If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few days, you’re probably well-aware of the upcoming Microsoft Surface tablet. Dubbed as one of the saviors for Microsoft’s rapidly degrading brand, the Surface tablet has already been identified as the true iPad and Android tablet challenger. With its thin profile and abundant storage space (comes in 32GB or 64GB configurations with an expandable storage slot), the Surface tablet will have at least the physical features to make it an interesting product. However, the hardware is just one aspect of the tablet— the real kicker is Microsoft’s brand-new OS: Surface for Windows RT technology. The OS will essentially mirror its upcoming Windows 8 OS, while having exclusive offerings like Microsoft Office 2013 and a special version of Netflix included with the tablet. So in essence, upcoming Surface tablet seems to be a true productivity workhorse— at least on the surface (no pun intended folks).
Now while the upcoming Surface tablet certainly looks to be an interesting and perhaps attractive product, Microsoft is treading into dangerous territory. As RIM and certainly HP can attest, Google’s Android platform has a clear stranglehold of the tablet market share— something that both the Blackberry Playbook and HP’s TouchPad certainly couldn’t achieve during their brief lives. Consumers love seeing a new product, but expect reasonable value of what a product offers. The Surface tablet is going to debut at $499 for the 32GB entry-level model– which doesn’t even include the $130 Touch Cover keyboard/cover combo that’s necessary helpful for doing all that increased productivity like using Microsoft Office 2013, as Microsoft is hyping. As indicated by numerous studies, the number of iPad and Android tablets are growing at an astronomical pace. Oh and don’t forget– newer Android tablets are being released on a seemingly daily basis and the prices of the those tablets (and subsequent accessories) are becoming much more reasonable— if not lower overall. So considering Microsoft is certainly unproven, while Apple and more importantly— Android have a clear understanding of not just what consumers want, but what consumers actually need in a tablet— Microsoft doesn’t offer any compelling reason for why consumers should give their product a try. Microsoft’s Surface tablet is a painfully basic product that has a premium price won’t even put a dent in Android sales or overall market share.
The first thing consumers should ask is what is the Surface tablet exactly? More specifically— consumers are going to be left asking what exactly is this tablet is supposed to do for them. The answer is simple really— based off the ability to create or manage content on the go, it’s assumed Microsoft is really pushing its new technology to the business-centric types who can work on Word documents, spreadsheets or display those sexy charts during those Sales’ meetings or product demos. The new Surface for Windows RT technology is appealing because it’s supposed to be touch-centric (as in not needing any type of accessory to perform everyday tasks), so it would allow for users of the tablet to hypothetically create and manage content just by using the on-screen keys. The concept is great and all, but Microsoft realizes that there’s only so much on-screen keys can do, so Microsoft is also pushing its Touch Cover keyboard accessory. Microsoft has not been shy about highlighting the thinness of the accessory and abilities of the Touch Cover keyboard— especially when it comes to typing up documents or emails. Microsoft needs to appeal to those business-centric consumers and offer up a unique tablet experience which not only includes the ability to manage Office-type content on the go. On the other hand, Microsoft also needs to offer up a unique multimedia and social experience for users as well— which Microsoft does not even try to address in the new tablet.
Moving to the bigger issue is the baffling cost of the tablet and utter lack of value for the price. At $499, the 32GB entry-level model of the tablet is already steeply priced. With all due respect the Tegra-based processor, HD cameras and impressive 10.6-inch display as part of the tablet— there is nothing particularly noteworthy specs-wise of the tablet, especially as we’ve already seen the same (if not better) specs on Android tablets already. As of now, Surface for Windows RT is brings a newfound excitement to Microsoft’s brand, but it’s an unproven OS and users don’t know what they’re going to get– especially when it comes to actually using the touted Microsoft Office software. So essentially, users will be paying $499 just for a device bearing the Windows name and will have to deal with the scarce number and different types of apps available now. What’s even worse is in order for users to truly utilize or enjoy the main feature of the tablet (for now)— Microsoft Office 2013, they’ll need to shell out an additional $130 just to grab the optional Touch Cover keyboard. So just to reiterate— we need to make this point clear: the reality is that in order for customers to take advantage of the existing capabilities of the Surface tablet’s productivity features, users will actually need the “optional” $130 Touch Cover keyboard, as opposed to offering the ability to provide users with the ability to use an alternative keyboard that Android (and even iPad) tablets offer like Bluetooth keyboards or covers, both of which often costs under $50.
Like the Surface tablet’s intention, Android tablets makes the overall tablet experience better with the sheer number of the types of tablets and accessories available for them. But unlike Microsoft’s newly unveiled offering, Android manufacturers have fine-tuned the development into tablets from not just great productivity alternatives, but a complete PC replacement overall. As of now, Microsoft only offers a 10.6-inch version of the tablet, while Android tablets come in anywhere from 7-inches to a whopping 13-inches— offering much more flexibility with the types of accessories out in the marketplace. These tablets can be specialists in reading all types of content or allow users to work on various projects or items they choose. If you want a standalone tablet— Android tablets have you covered. If you want a tablet that allows you to transform it into a modest workstation via an inexpensive cover stand & Bluetooth-based keyboard— Android tablets have you covered. Hell, if you want your tablet to transform into a full-fledged notebook for all your productivity and portable needs— Android tablets has you covered.
Speaking of which— Android tablets offer up many more apps for not just productivity, but multimedia or social-centric apps as well. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available, which gives Android tablet users much more flexibility to do whatever it is they want on the go, while allowing users to create or modify content at an optimal level. Thanks to Google’s never-ending commitment to the growth of its Android platform with its manufacturing and developer partners, we see outstanding improvements to products like its own
Google Docs Google Drive product and the imminent growth of Quick Office on tablets as well. Oh and don’t forget— Microsoft is has already made its intentions of bringing Microsoft Office to Android, so users will have yet another productivity utility to use from the masters of productivity effectiveness. Moreover, manufacturers like Samsung continue to reinvent the wheel by including its own spin on apps for its products like including unique and useful apps like Photoshop Touch, S Planner, Polaris Office and Twitter & Facebook integration into the TouchWiz software. Samsung is just one example— most, if not all of the other prominent Android manufacturers offer the same exclusives and features in their own respective tablets.
The scary thing about Android tablets is while the overall market share indicates Android tablets plays second fiddle to the iPad, those same Android tablets have positioned themselves as a solid number 2 among consumers— with no signs of letting up. And if you include offerings from Amazon & Barnes & Noble, the tablet market looks to be all but cornered by Apple & Google. You have to hand it to Microsoft for trying to bring a newfound excitement and rejuvenated interest among consumers, but Microsoft needs to bring a product that clearly highlights what sets it apart from its competition. Simply put: the Surface tablet is an overpriced device that’s confused about whether it’s meant for the average consumer or business professionals. Toss in the utter lack of app exclusives or support outside of Microsoft Office and you have yourself a lame duck product.