Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surface RT’s now-free keyboard nicely sums up Microsoft’s tablet failure

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In their latest bid to get anybody to buy a Windows RT tablet, Microsoft has turned in desperation to the worst option imaginable: it will sell a complete product without gouging its customers for a hundred (or so) extra dollars. For a “limited time” (likely ending whenever their internal threat level has decreased from red to orange) customers in the US and Canada can pick up a Surface RT tablet with a Touch or Type keyboard cover for no additional cost. Since the cover is one of Surface’s defining features, and one of the few that’s received near-universal praise, this move proves that corporate desperation really is the best thing for consumers.

When the Surface RT was first unveiled, it seemed like Microsoft was finally learning. The company had designed a sleek product with some truly impressive capabilities — and so what if it was expensive? Fans were convinced that this would be to the iPad as the PC was to the Mac: a powerful and open-ended alternative to Apple’s polished, closed systems. Many fantasized about running a near-full-fledged, ARM-based version of Windows on a tablet, which was also the world’s most convenient laptop once the keyboard was attached.

surface-tablet-windows-rtMany factors have contributed to the poor sales of Surface RT, but Microsoft’s tenacity in pushing the poorly Windows RT has certainly contributed to its near-total rejection by the very crowd that has historically been its most dedicated consumer vanguard.

The keyboard covers, arguably the only real innovation in Microsoft’s line of tablets, have been almost universally praised as responsive, well-made devices that simply work the way you’d want a tablet keyboard to work. Microsoft found a way to make this virtue into a disadvantage, of course, taking an already expensive product and asking customers to pay another $100-$140 for its most defining feature. At the outset, if you wanted a full-fledged Windows experience on Surface Pro, with the all-but-necessary keyboard add-on, you could look forward to a price tag in excess of $1200.

This latest promotion applies only to the Windows RT versions of Surface, it should be noted. Giving away a high-quality keyboard for “free” is only worthwhile to Microsoft if they can use it to funnel you into an environment they control completely, and one that likely hasn’t reached any of its modest sales goals. This is both an attempt to increase sales of the Surface line, and to salvage the RT-first strategy.

If the Surface RT can fulfill your tablet needs, then it might finally be the time to pick one up. With dramatic drops in price in the last few months, this deal finally gives consumers a reason to pick a Surface over an iPad or an Android tablet.

The question now is, if even this doesn’t make Surface RT into a real contender in the tablet space, what will Microsoft do?

Now read: Microsoft Surface Pro vs Surface RT – Windows 8 wins

View the original article here


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