If the iPad was late, ran Windows 8, it would fail, too

To say that the $900 million write-down on the Surface RT tablet is a red flag may be putting it too charitably. No product that ran the RT version of Windows 8 and came out about three years after the first tablets appeared would succeed.

Microsoft's $900 million Surface RT write-down is symptomatic of an imploding PC market and a tepid reception for Windows 8.
Microsoft's $900 million Surface RT write-down is symptomatic of an imploding PC market and a tepid reception for Windows 8.

Microsoft's Surface RT debacle has more to do with a collapsing PC market and Windows RT than hardware.

Imagine this. Apple comes out with the iPad about three years late and slaps on a stripped-down version of Windows 8.

Now imagine the consumer response.

Yeah, I wouldn't buy it either.

"Several other vendors that released [Windows] RT products had lackluster sales and difficulty clearing inventory," Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, told CNET.

"Poor product reviews and bad press contributed to the overall problem, poisoning the water not just for Microsoft but for other brands as well," she added.

Now pile a shrinking PC market on top of this and you have a major fail. "[Microsoft is] being challenged with the same struggles the rest of the PC industry is facing," said Craig Stice, a colleague of Alexander's at IHS iSuppli.

There are plenty of other reasons too that have already been repeated ad nauseam. Lack of apps, too expensive (at its original price).

And I don't think Surface Pro -- which runs the real Windows 8 -- is faring much better. I used a Surface Pro for a month, and while I thought it was a novel take on the traditional laptop, it ain't a tablet. (And Microsoft has said as much). Way too big, thick, and heavy.

As a laptop it's OK, but certainly not worth $899.

The bigger problem is that Windows 8 isn't driving sales of tablets. When consumers think tablet, they think Apple and Android.

Microsoft, Intel, and its PC partners believe the hybrid is a killer alternative to Apple and Android. I'm not so sure.

I don't like the convertibles (tablet-laptop hybrids) that I've used and seen so far. While they are thin and light for a laptop, they make for a heavy, bulky tablet. Not a great compromise.

New tablet and laptop products running Intel's overhauled Atom chip ("Bay Trail") and Haswell offer hope. But not much more than that at the moment.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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