Microsoft launched it’s Surface™ (platform, tablet, product, brand) this week.
It looks like a great product. If I was using Windows™ I’d probably buy one. I love the Windows 8 interface design too with it’s tiles and “surfaced” content. We’re starting to see that aesthetic come through in Microsoft’s, emails, websites, presentations and communications. It’s a far cleaner more minimalistic style, and looks great.
But from the get go, Surface™ has a brand problem.
What is Surface™?
- Is it an iPad-like tablet?
- Is it a laptop/desktop replacement?
Well, the problem is it’s both. In fact it’s two products that are completely different.
One is the Surface RT™ (what does RT stand for? ) which runs on Arm processors and doesn’t support legacy windows apps (See the article linked at the bottom of this post).
The other is Surface Pro™ (Pro, really Microsoft?) which uses Intel processors, is heavier and thicker and does support legacy apps.
One competes with iPad. The other competes with laptops / notebooks / ultrabooks / desktops.
There’s even two versions of the much hyped cover/keyboard combo. Touch Cover (Surface RT) and Type Cover (Surface Pro). Then of course there are all the colour combos.
There are probably two distinct markets, Consumer and Business.
A classic brand problem - a lack of focus.
Or at the very least, a naming problem.
Having two completely different products that at a glance look the same, and are named the same (forget RT and Pro - consumers will drop that in everyday communication), is going to be confusing for the majority of the public (Consider the opposition from Apple. It’s just called iPad™).
Add to that Windows 8, Windows 8 RT, Windows 8 Professional, Windows 8 Phone, Office Home, Office Pro, et al and you start to see the problem.
(If you’ve ever tried to understand Microsoft’s licensing programs for software - you’ll know exactly what I mean)
Then in addition you’ve got a number of non-Microsoft competitors to deal with.
And when the consumer in confused, they’ll probably just go buy an iPad™.
Maybe this is just Microsoft modus-operandi in action and maybe it’s too early for me to comment on an unreleased product and maybe it’s just too complex a beast - but Microsoft don’t seem to be able to simplify the message, to focus.
The communication strategy looks a bit of a mess.
GREGG KEIZER over at Computerworld US also writes a compelling article along the same lines titled: Microsoft ‘own worst enemy’ in bold tablet move, says analyst
I wish Microsoft the best of luck with Surface, they’ll probably sell a truckload. But if they really want a game changer that connects with the public consciousness and can challenge Apple’s momentum, they’re going to have to do a better job with the brand.