Surface’s (Anti-)Purchasing Cycle: Why Surface Can’t Compete with the iPad

There is a reason that seems unbeknownst to every other tablet manufacturer as to why iPad is king of the industry, with no foreseeable future of the device having to hand over its crown (or rather, swipe over – or Bump if the nonexistent reigning device is trendy). Microsoft wants to challenge the iPad head-on, previously with tablet-optimized versions of Windows designed for other manufacturers to design hardware around, though that entire Windows tablet landscape changed last week as the company announced that it will embark on the release of its own line of “Surface” tablets. Even with some features and options Apple should take note of (although nothing earth-shattering that the company will have to scramble to surpass), Surface tablets are destined to be another failed high-profile attempt to take the tablet market by storm, putting customers off through a process I’d like to call the “Surface (Anti-)Purchasing Cycle.”

Boasting a variety of options for different users, the choice presented by Microsoft’s tablets will confuse consumers since it lacks strong differentiation in branding. They will be swayed by the roughly half-price, thinner Windows RT tablet, peering a glimpse of it mistaking the oft-labelled tablet as a complete computer upon first glance. Then seeing Microsoft’s Touch Cover and Type Cover keyboard/trackpad accessories that attach magnetically to Surface tablets sold alongside it will reinforce that point. This will only lead to a customer becoming quite bewildered by the fairly complicated matter of how Microsoft has handled the presentation of it – despited being a redesigned tablet variant, the RT version is still branded as Windows. It features a very similar operating system to the complete version of Windows 8 yet it cannot run 99.999% of Windows apps since they have to be recreated for the system.

With the lack of such crucial application support, realizing how little the baseline Windows RT Surface is capable of, a potential buyer will then move onto the full-fledged version of the Surface tablet lineup named “Surface Pro.” Running Windows 8, shoppers will become enticed at the platform’s seemingly-full ability (although they may not realize that these systems are not suitable for professional graphic design work or gaming past a casual-level). However, the typical tablet buyer will be totally put-off by the $1,000-$2,000 price that Microsoft is estimated to sell the Surface Pro at.

Remembering the brand that has become practically synonymous with the term “tablet,” the shopper will end up flocking to the iPad. With its hundreds of thousands of powerful applications and an attractively low price by comparison, buyers originally intrigued by the Surface tablets will happily weigh the magnitude of value that an iPad provides, ending up leaving the store (or virtual shopping cart) with it instead. In fact, thanks to this cycle more people will purchase an iPad after they research the Surface line to find it cannot compete in features, price, or ultimately value.

Thus is the tragic fate of Microsoft’s hopeful Surface tablets, which may be bringing a new ripple into the tablet world but are dead-on-arrival without effective consumer appeal.