This past week Microsoft unleashed some of the details regarding Surface Pro, now called Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Out of the scarce details released, most people fixated on the price. There will be two versions; $899 for 64 GB and $999 for 128 GB. I felt that Surface RT was not positioned correctly. So far, there is something lacking from Surface Pro's marketing, as well.
After using Surface RT for over a month. I have to admit to everyone, "I am a believer." I have used Android tablets and the iPad, in its different iterations. This device is different, not perfect, but it can hold its own. As, a kid I dreamed of an amazing tablet device, that would let me interact with pen input. I wanted to draw and sketch while sitting on the couch or laying in bed. It would be like a swiss army knife, versatile.
So, if I like Surface RT, for what it is. I find the device useful in my daily activites. How much better can the Surface Pro be? Well, I can only assume a lot. It sounds to me like that dream tablet from my childhood. I have looked at the Modbook several times, but the price is too high.
Back to the Surface Pro. Maybe I'm looking at it through the wrong lens But, I can not help but feel excitement for this device to arrive. Naturally, I went to Surface Pro's site. I felt underwhelmed at how they are positioning the tablet. I also noticed they altered the name. Why is it now being called Surface with Windows 8 Pro? Is that something that communicates, an ultrabook crammed into a tablet with a pen digitizer, that can handle "real" computing tasks? Eh, not really. I would've been happier with just Surface Pro.
After reading through Surface with Windows 8 Pro's site, I was puzzled. How does one communicate the benefits and differences of an laptop replacement with pen input in the form of a tablet, as opposed to an normal tablet?
I want to explore what those differences are and what they mean.
I understand this product has not been released yet. I am sure there will be more "fleshed" marketing campaign.
Surface Pro lacks a cohesive marketing idea.
There are several things that bug me about Surface with Windows 8 Pro's site. First, it says that Word and Office will be sold separately. Strange, since Word and Office are bundled with Surface RT. The Pro costs more, it is the "professional" version, and it lacks a key software component. Something is not right. How will this be explained to the consumer?
Second, under the Help me Choose section, all the site does is list the specifications side by side. I really think that the average consumer needs a bit more hand holding in this section. There should be a brief description stating the main differences. It is typical to have these side by side comparisons in other product stores. But, there is a fundamental difference in this comparison. These devices might have a similar look, but they are very different inside. One, Surface RT, is a modern tablet focused on consumers. The other, Surface Pro, is a powerful computer within the shell of a tablet. A simple side by side comparion does not do either justice. This is where I want to spend some time going through their specifications.
I want to highlight a couple of the lines.
Surface Pro "Supports the full Office experience" compare toRT "comes installed with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview." The final version for RT is available.
This means that out of the box, the Pro, will lack a key component of the Windows experience. This puzzles me. It makes the Pro feel like an incomplete solution from the get go. Should it not be the opposite. I would think the "Pro" version would be a more complete solution.
Here, they re-iterate that Office will be missing from Surface Pro, again. If I glanced at this, it looks like Surface RT is more capable than the Pro.
The screen size is the same for both tablets. However, the resolution is significantly higher on the Pro. This has many implications. It will require a stronger processer to power the pixels. It also will need a bigger battery. This can be seen in the Thinness, Weight, and Battery sections.
Surface RT has USB 2.0 and a HD video out port (mini HDMI). Surface Pro has USB 3.0 and a Mini Displayport. Read more about the benefits from HDMI and Display port, techradar.com. Surface Pro aims to replace your laptop or even your desktop. Having a display port makes connection monitors very easy.
What do I gather from this Comparison
Surface Pro has a higher resolution screen, weighs more, is thicker, and lacks Office 2013. Well, those are not necessarily cons. But, this comparions makes Surface with Windows 8 Pro look less compelling in some ways, than RT. On top of it costs $400 dollars more. This is the part where Microsoft's communication is broken. It should be obvious that these two tablets perform different functions. I want to show a valid comparison for a product line. The iPad line. They are all tablets, they might be different generations or different sizes, but they all fit in the "tablet" category.
A more valid side by side comparison for Surface Pro would be an ultrabook or a tablet convertible laptop. If a comparison between the two tablets is not enough to differentiate. What is?
For the launch of Surface RT, Microsoft created a commercial with dancers and their Surfaces. This does not showcase any of the abilities the tablet has besides it clicking together with a colorful keyboard. Surface Pro is an attempt to create a "professional" tablet. It can perform desktop level tasks and act as a consumption device on the couch.
I would like more images with software running on Surface Pro
If Microsoft has created a "new" type of device. Then, it should focus its communication on showcasing what it can do. How will Surface Pro fit in my life? Will it replace my laptop? Will it be the perfect Adobe CS companion? Or will it be like a the old Windows Smartphones?
Marketing for Surface Pro needs to focus on how to use the product. That does not mean the product is hard to use. But, it will show how this tablet is not like all the other tablets. It will not lack "apps" because it does not need "apps" it runs programs. It does not need a new eco-system to thrive on. It runs Windows!
If I am looking for a new ultra portable device that can handle all my computing tasks. Macbook Air, or the Thinkpad X1 Carbon would be good candidates. These two laptops have very similar specs to Surface Pro. They are both bigger and lack a pen digitizer. Would it not be more apt to compare these to Surface Pro. This is where Microsoft needs to focus on. The ability to be a mobile warrior with a very versatile device. That is what both the Air and the Carbon aim to do. They aim to be slim, portable, and very functional. These are Surface Pro's main opponents.
After thinking through the communications of Surface Pro and RT, there is a lack of vision. How and where do these devices, Surface Pro and Surface RT, fit in their corresponding lifestyles. Microsoft needs to re-think how to properly position this new device. I believe it can thrive and become a go to device for many professionals. I hope as its launch nears they figure out how to differentiate it.
Microsoft needs to communicate how Surface with Windows 8 Pro re-envisions what an ultra portable computer is.