Mi­crosoft strug­gles to the Sur­face

Mi­crosoft’s woes can be summed up in its pow­er­ful but unloved line of tablets. They’re the “anti-iPad” – par­tic­u­larly in sales…

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS - Dun­can bell

Truth by Dun­can Bell

Mi­crosoft has done many fine things over the years. It’s made com­put­ers om­nipresent in homes and of­fices, it gave us Xbox and Halo, it de­vel­oped Win­dows XP, made some quite nice mouses and, um, there was that ad­vert where Jerry Se­in­feld and Bill Gates jour­neyed to a uni­verse beyond awk­ward­ness… and now I’m dry.

Win­dows Phone 8 aside – and that’s hardly been all roses – you have to say the company has strug­gled to get with it in the mod­ern era. It’s like your dad try­ing to twerk; its think­ing is foggy and con­fused. It can’t re­mem­ber where it left its pipe and what are those damn kids do­ing on its lawn, with their “tablets”? Why, they don’t even come with a sty­lus; how will any­one stock-take in a ware­house with this kind of new-fan­gled non­sense? In­deed, Mi­crosoft’s is­sues are summed up by the Sur­face. There’s noth­ing wrong with the specs, but the way they’re mar­keted is just, well, aw­ful.

The first one should have been pre­sented to pun­ters specif­i­cally as the anti-iPad, a bit like Sam­sung did with its Note range. “It runs Win­dows 8. It’s pow­er­ful. It’s got a key­board… You can do proper work on it.”

In fact, Mi­crosoft sort of did that, but then it all got mud­died, to the point where the mes­sage was this: “It runs Win­dows 8… Ex­cept on the ver­sions that don’t. It’s pow­er­ful… apart from the ver­sions that aren’t. It’s got a key­board… But you don’t need one and it’s not very good any­way. You can do proper work on it… But hey, it’s fun, too!”

To make th­ese com­pelling points su­per­clear they then made an ad for it with a bunch of hip­ster douches danc­ing with joy at, er… be­ing able to do their ac­counts more eas­ily, or some­thing, on this pow­er­ful de­vice (as long as it was the pow­er­ful one).

The first Sur­face – sur­prise sur­prise – was not a huge suc­cess. It did “solidly” though, and could have been a plat­form for a much bet­ter follow-up. One big crit­i­cism of Sur­face 1.0 was the less pow­er­ful, Win­dows 8 RT ver­sion, which com­bined all the fun of Win­dows 8 with all the pro­cess­ing power and pro fea­tures of an early iPad.

So how did the Big M, as no­body calls it, ad­dress this for v2.0? That’s right: it kept mak­ing them, but just stopped men­tion­ing they used RT in their names. Ge­nius!

The un­der­ly­ing prob­lem, of course, was that with Win­dows 8, Mi­crosoft had de­signed a ver­sion of its OS for touch­screen use, be­cause that was the hip and groovy thing to do, with­out think­ing, “Now why would our users want touch­screen con­trol and how could we make it work for them?”

The re­sult was bil­lion-dol­lar losses and a change in CEO, but if Mi­crosoft con­tin­ues with its “Mil­len­nium Edi­tion” thought process – mul­ti­ple ver­sions of its OS, gear­ing ev­ery­thing for power users rather than ca­sual con­sumers, change for the sake of change – it could even­tu­ally have con­se­quences that are ter­mi­nal rather than merely em­bar­rass­ing.

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