Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Must Overcome 10 Market Challenges

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-01-16

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Must Overcome 10 Market Challenges

Microsoft’s Surface Pro has reportedly started leaving the manufacturing facility, meaning the device is close to launch. Microsoft so far hasn’t said exactly when it will start selling the tablet, which comes with a 10-inch screen and Windows 8 Pro.

But it has stated that the tablet’s release date will be sometime in “early 2013.” Microsoft has also said that prices of the Surface Pro will start at $899.

At first glance, the Microsoft Surface Pro looks to be a truly novel device. The tablet is bigger than Apple’s iPad, comes with a full version of Windows 8 and has one of the slickest designs in the marketplace. Plus, with a cover that doubles as a keyboard, the device appears to have the kind of innovation that would make it poised for greatness.

However, the Surface Pro, as nice as it might be, is entering a hostile marketplace that gave its predecessor, the Surface RT, an indifferent reception. Apple’s iPad is dominant, Android is gaining ground at a rapid rate and Microsoft has yet to cement its presence in the tablet market. Simply put, the Surface Pro will have to address some issues before it can establish itself as a worthy competitor in the tablet market.

But what are the issues that it will face? Read on to find out:

1. The Surface RT’s legacy

Microsoft’s Surface RT launched last year with hopes of establishing a beachhead for the eventual launch of the Surface Pro. Instead, consumers and enterprise users saw it as a second-rate alternative to the iPad and largely ignored Microsoft’s first tablet model. Microsoft’s Surface Pro must overcome that identity crisis when it launches in the coming weeks.

2. Windows 8 adoption

Windows 8 hasn’t been ramping up to the extent that Microsoft might have hoped. In the enterprise, especially, the operating system hasn’t been adopted by many organizations yet, due to its entirely new design and budgetary concerns. Since the Surface Pro is running Windows 8 Pro, its sales might be hobbled by its operating system.

3. Windows 8 competitors

At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, several PC vendors, including Lenovo and HP, showed off Windows 8-based tablets. Those devices will be hitting store shelves soon, which will make it harder for the Surface Pro to gain a leadership position. As the iPad has proven, it’s much better to be the only show in town, rather than one that shares the limelight with several other products running the same operating system.

4. The iPad is an insurmountable presence

Speaking of the iPad, that device has vanquished any and all competitors that have challenged it. Now, it’s Microsoft’s turn to try and slay the beast. Chances are, the Surface Pro won’t be able to achieve that goal, but if Microsoft can find a way to pick up the scraps left by Apple’s tablet, that might not be such a bad thing.

Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet Must Overcome 10 Market Challenges

5. Customer education

The Surface Pro looks exactly like the Surface RT. At first glance, the Surface Pro’s Windows 8 Pro looks like Windows RT. That means customers might become confused over the differences between the products. To address that, Microsoft will need to educate would-be customers on the products’ major differences. The success of that education will determine the Surface Pro’s fate.

6. The value argument

Microsoft could have some trouble making the value argument to customers. The iPad starts at $499 and goes up to $829 for the high-end version. Microsoft’s Surface Pro prices start at $899. Customers seeing those two price points might hesitate to buy Microsoft’s option.

7. App support

Although Windows 8 is adding new applications to its digital marketplace each day, it’s still far behind iOS and Android in the kind of mobile apps favored on tablets. In the tablet space, especially, customers want to have as many applications available to them as possible. Unfortunately for Microsoft, right now, it’s losing that battle.

8. Timing

If the Surface Pro launches in late January or early February, as expected, Microsoft might have some trouble getting customers to come out to stores to buy the device. Historically, the best time to launch a technology product is late in the year to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. To launch a tablet a month or so after consumers have spent all of their cash isn’t the best idea.

9. Addressing Microsoft’s brand problems

Microsoft isn’t exactly the most beloved company in the world. Granted, its brand is viewed more favorably now than it was in the late-1990s. But the company is viewed by some to be a stodgy, aging company that lacks a modern vision with products that are burdened with security weaknesses. That could contribute to tepid Surface Pro sales. It’s something Microsoft must start addressing right now.

10. The “coolness” factor

There’s no debating that the Surface Pro is a nice-looking device with some neat features. However, Microsoft hasn’t done enough yet to make customers believe that it’s truly a “cool” product that can rival the tablet designs of other established players. In the tablet market, the “coolness” factor sells a product. Thus Microsoft’s tablet must have that coolness factor, even if the company is seen as lacking it.

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