Microsoft's second-class Surface

With the recent release of the Microsoft Surface, I dove into the Surface site to see what’s what.

What stands out above all else is that it’s remarkable the product team didn’t nix the Surface’s convoluted multi-OS product plan.

Instead, we are presented with two options:

  1. Surface with Windows RT, introduced as an ‘ARM-based tablet’ (as if that means anything to a consumer), and;
  2. Surface with Windows 8 Pro that allows you to run ‘current Windows 7 desktop applications’.

The only thing that gives this choice any clarity for consumers is that the Surface with Windows 8 Pro is still unavailable. Otherwise, it’s just confusing.

This mistake couldn’t be made more clear than by the Help Me Choose page. This is the page where you get to decipher columns of text that don’t read as a check list or feature comparison between the two tablets, but rather as a bunch of convoluted paragraphs. It’s no doubt the everyday consumer would leave this page more confused than informed, the result of failed product planning and a marketing team left trying to decipher the resulting mess.

The only thing that’s clear to me from the Help Me Choose page is the Surface with Windows 8 Pro shouldn’t exist. It’s too confusing for consumers. And it’s taken the ‘no compromises’ mantra started by Microsoft COO Kevin Turner to untenable lengths.

Here’s how the Surface with Windows 8 Pro reads:

  1. It’s ‘Coming Soon’ because Microsoft can’t sort out how to make the battery last longer than an hour or two (no mention of battery life; connectivity is limited to preserve the battery).
  2. You need a pen to operate it because it’s not touch friendly.
  3. It’s too heavy for everyday handheld use (25% heavier than the already too heavy iPad 3)
  4. It’s going to be hard to read with it’s oddly high resolution 1920 x 1080 pixel 10.6″ screen.

It’s as if Microsoft decided they had to make this giant, Windows 7 friendly tablet no matter if the software and hardware was available to make it work. And instead of focusing on getting their first combined hardware and software foray into the market right, they’re diminishing the focus on the reasonable though confusingly named Surface with Windows RT by marketing it alongside the Surface with Windows 8 Pro overwrought behemoth.

They’re already facing an uphill battle when they have a laughable app ecosystem for their tablet and the base model only matches iPad 3 pricing by including an iPad 2 equivalent, non-Retina display. Add to that the groovy keyboard case starting at an absurd $120 and the value of the Surface with Windows RT becomes highly questionable for anyone who isn’t painfully tied to Microsoft Office. Mix this in with the inexplicable option of the Surface with Windows 8 Pro and this should be a very good holiday season for Apple.