Microsoft’s first Windows 8 Pro tablet, the new Surface Pro will become available in less than 10 days. Yes, this is the new Surface!
How is it different from the Surface that you have already seen advertised on giant billboards across the country or in TV ads since October 2012. To start with, the new Surface Pro is equipped with an Intel X86 chip and runs on the fully-equipped Windows 8 OS, which means the new tablet is capable of running Microsoft’s native applications such as Outlook or demanding third-party applications such as Adobe (see also: Windows 8 Tablets Arrive).
When Microsoft launched the Surface RT tablet, it was hoping that the product would be a game changer. However, the Surface RT has so far not changed the game in Microsoft’s favor. The good news for Microsoft is that the tablet “game” is just beginning and the company can apply the lessons learned from the Surface RT to its marketing of the Surface Pro.
Focus on Physical Design: To start with, when any company launches a new OS, it must inform its users of the OS’ features and capabilities. Microsoft did not do that with its first Windows 8 OS tablet, but instead focused on the hardware components. What it failed to emphasize was that the Windows 8 OS completely changes the way a user interacts with his/her device. Instead Microsoft focused on the tablet’s physical form factor and design. It is ironic how much the software giant focused on hardware components of its first tablet. Given complaints about the Windows 8 OS’ intuitiveness, it is likely that Microsoft would have benefited from more OS-focused messaging and from less young professionals flipping and clicking their tablets. Agreed that Microsoft did set up trainings in Microsoft stores to help users, but both you and I know that we have no time for another training session, and would learn about a new product through ads and by playing with it!
Click In: A huge focus of Microsoft’s messaging was on the Surface’s “Click In” feature to an (optional) keyboard. Because of that, the first thing that comes to many consumers’ minds when they think of the Surface is the device’s “Click In” feature. Instead what the company could have done and should do with its Surface RT is teach users about all the cool things that the device is capable of, rather than just clicking it into an optional keyboard to make it similar to a laptop.
Bundling Issues: By focusing on the “Click In” feature, Microsoft conveyed a message that the keyboard is an essential part of the tablet, leading to sticker shock when users went to buy the device only to find an additional $120 premium for the advertised configuration. While bundling can be great, this perceived bait and switch likely moved shoppers away from the Surface RT. Many shoppers are not willing to spend more on an already high ticket item especially when choices such as the iPad exist at the same price point, but because of the Surface’s click-centric messaging they know of no other reason to buy the tablet except for the clickable keyboard.
Sour Relationships: Many of Microsoft’s existing partners like Asus, Dell, and Sony expressed their concerns when Microsoft entered the tablet market with its own hardware. These relationships would have likely seen less stress if Microsoft invested in highlighting the features of the shared OS, which could have helped its valuable partners’ Windows-based tablet and PC sales, while also helping its own Surface tablet. But, alas!
Hopefully, Microsoft has learned from its mistakes and will work on applying many of the lessons that it learned from the Surface RT to its Surface Pro. Microsoft must invest a greater portion of its Surface Pro marketing dollars on educating consumers about what the OS can do and how to use it. This will hopefully also help mend some of the distressed relationships with its partners. The software giant should try not to overly focus on the optional “Click In” feature of the Surface Pro, as many other tablets can also attach to an external keyboard and the feature is not unique enough to justify the emphasis Microsoft put on it. It may also help to advertise the product as both a standalone and a bundled unit highlighting all of the ways the tablet can be used. Lastly, given the limited acceptance of its RT sibling, Microsoft should clear any confusion in minds of regular consumers who may think that the Surface Pro is not any different from the Surface RT or even that the two different versions exist. Hopefully, for Microsoft, the Surface Pro will be the game changer that it is looking for.