow discontent if consumers buy x86 and think they’re getting something like the iPad. Microsoft and its partners need to articulate a compelling strategy for how they will manage consumer expectations in the channel. Consumers aren’t used to thinking about chipsets. Choice is a key tenet of Windows, but too much choice is overwhelming for consumers. Apple gets this, and limits iPad options to connectivity, storage, and black…or white.

    Like Microsoft’s “Signature” PCs, a Microsoft-designed tablet sets the standard for other OEMs to follow. But Microsoft won’t abandon its profitable Windows licensing model; there’s little risk that the future of Windows is total vertical integration. This is an experiment emboldened by the Xbox success. But in the game console market, Microsoft doesn’t compete against itself.

    Over at CNET, Eric Franklin had a lot of positive reactions to Surface but felt that Microsoft could’ve gone a little further with the demonstrations of what the tablet can actually do (this seemed to be the general consensus among the conference attendees). His conclusion:

    Luckily, Surface doesn’t go on sale today. If it did, I would not be in line to buy one (or even purchasing online). That’s not to say I’m not intrigued, nor that I won’t buy one in the future; it’s just too early to tell. I need more information on apps, Xbox integration, pricing, and the expected battery life in order to make a clear decision. That said, I can’t help but walk away looking forward to seeing more.

    Oh, and, uh… then there’s this.

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