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How Microsoft Could (and Probably Will) Screw Up the Release of Microsoft Surface

on June 20, 2012

I’ve been looking at the commentary of Microsoft’s supposedly “iPad killer” device, Microsoft Surface. Reactions are mixed but I would say that in general most are very excited about it and think its a game changer.

I would like to believe that’s true, as I always like to see new and cool products, but I don’t think that’s the case. Here’s how Microsoft has already screwed up with the announcement of Microsoft Surface and how I expect they will probably screw it up when they finally deploy the device.

Already screwed up

Here’s the product, don’t ask us any questions: So much is a mystery about this product. Microsoft hasn’t been specific on specs like resolution and battery life. And no one seems to know what the product will cost or when the product will come out. So why exactly did Microsoft have an enormous announcement about a really cool product for which they couldn’t answer essentially all the basic questions every tech reporter would have about a product like this? This isn’t a military operation. What was the advantage of doing this? They sort of built excitement, but they didn’t. All the excitement they created was deflated by their complete inability to answer the most common questions. It was frustrating and everyone is confused. What’s worse is the horrible position they put their staff.

The live demo failed and had no “wow” moment: How many Apple live demos of big announcements fail? None that I know of. How many Microsoft live demos fail. Lots. Microsoft simply doesn’t prepare the “theater” of a live presentation. They think the success is just talking a lot and showing a screen. There was no “wow” moment for the presentation. Remember when Steve Jobs pulled the Macbook Air out of the envelope? Or when Steve Jobs walked through the power cable and it fell off easily and the computer didn’t fall on the floor? Or when he opened the the Mac to reveal the incredibly easy access motherboard to do upgrades? Below is the snippet of the demonstration. I love how they prepared by having a backup Microsoft Surface for him to grab, but they didn’t prepare to have the item actually work.

Will probably screw up

Pathetic app and content store: You remember all those great movies that were available to download with the release of the Windows Media Player? Or how easy it was to import all your music into Windows Media Player and sync it with your Zune device? Me neither. iTunes was a different story. The device and the software were intrinsically tied to each other and designed for each other at the same time. It reminds me of being at CES years ago and seeing all the new handheld video players and all the manufacturers were touting the resolution, screen size, and disk space of their devices. When I asked, “How do you get a movie onto that device?” the answer was always, “Oh, we have software for that.” Well, I’m sure Microsoft will “have software for that” the question is will anyone care and will it be a seamless experience? They did well with their XBOX and XBOX Live, can they do this with their traditional computing platforms? History says they won’t.

Trying to be cool: Microsoft for years has been desperately trying to shake their image as it’s been overshadowed by the coolness of Apple. It’s most notable with the release of the Microsoft stores which look like an Apple store except for the fact that there are no people in them. Microsoft, it’s ok to still be nerdy. We liked you that way. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

Price: There has been talk that if Microsoft wants to succeed with the Surface they’ll need to price it below Apple’s iPad. It doesn’t necessarily. But if they do price above the iPad, they have to prove this is a more functional device than the iPad. And that’s going to be a very hard sell since Apple already has an incredibly active app store. Same with Google’s Play app store. Also, I don’t believe the keyboard is a big seller as there are plenty of add-ons for the iPad that allow you to add a keyboard that doubles as a case.

Distribution: There is talk of Microsoft Surface being released with a substandard operating system first, and then Windows 8. But who knows since all the facts are a complete blur. It would be a big mistake to release this product with an operating system that nobody wants. Unless it can be easily upgraded wirelessly to the new operating system.

Please don’t screw up

I don’t want Microsoft to screw up with the Microsoft Surface. I would actually like to see some competition and as a pure tech device it sure looks cool. But Microsoft has such a long history of blowing it and their first steps with this device are not giving me any confidence. What do you think?

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