Microsoft – Glaring Obsolescence

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Microsoft is still missing the opportunity created by laptop obsolescence.

  • The Surface Pro 3 is far more than a laptop replacement but so far Microsoft has totally failed to market this device to its full potential (see here).
  • I am of the opinion that the laptop form factor is now obsolete as there is a far better alternative.
  • Having the keyboard physically separate from the screen enables a far better user experience in terms of use, comfort and flexibility.
  • The only reason to attach the keyboard to the screen has been to create enough space for the components and battery needed to enable a full power portable computing experience.
  • This also created a form factor that is easy to carry around but it offers a cramped, unpleasant and inferior computing experience.
  • This compromise is no longer required but the device makers and users are so entrenched in their thinking that they have yet to see what is before them.
  • Having the keyboard physically attached to the screen is no longer required and this opens the door to whole new use case which I call “Portable Desktop”.
  • However, the laptop has been universal standard for over 20 years meaning that a huge marketing effort is required to make users realise that the world has changed.
  • With a Surface Pro 3, the ingenious Arc Touch Mouse (see here) and superb Logitech Tablet Keyboard (see here), I effectively have a desktop computer that weighs the same as a laptop and is just as easy to carry around.
  • Not a single person to whom I have demonstrated the “Portable Desktop” has indicated that they would rather stick with the laptop form factor.
  • Microsoft’s R&D team is starting to realise the potential of this form factor as it has just launched a wireless keyboard that can handle everything including an Android phone or tablet, iPhone or iPad and Windows Phone to full Windows devices. (see here).
  • Critically, the stand can be separated from the keyboard which now gives Microsoft the potential to launch the two products together as an alternative to the pretty awful Type Cover.
  • In my travels, I use the type cover as a screen protector when it is in my bag and as a mouse mat when working on a glass surface.
  • However Microsoft’s marketing department seems to be completely oblivious to the potential for this product and in its 1 minute marketing video for the new keyboard it shows the stand separated from the keyboard for a total of 3 seconds.
  • Furthermore, all of the marketing materials for the Surface Pro 3 show the device being used with the Surface Type Cover most of the time.
  • Microsoft does not seem to have considered the potential that this device offers and until it puts its weight behind educating the users that something better is available, volumes are likely to remain low.
  • I think that the substantial usability improvement over the laptop is critical to convincing users that this is a form factor that is worth paying up for because it is not a cheap product.
  • This form factor offers so much more than a MacBook Air can ever do but Microsoft is continues to hide that fact from its users.
  • I am certain that Apple is far from ignorant of this issue.

3 thoughts on “Microsoft – Glaring Obsolescence

  1. As a long-time supporter of mobile and pen computing I was very keen to start using the Surface Pro 3. This is the first time we have had a desktop quality tablet with a super high resolution screen and usable (but detachable) keyboard. After a few weeks use it is clearly a stunning machine and one that should stand Microsoft out from the crowd.

    But… there are 3 challenges Microsoft need to overcome:

    1. Quality
    Who would sensibly choose to ship a new tablet with a dedicated docking station when said dock will not charge the tablet without first applying firmware updates. People expect new products to work out of the box.

    2. What is it, who is the market
    Microsoft appear to be focusing the entire range on consumers, yet the top i7 device is so naturally suited to business use. They have a opportunity to revolutionize business computing, especially for us old road warriors. Leave the consumers with the iPads and focus on the higher value business. Compete on quality and battery life more, but mostly innovate around the pen within office – aim to totally replace notepads without the need for typing. OneNote is a superb step in the right direction, but the desktop version is so much better than the tablet one.
    One thing that showed this lack of business focus was at setup where they lead with setting up a Microsoft account. To get the device onto a work domain you must click to setup a new MS account, then opt to login via a domain. Once setup you add your existing MS account – tortuous.

    3. Marketing and awareness
    This device is cool but other than a few ads they are not doing anything obvious to build awareness – it’s a new form factor so stop selling a weird looking laptop and show off the new pen based tablet. Get them into the hands of people in the public eye for example.

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