Saturday, April 6, 2013

Microsoft's best play in the Tablet Wars - Sell keyboards

When I look at all the Windows 8 touch "hybrid" designs that have hit the market, I really only like one: Microsoft's own Surface Tablet. The keyboard cover allows you to carry the keyboard with you all day without the penalty of lugging around more weight. Basically, it weighs as much as your typical tablet protective case. The simple kickstand incorporated into the Surface tablet allows for a light keyboard since it does not have to anchor the tablet in place. It is an ingenuous design.

Sales have not been great so far, with about 1.5 million Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets sold to date. 
  • This is not too hard to understand. Windows RT was a mistake. It look good when it came out, but Intel quickly proved its low powered Atom processors could run Windows 8 fine. This kind of made Windows RT redundant in Microsoft's operating system line-up, with Windows RT being the less attractive sibling. The Surface Pro, well it is too expensive to be a volume seller. 
  • Microsoft Surface Pro, is more configurations might make a substantial impact on the market, with versions with HD displays (1366 x 768) and lower powered processors (Atom's and Core i3's) bringing options at more price points. More sizes (8 to 12 inches) could also attract more buyers. 

Microsoft could get into the hardware business seriously and make a whole range of Surface tablets, but that would not sit well with their OEM partners. 

What Microsoft could do to offer a wide selection of Surface type tablets, without causing a rebellion in the ranks of its OEM partners, is to sell keyboards. Basically, have it OEM partners build their own surface type tablet compatible with Microsoft branded keyboards and similar designs under license from Microsoft. The connector between the tablet and the keyboard should be standardized so that you can select any "Surface" type tablet from one company and a keyboard from any other company.

With this simple stroke and viola... Microsoft could become a serious player in the tablet game. 

Well... its Saturday morning and I have not had my coffee yet. 


  1. I have to agree with you, and it still makes sense even after my first morning coffee (currently 4:23 am here!)

    At first I wasn't sure what to make of the form factor, and I fell for the "tech journalist spin" about the poor battery life.

    Well then... I decided to look at how I personally do my work, and what I use.

    Sometimes I use my Nexus 7 with a keyboard and mouse, and I have a little ad-hoc stand which is really a wire mesh business card holder (really!) - this means I work at a desk or table.

    So that takes care of the form factor "issue". I've never really worked on my lap with a laptop.

    Battery life... in practical terms, and again this is for me, the laptop I am typing this on right now doesn't even *have* a working battery, I will be ordering one next week but I've been using it now for some time sans battery (I took it out) and so, there you go.

    In any case, the typical battery life expectancy people with the Surface Pro are reporting exceeds what my 2008 MacBook Pro obtained when new.

    If I really need long battery life when I'm "off the grid" then my Nexus 7 is good enough.

    I'd like to see them do a range of tablets myself, I have seen rumours of a 8" model. Perhaps this will all launch with Haswell silicon.

    1. The battery life is not really bad if you consider it is a x86 PC. A 11-inch Apple Macbook Air only gets you about 5 hours as well.

    2. Missed your reply - yes, you're right, because really, it is a MacBook Air competitor, but with several key differences:

      Full HD display
      Touch interface
      Detachable keyboard
      More I/O ports

      So... a pretty nice device, if one is okay with Windows 8.

      And - it runs VMware!

      Tempting... very tempting.

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