When the Surface RT was launched last October, for most of us iPad and Kindle users, it was a pretty ho-hum event. The tablet came with hardware that was on par with the latest iPad and Fires, but had a funky Crayola looking interface, virtually no applications and a $600 price tag (for the 64GB model). Built like an iPad, priced like an iPad but with not much inside.
Who would buy such a thing?
Bleeding Sacred Heart Windows Apologists that’s who. These are the rubes that buy any Window product that Microsoft makes no matter how poorly it functions (Windows Vista), weird its features (Windows One Note, Bob), or immature as a product (Windows Mobile, IE 3.0 and of course, Surface RT/PRO/Windows 8) then extol the product’s ground breaking virtues in tech journals, to their IT departments and nerdy friends. Later, once Microsoft either throws in the towel on the product or releases a new version that substantially replaces it, they are back with ‘I told you so – it was just a stepping stone’ articles, memos and rants over beer.
To them, Microsoft can do no wrong. Even the Surface RT which had to be pretty disappointing to most of the bleeders. I mean, what could you say about the thing that was even somewhat cool ? – the Metro interface was about as good as it got but since there weren’t any decent apps under Metro’s stylized icons, it was more eye candy than anything else.
At the end of the day, a technology’s success is based upon what you sell. After nine months in the market, Microsoft will still not say how many Surfaces they have sold. IDC estimated that 900 thousand Surfaces shipped in the first quarter 2013 and most of these were PROs. So maybe a couple hundred thousand RTs were bought. This represents a fraction of a percent of the total number of tablets sold during that period (49 million). Its hard to imagine a bigger flop (well I guess Bob was bigger – nobody used Bob and it was free).
Rumors abound as to what happens next. A smaller screen size for sure; new apps continue to trickle out (at the end of March, the Surface had about 42 thousand apps in the Surface Store; Apple had 800,000 iOS apps at iTunes); and maybe some cloud improvements will be added.
Giving away your product is another bad sign. Microsoft is as loyal to the Bleeding Sacred Hearts as they are to Windows. In June, Microsoft holds its annual TechEd Conference for for U.S. business’s Microsoft IT support teams. Typically, these guys gather at TechEd to hear Microsoft’s executives praise themselves, whoop up their latest products, and dis Apple and Google. There is also a lot of kumbaya singing and barrels of free beer drunk. This year has a special treat from the Redmond handlers: anyone registered for the show can buy an RT for $100. That’s $400 less than it costs at Staples, Best Buy or the Microsoft Store. I figure Microsoft has a lot of these babies sitting in warehouses they need to move pretty fast.
Right after the Surface was officially launched in October 2012, Acer’s China market President Lin Xianlang stated that Microsoft will learn that entering the table business will be like eating “hard rice”. Steve Ballmer just smirked when he heard it – those inscrutable Chinese, you know. I suspect Ballmer has figured it out by now.