It has a more dynamic interface. It has Office inside. It can run two apps on the same screen. And it has a USB port and a built-in kickstand. The iPad has none of these things, and the Microsoft Surface does. So why does Microsoft’s first tablet already seem to be on the ropes? According to one estimate, Microsoft is slated to sell only between 500,000 to 600,000 Surfaces running Windows RT during the December quarter, well below expectations. To put this anemic performance in perspective, Apple moved 3 million new iPads and iPad minis in three days.
Hope isn’t lost for the Surface. There are some things Microsoft can do immediately to boost sales, as well as some changes the company should make to ensure that there is a second and third Surface. Given that this tablet is a beacon for Windows 8 adoption, there couldn’t be more at stake. So listen up, Steve Ballmer & friends.
When you think about it, the Surface ads are just a tease. Microsoft showcases its Touch Cover in all of the commercials for its tablet, which attaches magnetically to the slate and offers a surprisingly good typing experience given that there's no physical travel. And, like the iPad's Smart Cover, the screen turns on and off like a refrigerator door light when you open and close the cover. There's just one problem.
Microsoft charges $599 for the Surface if you want the Touch Cover, $100 more than the tablet by itself. Want a color other than black? You'll have to pony up $119. If you look at iSuppli's teardown of the Surface's components and manufacturing costs, Microsoft is making $215 on each device, making this tablet more profitable than the iPad. But this margin is meaningless if no one is buying. At least through the holidays, the Touch Cover should be free.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter.