Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Microsoft's Surface pricing will put the emphasis on build and system quality; is there room for a 3rd platform?

Those consumers who hoped Microsoft would follow Amazon and attempt to force their way into the market by selling their new Surface tablet at cost will not be thrilled with the company's announced pricing.

Starting at $499, the same entry point as the new iPad, Surface with Windows RT, will not be undercutting Apple. The 32 GB model with the Touch Cover is priced at $599, with the Surface Type Cover is another $129.99. The 64 GB model comes automatically with the Touch Cover and is priced at $699.99.

For hardware makers, the ability of Apple to control their costs and offer hardware at very competitive prices is making it difficult on manufacturers who have become used to being able to use off the shelf components to piece together profitable, if copy cat, electronic products.

Now Microsoft is entering the game and their goal is establishing the Windows platform as the dominate OS, just as it has been on PCs. Good luck with that.

There are three ways the Surface can be the dominate tablet: pricing, build and feature quality, and system quality. Pricing is now out.

That leaves build quality/features and system quality. Microsoft's Surface does appear to have some build advantages such as the integrated kickstand and ports. The Type Cover is also an interested accessory that may, may not, catch on (a physical keyboard will be besides the point on a tablet for many, though a useful tool for others).

That leaves the OS. Many tech writers have been saying that the Windows phone platform is a great alternative for many, yet it continues to have problems gaining traction. Windows for tablets, too, will face a tough consumer market.

The issue of publishers will be developing products for the platform, but history tells us that if the platform proves viable vendors will quick make the necessary adjustments to add support as quickly as they can. Whether it will lead to increase pricing, though, will probably depend on the vendor.

Is there room for a third platform in the tablet market? There wasn't in the PC market, though one of the reasons for this was the dominance of Microsoft Windows.

I have my doubts, but in the end it may not matter. As mentioned above, we'll need to depend on those who sell us digital publishing solutions to solve this problem.

But I have a feeling that if Microsoft can succeed in the tablet space it might bring in a new group of developers who have seen themselves as being somewhat on the sidelines with the growth of iOS and Android.

We may have a better picture of what the market will look like going forward following the holiday shopping season as consumers make their choices: Surface? mini iPad? Kindle Fire? What will you be looking at this holiday season?