The commercials just aggravate me to no end…
Microsoft has been televising a very interesting commercial comparing the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook Air. It shows the differences between the two computers features – touch screen, active stylus, detachable keyboard, etc. – and tells you in so many ways that you get the best of both worlds with the Surface Pro 3: an awesome ultrabook when you need it and a tablet when you want it.
However, the commercial – and by extension, Microsoft – just don’t seem to get it. The Surface Pro 3 is NOT a tablet and is in fact, a poor, POOR excuse for a tablet. There are two very large reasons for this; and unfortunately for Microsoft, they just don’t seem to get it. Lets review them in the hope that someone will pass on the information and get it to someone in Redmond so they can stop the craziness…
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Surface Pro (1, 2 or) 3 is a great computer. My Surface Pro 1 is great. I use it mainly as a digital notepad, taking meeting minute notes. I also use it as an ultrabook PC to do work with MS Office when other PC’s are not available or don’t have all of the tools that I need. Its small, powerful, easy to carry and it does what it does very well. However, it is NOT a tablet or any kind of consumer consumption device. Here’s the specific why’s…
Microsoft Ecosystem – There Isn’t Any
Back in the days of Windows Mobile, Microsoft had the beginnings of an ecosystem – a way and method to sell and deliver consumer content. That content consists of music, videos (movies and TV shows) and apps.
Microsoft USED to have a store via Windows Media Player that allowed you to buy music. It had partner stores that also interfaced with WMP that allowed you to buy music. You used to buy apps from Handango.com or a few other online app stores. All of those stores no longer exist. They effectively died when Windows Mobile died and became Windows Phone.
Since then, Microsoft has been trying to get their mobile developers to embrace Windows Phone and selling apps through the Windows Store. Unfortunately, they haven’t been very successful. Windows 10 is supposed to provide a centralized store and app development experience, but I don’t know how well accepted it will actually be. Windows Phone and Windows Store apps are few and far between and with so much chaos coming from the Microsoft camp in the past few years, I don’t know many mobile app developers who are eager to jump into that swirling bowl of chaos. I know I would have serious misgivings about expending the resources and development costs for what has been until recently little to no return and at best is currently an unknown return.
On the Apple side of the fence, apps written for either iPhone or iPad will run on either device. That’s part of what the new Windows Phone and Windows 10 experience is supposed to provide, but I haven’t heard a lot of feedback from developers on that experience just yet. So far, developers have to code the same app for both platforms separately, and that double work is part of what is causing them to hold back. They also aren’t happy with Windows Phone 3rd party app sales or the mobile OS’ world-wide market share, either.
Microsoft Windows – A Full Blown OS on a Tablet Doesn’t Work
About 12 years ago, Microsoft introduce the TabletPC. TabletPC’s came in two different form factors – Slates and Convertibles. Convertibles are laptops with touch screens that swivel around so they fold back over the keyboard, covering it. Slates usually came with some kind of base station or other way to at least hold them in place while a keyboard and other peripherals were connected to it.
Unfortunately, for both, TabletPC’s were short lived. Convertibles were the form factor that lasted the longest, but at the end, they were really just too heavy and too bulky to be as portable and usable as Microsoft’s vision hoped they would be. Interestingly enough, Slate TabletPC’s were a TOTAL non-starter.
I find that kinda funny, because the Surface Pro line is not only the true evolution of Microsoft’s TabletPC; but it’s a slate. As in the form factor that failed. Interestingly enough, the Surface Pro has the same issues and problems that the previous TabletPC’s had; but it’s a little different…
If you can get past the fact that the Surface Pro is NOT a consumer consumption device due in large part to the lack of any ecosystem or content management app (like the iPad has in iTunes, for example), the Surface Pro line has another problem – its really NOT a tablet, or a slate PC. Its an ultrabook.
Microsoft’s commercials pitting the MacBook Air against the Surface Pro 3 infuriate me at the point when Microsoft starts (or implies) that the Surface Pro 3 is also a tablet.
A tablet is a computer, yes; but it’s a content consumption device that can be used to play games, play music, watch video and take pictures. Yes…the Surface Pro can do all of these things, but Android and Apple based tablets do all of that with an OS that caters to that functionality. Windows simply does and cannot.
Windows is all about computing and productivity, not about mobile gaming or content (music and video) consumption. This is a huge problem for Microsoft in a world that is all about tablets. Windows is still too heavy. Its slow, power hungry and totally decentralized when it comes to content. There are too many ways to play games, play audio, play video on the device. There are too many ways to obtain content and no simplified way to manage it on the device.
Because its more computer than tablet, its also not well utilized without its physical keyboard. While touch enabled, the UI (still) isn’t touch friendly; and the UI Microsoft tried to introduce to satisfy this need(MetroUI or ModernUI) was totally rejected by the public.
Microsoft still hasn’t cracked this nut. They still don’t have a tablet, a mobile OS OR a content delivery and management solution. If Microsoft wants to take a piece of this market away from Apple or Android, they will need to figure it out. Their time is almost up.
The Surface Pro is a good if not GREAT ultrabook. Unfortunately, Microsoft isn’t doing itself any kind of favors by trying to convince everyone else – as well as themselves – that the Surface Pro is a tablet. Just like the Slate based TabletPC, if they don’t get this right, they’re gonna screw it up.
Microsoft still has a lot of work to do. They need to figure out a mobile interface that works on a device with a display larger than 4.7 inches. They need to figure out a method of delivering controlled content – apps, music video and books (and please…do everyone a favor and make it MS Reader compatible. I had a lot of books in that library…) – that allows them and their content providers to make money. They also need to figure out a way to manage that content on those devices. It used to be Windows Media Player, but it isn’t any more. That’s sort of evaporated and unfortunately, the Windows Store doesn’t handle media, only apps.
Until then, that commercial I mentioned when I started this whole thing… yeah, its just gonna continue to piss me off. Microsoft can’t have it both ways. The Surface Pro isn’t a hybrid of any kind. Its just a very portable ultrabook. Period.