Microsoft announced on Monday September 23, 2013 the soon to be released versions of the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. The new versions will be named the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. While there have been improvements to both models, according to the LA Times, the problem remains price. This is especially problematic for students and schools that might otherwise consider the Microsoft tablets.
The Surface 2 is an upgrade of the previous Surface RT. One of the main problems with the RT operating systems is that is does not run legacy Windows applications. The Surface Pro is able to run legacy Windows applications because it is the full blown version of the Windows 8 operating system. RT uses a stripped down version on Windows 8 where users are relegated to a new ecosystem of apps and software which has been largely abandoned by software developers. While the RT does run a version of Microsoft Office, this is likely not enough to entice future users. The ecosystem for Android and Apple is enormously robust with software choices, but the same cannot be said for RT software. Whether this might change is highly questionable, and highly unlikely. It is curious why Microsoft continues to push the RT operating system when the initial market response was very poor. Doubling down on RT seems odd.
The new price for the Surface 2 will be $449, which does not include the touch type cover. The touch type cover adds another $119-$129. It is doubtful that at this price point, there will be much market interest anywhere, especially in educational circles. The LA Times has it right; the price is far too lofty to attract new customers. This is especially true with a platform that might not be around too long. Another failed attempt to push the RT platform without success could spell the end. No one would want to be left with an orphan tablet with few if any software programs. This is the likely scenario for the RT platform unless the price becomes too good the pass up. To put it bluntly, the price needs to be cut by about half. It does not seem Microsoft is willing to concede high margins for adoption. That’s too bad, as the RT could have been somewhat attractive as a lower cost option for education.
The Surface Pro remains priced at $899 plus the cost of the touch type cover. The final price is still over $1000. That is an absurd price point for most schools or students. Technology alternatives, namely laptops, can be had for less than half the price. It does not seem that the Microsoft product strategy has much to offer the education environment. That is a shame because students almost universally desire to use Office applications on tablets. Corporate customers with deeper pockets are the main marketing target for Microsoft; therefore, if students are searching for Windows tablets, the third party alternatives are likely the best route. Take a look at the Asus Transformer T100.
Microsoft needs to price products for the real world if they intend to make any inroads into the education market.