We’ll be honest—no one on our staff would choose a tablet or Chromebook as his or her primary portable over a full-featured laptop. Yet, we can’t deny that Google’s Chrombooks have been wildly successful sellers. The proper platform to put against Chromebooks? Surface RT. Yes, Microsoft’s original hybrid device that marked a break from x86, and one that people thought would be a game-changer. It wasn’t, but the Surface RT is still around and is now competitively priced at $300. That, folks, is Chromebook range, and makes it the perfect combatant to get into this slap fight.
Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of the magazine.
Banking on a MicrosoftSurface tablet for you or some other lucky person on your gift list this holiday season? Microsoft is cutting prices left and right for eager beaver Black Friday shoppers, and you can get in on the action as early as midnight on Thanksgiving. So you'll barely have had enough time to let the turkey digest before heading out to nab one of these deals.
ARM-based Surface 2 systems won't carry RT branding
Whatever your opinion of Microsoft's original Surface products, one thing most people can agree on is that the Redmond company did a poor job educating consumers on the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT. It's not as though tech savvy users picked up a Surface RT and expected to run legacy Windows apps, but for the mainstream user who doesn't understand that ARM-based SoCs and x86 processors feature completely different architectures, the RT branding could be confusing. Microsoft has now admitted as much.
Microsoft Surface RT is now the only Windows RT device on the market
The Dell XPS 10 Windows RT tablet is no longer available from the PC vendor’s website and the now-private company is recommending the Windows 8-running Latitude 10 instead to anyone who comes looking for the former. With Samsung, Lenovo and Asus having already given up on the struggling platform, this is probably the last thing Microsoft needed at this point.
We suppose it was inevitable that a class action lawsuit of some sort would be filed against Microsoft over its handling of Surface RT. If you recall, Microsoft was never very forthcoming about its Surface RT sales figures, waiting until its Q4 2013 earnings report to reveal that Surface RT was essentially a flop, causing the company to take a $900 million charge on unsold inventory. The class action suit filed against Microsoft accuses the company of making misleading statements in regards to its financial performance and Surface RT in particular.
Along with every other hardware player, Microsoft is hoping to see a boost in sales from the back-to-school shopping frenzy that's about to get underway. Unlike everyone else, however, Microsoft is sitting on a mountain of unsold Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, which to this point have only generated $853 million in revenue. This led to Microsoft taking a $900 million charge on unsold inventory followed by a round of price cuts, first with Surface RT and now with Surface Pro.
Maybe Microsoft should have listened to its hardware partners when they pissed and moaned about the Redmond outfit deciding to build its own hardware. Acer was especially outspoken, warning Microsoft on several occasions that competing in the hardware space is a whole different ballgame than software, but those warnings fell on deaf ears and now Microsoft is paying the price.
Failed Surface RT strategy costing Microsoft millions of dollars
Remember when Acer tried to warn Microsoft to steer clear of competing in the hardware market, telling the Redmond outfit that the hardware business is like "hard rice" and "is not so easy to eat?" Well, Microsoft should have listened. That's easy to say on hindsight, but it's not as if Microsoft's strategy wasn't fraught with criticism from the get-go. Having ignored the advice of Acer and other hardware partners who weren't stoked about Surface, Microsoft is now paying the price.
Surface RT now available at a more reasonable price
On hindsight, Microsoft overestimated the demand for its ARM-based Surface RT tablets and the willingness of consumers to pay $500 for an unproven slate. What made Surface RT an even tougher sell at the original asking price is that Android slates have been getting much more affordable in recent months. Stuck with all that stock, Microsoft is reportedly planning to slash $150 off the price of Surface RT.
Giveaway at ISTE 2013 will be followed by discount offer during the back-to-school season
After giving them away to TechED attendees for just $99 a pop, Microsoft is now getting ready to sell the Surface RT to K12 and higher education institutions at a slightly higher, yet pretty “aggressive”, price of $199. Given all the reports of a large unsold inventory and recent murmurs about a Qualcomm-powered version, it seems as if Microsoft is trying to get rid of all those unsold Surface RT tablets in a jiffy.