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Apple fail should be a lesson for Microsoft

By market-acceptance standards, failures of Apple hardware products are rare. But when the potential for weak demand is evident, Apple is pretty good at fixing the problem. That's a lesson for Microsoft.

The iPad Mini made Apple's thicker, heavier Retina iPad easy to forget. Can Microsoft act fast with Suface?
The iPad Mini made Apple's thicker, heavier Retina iPad easy to forget. Can Microsoft act fast with Suface?

Apple is good at addressing design oversights. Will Microsoft be as adept?

The Retina iPad, for example, violated Apple's design creed: products should get thinner and lighter -- aka, cooler. Not thicker and heavier.

But Apple fixed this quickly (six month later) with the iPad Mini trifecta: thinner, lighter, cheaper. And the iPad, reinvented as the Mini, has been a runaway success.

Now that Microsoft is in the business of making tablets, can it act fast when it commits product-design sins?

Surface is not a success -- yet. The Surface Pro is too big and heavy (and expensive), according to IDC and plenty of other observers. (It is a tablet, after all, despite Microsoft's valiant attempt to categorize it as a PC).

And the RT model is hampered by performance and an unpopular operating system, and it's out of sync -- like the Pro -- with the market shift to smaller tablets.

NPD DisplaySearch told CNET this week that Microsoft will bring out a 7.5-inch tablet that sources say may be $400, or possibly cheaper. But that tablet will happen later, not sooner, according to DisplaySearch.

That's a problem, because both the RT and Pro, I think, are going to languish in the coming months. And I have a feeling that products like Acer's leaked $380 Iconia 8-inch tablet will not fill the void.

Then there's Android. I'm guessing that vendors like Asus and Hewlett-Packard are going to look increasingly to Android for cool, inexpensive designs.

Microsoft appears to be serious about doing the Apple thing -- where it designs both the software and hardware -- and wants to make Windows 8 tablets a success. But will it be able to emulate Apple's successful hardware formula? A quick (very quick) refresh would be in order.

The clock is ticking.