The Surface challenge: Justifying a premium price tag
I think there's a market for premium, differentiated PC/tablet hybrids that aren't trying to compete primarily on price. I'm hoping Microsoft's Surface proves this category exists.
Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
I think those who are predicting Microsoft's coming Surface PC/tablet
hybrids will fail if they don't beat the iPad on price are wrong. I
think the Microsoft Surface will fail if Microsoft fails to prove the
devices are premium products worth premium prices.
We still don't know exactly how Microsoft intends to price the
Surface, though CEO Steve Ballmer telling The Seattle Times he
considered the "sweet spot" for the PC market to be between $300 and $800.
We know Microsoft execs are continuing to insist tablets are PCs. So I
guess that means Ballmer believes PC/tablet hybrids like the Surface --
or "pablets," as no one but me calls these things -- also should come in
between $300 and $800. Keyboards like the Touch and Type keyboard
covers for the Surface are probably extra, I'd think.
Ballmer also made it clear to The Seattle Times he isn't trying to be
the price leader with Surface devices. I have to say I'm relieved to
hear it. There will likely be more than enough look-alike, same-old
Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets competing to be the low-cost
leader/loser, I'd bet.
I'm not sure if any of the other PC/tablet makers will talk pricing at the upcoming September 27 Intel Clover Trail showcase,
but both Acer and Asus -- along with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and ZTE
-- are all expected to show off their new devices at the San Francisco
We're just about a month away from the day the Surface RT -- the
version that runs on an ARM chip but that won't run existing third-party
Windows software -- will debut. None of us in the tech press have had
any real hands-on time with production versions of the device so far. So
we don't really know if the hinges, the touch pads, the keyboards, the
casing and all the other components Microsoft execs touted back in June
are really as amazing as they looked in the orchestrated demo. None of
us has had any real hands-on time with the operating system powering
these machines, Windows RT, either.
If the Surface RT works, looks and feels great, I'd be willing to pay
more than an iPad for one. I know there are others like me who are
tired of having lots of Windows hardware from which to choose -- but
almost nothing worth splurging on.