Surface: Doomed to fail, and will Microsoft fail with it?

Behold the Microsoft Surface. We haven’t been kind to it in the past… we wondered if it was a bag of suck, we asked if the operating system was a day 1 fail, and we didn’t hesitate to parade the endless list of Microsoft’s other hardware products, most of which failed to make a dent in the market.

The latest concerning news comes from our friends at Apple Insider, who say that Microsoft really has no “Plan B” if Surface doesn’t meet expectations. So far, it’s not. We told you that Surface activations over the holidays didn’t even register on a popular survey and even Microsoft admits that the product didn’t meet expectations so far.

It’s true that the new Surface Pro sold out on day one, but that only means that Microsoft made very few of them. It remains to be seen how many Surface Pros were actually sold.

What will Microsoft do if its halo tablet keeps laying eggs in the marketplace? Well, for that we only have to utter one word: ZUNE. At one time, Microsoft supported an entire ecosystem of music players from several different manufacturers. Then one day Microsoft decided it would sell its own music player, the Zune, and it cut off relations with all other manufacturers. In one fell swoop it severed relationships a decade in the making.

What happened to Zune? It failed, steamrolled by the iPod just as it was evolving into a very reasonable little device.

If Microsoft decides that the Windows 8 tablet isn’t big enough for more than one player, look for them to shut the door on Acer, Samsung, and a slew of other players who have shown Windows 8 tablets. It’s a bad idea, because Windows 8 is already competing against heavy hitters in the tablet arena, and 92% of IT managers have no plans to implement it in business. Losing manufacturers may help Microsoft in the short term but it’s a bad plan for them in the long term.

Of course it’s not just the hardware that people complain about. Windows 8 hasn’t been lighting up the world, either. In fact, in a recent article at engadget Samsung’s Jun Dong-soo says that Windows 8 is to blame for the decline in all sorts of PC sales. That may be an oversimplification from a company that likes to ignore Apple’s success (or, as some people might say, imitate it to the point of copyright breech) but it’s not completely untrue. For many people, Windows 8 is a dog that simply won’t hunt. PC sales are stalled, and one wonders what would happen if major manufacturers started offering PCs that let you choose which OS to install when you took them home.

Most people have enjoyed the Surface commercials but ignored the device. A recent trip to the Microsoft Store in Costa Mesa, California, found a fairly busy store — nothing compared to some trips to an Apple Store — but still there were no crickets chirping. The staff were friendly and helpful, although a little too proud of the fact that the start button and [x] buttons were gone for good. Apparently Microsoft’s thinking is that its user base of 20+ years is aging, and they’re aiming for the youth market who seem to have modeled their expectations on iPads not on PCs. That’s a fair bet, but a warning: If you leave your millions of current users out in the rain, they may not be there when you decide to open the door.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.