Have you seen the tablets coming out for Windows RT? Apparently manufacturers, including Microsoft and their Surface RT, have seen especially sluggish sales since launch. Many are quick to blame any number of reasons, but the problems are painfully obvious yet not identified by the spate of bloggers and analysts currently commenting on the issue.
After a decade of sales, no one wants a “convertible” laptop. Many of the designs, including the Microsoft Surface, attempts to differentiate itself by being more of a convertible laptop than strictly a tablet like the iPad. Sadly, these manufacturers forget that Microsoft introduced the convertible design over a decade ago, with Bill Gates himself proclaiming that tablet computing would be the future. A decade of sales later consumers still reject this design. The reason why is simple: If consumers wanted a laptop, they’d buy a laptop. It’s akin to a laptop the size of a desktop. Yet they continue to try and shove this concept down the throats of a tired public.
The iPad turned the sector on its head because it was strictly a tablet, purely designed to give people a portable, one handed window looking into the Internet. It doesn’t try to be a laptop. It uses iOS and not OS X, or a slimmed down variant, to more closely resemble their popular iPhone. It limits the amount of work that can be done, immediately identifying itself as a FUN device rather than a WORK device, thus being more inviting to those who pick it up for the first time.
Ultimately, Microsoft’s problem is that they’re trying to market their Surface as a work device that can be fun while Apple markets the iPad as a fun device that can do work.
Furthermore, we’ve been in an economic depression since 2008. Consumers have less disposable income despite working more hours than ever before and Apple gives them two things that Microsoft fails to recognize: Apple’s aspirational status appeals to all and those who can afford an iPad, but not a MacBook Pro, still walk away feeling good because they can still afford something not everyone can, and what they got was something for fun and in no way work related. The former is why people buy from Tiffany’s, even if it’s just one of their cheap trinkets, while the latter is why laptop sales this season were so flat despite many models being available that are as cheap or cheaper than any iPad.
People want to feel important and well-off, even when they aren’t. It’s why people buy name-brand items even when they can’t afford them. They’re also overworked or in fear of getting laid off, so anything that reminds them of work is not a good idea. Sadly, Microsoft has tailored their marketing campaign to appeal to neither of these, resulting in a consumer that is completely turned off to their brand immediately after seeing their current crop of ads.
So, if Microsoft wants to turn things around, here’s a three step plan: Focus on brand value, market the Surface as a fun device, and stop focusing on how the Surface can be converted into a laptop to do work. Why did you guys show people wearing suits instead of showing Looking Glass on a Surface being used with an Xbox in your TV spots? Talk about being completely out of touch with potential buyers.