The PC tablet has been around for many years, but never took off the way Apple’s iPad did to lead a 21st century tablet craze. Caught flatfooted, Microsoft became desperate to protect the Windows and Office hegemony, and rebuilt the tablet as a notebook. Or, was it the notebook rebuilt as a tablet?
Wanted: Dead Or Alive
Recent Microsoft television commercials pit the newest Surface Pro hybrid tablet notebook against one of Apple’s MacBook Air models.
It’s not really an Apple to apples comparison, because one is a traditional ultra book, while the other is a new generation hybrid that’s both notebook and tablet.
Apple’s approach to tablet and notebook is simple. They’re different devices with different functions, different purposes, and one features traditional input devices– trackpad and keyboard– while the other features, well, a finger as input device (stylus optional).
The Microsoft television commercial is compelling. What you see is the Surface Pro acting as a tablet by comparing it to a notebook.
Previous Microsoft commercials were equally compelling and compared the Surface Pro as a notebook to an iPad.
Is anybody buying the message?
How’s That Working Out?
Research analysts claim Microsoft sold just over 500,000 surface tablets in the first quarter of the year, while Apple sold over 16-million iPads, and over 3-million MacBook Air models.
Clearly, Apple’s strategy to differentiate notebook from tablet has worked far better than Microsoft’s hybrid strategy which combines both in a single device.
Why? What is Microsoft doing wrong?
The first thing Microsoft did right was to differentiate a new product from the competition. On the surface (pun intended). The problem here is that Surface Pro (and the original Surface) are really notebooks disguised as tablets. But still notebooks.
As notebooks, the Surface models are expensive. As tablets, they’re big and clunky. So the problem Microsoft has encountered isn’t so much the strategy as it is the execution. Most people don’t want to pay more for a device that is mediocre in each category it serves.
That positioning highlights the difference between Apple and Microsoft, why the former succeeds, while the latter struggles. Apple makes a better notebook and a better tablet. Microsoft, as always, tries to force the customer to buy a single product that is all things to all people and ends up being less used to the smallest number of customers.