Microsoft Surface and its impact on the tablet market

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Microsoft Surface and its impact on the tablet market
With the introduction of the iPad, Apple redefined what the words “tablet computer” mean. Before the iPad, they mostly meant a big, clunky laptop-like device with an unresponsive swivel-screen that could eventually take the form of about three or four iPads stacked on top of each other. It's true that Bill Gates has always been a believer in the tablet form-factor, but due to the way Microsoft made business  (through partnerships with hardware manufacturers) and overall lack of focus as far as this product category goes, a true consumer-friendly tablet never saw the light of day. It became clear that it would take much more than just putting a touchscreen and desktop Windows on a laptop to get things going. In the end, those were highly-unsuccessful devices that few people bought. The mass-market tablets that were going to rule the computing world were mostly seen as something that belonged to the future.


Obviously, the future came with the launch of the iPad - all of a sudden, tablets (iPads) became one of the hottest tech commodities. Just like that, the “giant iPod touch” sold in millions, and, as you might expect, other tech companies saw great opportunity in this newly-formed market. However, as it often happens with companies that would find themselves in the category of “others”, their first tablets felt like rushed products, with sub-par design and user experience. That was partly due to the fact that there wasn't any suitable open-source or licensable operating system to put in such a device, so they had to make do with whatever was available. Well, Android was available, so they made a big touchscreen device, put scaled-up Android on it, and called it a tablet. Of course, no one bought it. It wasn't until Google made significant improvements to its platform with Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, when Android tablets actually began to pick up pace. According to research firm IDC, Apple's iPad held a market share of 68% as of Q1 2012, so that means those Android tabs do get off the shelves. Can you guess why people are buying them? It's certainly not because those buyers hate Apple. Well, actually there might be some of those cases, but the majority of users deciding to go with an Android-powered tablet do it because they want to be able to use it more like a PC. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. Some things are just easier if you do them the “old-fashioned” way, and the open nature of Android helps a lot.

Still, a lot of those Android tablets which find their way to the hands of consumers end up being used as iPads – for general consumer stuff like reading ebooks, watching movies, YouTube, email, social-networking, casual games... Once you're done tinkering with the OS, and once you try out about a hundred apps, you kind of get to the conclusion that you can't get serious work done on this thing, because there's no serious software written for it. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android tablets, but almost all of those are very basic tools. And even if they have the features, in most cases those apps are so ugly and look so amateurish (as if their UIs were designed by the programmers who wrote them), that it makes you question whether it's actually a good idea to trust this device for anything more than uploading a YouTube video or writing a short email/blog post. It's strange, really, but you might be able to do more with the iPad's higher-quality apps, regardless of its closed, consumer-centric OS.


After this lengthy first part, two things should have become clear.

1. The world is now ready for tablet computers;

2. The world is in need of more capable tablets.

Sure, feeding Om Nom with candy is fun for a while, but once they hit the Home button, many people want to be able to do something meaningful with their tablets, and by the looks of it, this may soon be possible.

As you're surely aware, Microsoft introduced its new Surface family of tablets this Monday. Everyone knew that Windows 8 tablets are on their way, but the announcement of Microsoft's Surface dramatically increased the interest.

We won't hide it – we liked what we saw. To us, it's almost as if the Surface is the second real tablet after the iPad. It's like an iPad, but for professionals, and that's because it delivers on both the hardware and software fronts, in a big way. Windows 8 represents a big change for Microsoft, and the company wasn't willing to launch it on a pack of black slates, all looking like a poor man's iPad. It needed something better – a tablet that is both beautiful, and ready for business. It has recognized that in this day and age, people need powerful tools, but they also appreciate quality products. Because of this, a lot of people nowadays would love to own a tablet, but end up buying a notebook, as they don't want to sacrifice on functionality. Meanwhile, Apple is making huge profits from its products, because people are ready to pay when it's worth it, when a device is no longer just a piece of tech, but a piece of art as well.

Microsoft has obviously learned a lesson here, and felt the need to show its partners how it's done, how it envisions the Windows 8 device. Judging by the Surface, the Windows 8 tablet has to scream premium quality, has to be cool, and strike the right chords that would establish an emotional connection with the user. Of course, this doesn't mean there won't be lower-end Windows 8 devices, but it's the high-margin, top-shelf products that rake in the most profits. Until now, Microsoft was OK with what its partners produced, but now the company wants to see a change, and is offering the Surface as an example of where it wants to go. Whether the others will follow is yet to be seen.

Many argue that Microsoft has upset its hardware partners by producing its own device, but we doubt this is too serious. Have the Nexus phones made Android manufacturers reconsider their product ranges? Not really. And remember that Google is expected to announce a Nexus tablet in about a week. Even with the Surface around, there will still be a lot of money to be made with Windows 8.

So, in conclusion of this part, we do see the Surface as a winner for Microsoft. Actually, the Intel-powered Windows 8 Pro version seems more likely to find faster user adoption at first, as it will be filling an obvious gap in tablet town. The lower-priced Windows RT version should also be doing well, though, as it will be packing more appeal than most of the competition. However, its success will also depend on the program/app catalog that it will launch with. As you probably know, you won't be able to run any current Windows programs on Windows RT – developers will have to rework their apps first to make them usable on this new ARM-based system.

The great product seems to be at hand, but Redmond still has some work to do as far as third-party software developer support goes, in order to ensure a smooth start for its consumer-oriented tablet.


There seems to be a lot of concern regarding the pricing of these devices. Microsoft has announced that the Windows RT Surface will cost as much as comparable tablets, and the Windows 8 Pro version will cost as much as comparable ultrabooks. While it would have been much better if they simply spilled the beans on the exact prices, it's not so difficult to get the message.

The ARM-based Microsoft Surface should cost somewhere around $599, maybe a bit more. That's about equal to an iPad 32GB and high-end Android tablets. Sure, you'll be able to find a good Android tab at a lower cost, but it doesn't really matter that much, because those users who will be torn between Windows and Android are so few, and Microsoft has so much more marketing and distribution power compared to a single Android manufacturer, that there could hardly be a real fight here. That is in case Microsoft decides to push hard, and not leave it all to its partners. But with all the talk about touch-covers and type-covers, it looks like Microsoft has decided to make some cash.

It's unlikely that the Surface (ARM edition) will hit iPad sales too hard, because the iPad is the consumer tablet. It has a very strong position there, which is backed up with tons of quality software, so there's little reason for the casual user to move away. However, it wouldn't surprise us if Android tablet sales suffer significantly. Android tablets are just starting the gain prominence, and this is mostly because of Android's open nature, giving users freedom to do some stuff that cannot be done on an iPad. It's simple - if you want a tablet now, but don't like the Apple way of doing things, you get an Android tablet. But with the Surface and other Windows tablets, it'll be hard for most users to continue siding with Android.

The Intel-based Microsoft Surface will likely touch the $899 price point, or maybe even higher. That's a lot more than most Android tablets, but then again, a lot of people will be tempted by the superior design and full-featured Windows 8 Pro experience. And, as we said, people are ready to pay when it's worth it. With this Surface, you'll not only get a portable tablet, you'll get a full PC which packs all the punch you need for executing some real software – like the one that's only available on Windows and Mac.

Are we finally witnessing the advent of the true all-in-one computer? No, but we do think that there will soon be major tectonic shifts in the tablet industry. Sure, others may have a head start in the tablet space, but Microsoft has a significant head start in software, and that's going to help the Surface tremendously.

Related phones

Surface RT
  • Display 10.6" 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Camera 1 megapixel
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30, Quad-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 32GB
Surface Pro
  • Display 10.6" 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 1 megapixel
  • Processor Intel Core i5, Dual-core, 1700 MHz
  • Storage 64GB



1. Suts_97

Posts: 130; Member since: May 05, 2012

This is good..Let's see what they have for us in Windows Phone 8!

2. twens

Posts: 1186; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

Now thats a lovely article. Am glad you explained how much effort microsoft has placed into this tablet. To me,for those who want to do more than just play with your gadgets this is the 1st real tablet. I see IOS and android facing serious tablet market issues in the near future cos manufacturers will better their hardware and Microsoft who has already taken the lead in software will also advance and better it. The rest will play catch up and by then it will be too late to catch up with MS. Price is no issue here if you know what you want. In my country poeple buy ipads at very expensive laptop prices and they dont complain. Any smart and intelligent human who loves hardware and software will definately save towards this peace of beauty. For me am getting one and am selling my ipad 3 for this.

3. Veigald

Posts: 290; Member since: Jan 13, 2012

This is exactly what a lot of people have been waiting for, and absolutely the future of personal computing. For consumers, they will have a productivity option to add to the leisure option of the iPad (and even less options on Android tablets), which makes one less device to need in the house. When it is sexy as well, then the iPad really seems like a lesser option. For companies, Microsoft products simply integrate in a much more manageable fashion than other products, with less worries about learning curves and additional security risks. The whole Bring Your Own Device discussion would be simplified by Microsoft tablets running Windows OS and applications. Further, there would be less need for integration between a variety of devices, and if the end users are happy with this device, less fragmentation in the environments. I think this is a potentially disruptive device, and believe this might be the type of device that could make the tablet market resemble the PC market in two or three years; MS with a massive share, Apple with a small share and "the others", e.g. Android tablets, barely noticeable. Good job, MS.

4. mobilefuture

Posts: 224; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

It looks like the slow demise of Android Tablets has started, but we can only be sure next week when rumored nexus tablets are announced...

6. Evil_SaNz

Posts: 259; Member since: Oct 20, 2011

Slow demise? Android tablets almost catched iPad (52% vs 51%) in 2012, led by Kindle fire with 28%. Source: OPA. Of course such data is hidden on most sites, negative propaganda for the various iPhonearenas.

10. mobilefuture

Posts: 224; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

just to make it clear im not an android hater but seeing as ifans are never gonna let go of iphones and ipads, ultimately microsoft will be eating away android tablets share in the markets. i mean you gotta admit, ifans will NEVER let go of the iphone...

15. Evil_SaNz

Posts: 259; Member since: Oct 20, 2011

MS & Intel still need to show us a portable device with decent battery efficiency. All intel powered ultrabooks or laptops last the half vs. ARM based devices. Windows 8 RT is no big deal, it's another closed ecosystem. x86 apps are not cross compatible and you will run only metro adapted apps bought from their market. If an intel Windows 8 PRO (surface) would have more processing power and better efficiency, I would be impressed and probably would buy it. However, I don't think it will be the case.


Posts: 456; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

iAgree, taco will never not own a iDevice iThough, like most not in the herd, relish in all state-of-the-art technologies from all companies... iAm not stuck with 4 products (2 useful and one just a bigger version of the other) with once a year incremental refreshes and am LOViN EVERY MiNUTE OF iT!

5. pongkie

Posts: 663; Member since: Aug 20, 2011

i have this feeling that they didn't include the cellular data capability. That it only has Wifi. a. they didn't mention it b. no telecom company is talking on carrying it.

7. u-suck-more

Posts: 529; Member since: Aug 26, 2011

i'd really like to see it suceed

8. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Great job ray! I thought this was a michael article when opening but ray hit it out of the ballpark. But I have skme griefs. If the pro is priced as a 900 dollar machine I don't know if people will pay that much. The major problem with tablets has been price. Look at how well the kindle fire is selling for example. Maybe the professional market but is that enough. If it is truly a full pc maybe it can compete in the pc market at that price. And for 600 alot of people will go for the cheaper apple/android option. Money is a big factor in all of this. Thats my 2cents anyway.

9. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

you know ray, ive been defending you against the "iphonearena" and huge bias posts for a while now. I gotta say, I'm quite disappointed in just how much you decided to slam android tablets and talk up the ipad with every other sentence. really dude? come on. 1) i use my android tablet quite heavily for school/business use. Can your ipad sync all your desktop documents with your phone and tablet automatically? Can you edit on one system and have it instantly show up on the other in real time? Can multiple users edit at the same time? can it blutooth files back n forth? for business, the ipad is a joke. 2) RT isnt going after android, its going after Apple. Android users are unlikely to switch to RT because its a downgrade in almost every respect. First time users that look at shiney things and care more about smooth scrolling than functionality are possible apple users.. which is where MS is aiming. Just like WP7 phones are not going after established android users, they are going after first time users that are likely to pick up an iphone... the same is with RT tablets. Who wants rows of small icons when you can have big colorful interactive blocks. So while its unlikely that it will tear users away from either android or iOS in large quantities, it has a much more possible detrimental effect on firstime OS buyers that might lean towards an ipad. MS's branding will strike a strong chord for users that dont have anything but a PC and just want it for media. ............................ The lower-priced Windows RT version should also be doing well, though, as it will be packing more appeal than most of the competition, except for the iPad because people are ready to pay when it's worth it, when a device is no longer just a piece of tech, but a piece of art as well. It's unlikely that the Surface (ARM edition) will hit iPad sales too hard, because the iPad is the consumer tablet. However, it wouldn't surprise us if Android tablet sales suffer significantly it'll be hard for most users to continue siding with Android. ................................

21. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Come on remixfa this was not an iphonearena post. Everything was backed up and he has solid points. The only thing i disagree about is price. The android tablets faults are all true but its getting better if ics which he said. You said that microsoft will canablize ipad sales. Does that make you a fandroid? No. So how does ray saying the opposite a iphonearena post? And the features you talked about most people don't care about. Especially the casual users. But microsoft is going for a full feldged pc experience similar to what android trys to do. Thats why the are competitors. Apple gives a atlernative to a pc which is why it isn't. Makes sense no? And also the features you talked about kinda go to show the pc approach by android in that it trys to do more then a tablet does. Even though icould does back everything else across devices but thats for any device on the ecosystem.

26. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

no. you missed the point Bio. rt is not going for a PC experience, its going for a "premium" visceral media and eye candy experience .. with a few extras. that's apples territory. look at their announcement .. it screams apple like in the choice of words and presentation. Pro is going for a PC experience and those would go after android users more if it weren't for the gaping price disparity. myself included. I copied some of the quotes that I was speaking of. they were pure extreme bias with no validity beyond personal preference which doesn't belong so deeply rooted in a supposed non biased article. he's been pretty good lately about being fair. this however is not one of those times

30. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

I thought there announcement was going infomercial style. Not apple if you ask me. But the RT is not going for just eye candy. Its going after a pc like experience like android the pro is going for a dead on pc experience. And those quotes there is nothing wrong with them. They are perfectly fair. Tablets has always been not such a great experience with android. Phones are another story completely but there tablet game needs help. The kindle fire is a good start since its cheap. I do agree about the pricing dilemma my one grief.

33. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

me thinks that all the people that bought the transformer, Tab, xoom, and the other nice tablets would disagree with you.... which are the bulk of tablet sales. Were there some junk ones? of course.. but thats the + and - of open source. However, those comments were definitely NOT fair and unbiased.


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Again you and I are close to thoughts here. Any on e thinking that these tablets won't appeal to iPeople are off key. For those people that are die hard Apple, and iProduct bound no...not in the beginning will they switch, but as the years move on MS will attract those people I believe as well. Windows is the most unified OS platform in existence now. Desk top, business, tablet, phones all combined in a seamless easy to use software application finally. No apps or tweaks needed to make it work, and looks just as appealing as any other platform!


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010 and I agree on something lol;). If you search my post I have been saying all that along Apple now has comp. Microsoft will rule business, and for those that want something that extends the desk top and easy to use no mods necessary to work smoothly....WP8 on the go! Android is a hackers nerd type OS. Those types of people will never abandon Android due to modding and the hackers attributes. Apple will be pushed back by WP8 with office and outlook express, and exchange server to rule business I think! Singgly, and I have been saying this all along for sure...not to mention that I am running W8 desktop, and after playing with a few WP7 phones knew the game was about to change for Windows and MS!

11. thunderising

Posts: 232; Member since: Nov 25, 2011

Don't know why they made Win8 x86 tablet. Seems like they want it to go head on with Windows 8 RT, which itself is another baby platform.

13. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

because the tech is finally there to have full desktop in tablet form. I'd love full power in a mobile form like that, but I'm not paying that much for it.. lol

12. mobilefuture

Posts: 224; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

does anybody know that if you write i and sheep together then phonearena warns you that you have offensive content in your post? seriously?

14. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

I'll buy it anyway, even if its at Ultrabook price. I know what i'm getting. I know its full windows experience. So thats enough.

16. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

MS took the humiliation of WP6 too seriously now they are GAME which is good

17. Rickmears23

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Lets see..Cheap windows laptop, $500 bucks, good android tablet, $400 bucks. Ill go that route vrs the $899 Microsoft surface.

22. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

That's what i am also thinking...even 1000$ ultrabook would be better buy in terms of performance and comfort.They were able to cram up the keyboard in such a thin cover,but it should rest on a flat surface to type 8 is designed from ground up for a touch,and i have used win8 rel preview on my laptop,it's not that touch and type friendly.But if they include a touchpad like that of a Mac(for charms and gestures..),then it would solve the problem.We have to wait for the device...pricing matters a lot,i may buy it if it is 900$,because i can get a much better ultrabook or transformerseque windows 8 devices.....

19. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

i think this tablet will be competing with other windows 8 tablet manufacturers, since Android and iOS are mobile OS, unless if its under Windows RT, which personally, i think ppl will still go for Android as there r more features on Android devices than RT (I stand to b corrected) and just like me, i dont want iPad cos I have an iPhone, so I went for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 to experience another platform, and so far Im very happy with my tablet, though without ICS, it still functions like it did the day i unboxed it. Sales of Pro should not be in the same box as those of RT, since Pro will compete with the likes of OSX and RT with Android and iOS, which in my PERSONAL opinion, ppl will pick Android over RT due to RT not bn a Full Windows 8. Just thinking. And agin, still not "liking" Ray S, very subjective.

27. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

28. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

At last, though its not a biggie for me cos I bought the device due to what it could do then, and it still works fine and im using it to type this reply, but I could use with some features on ICS.

20. valapsp

Posts: 565; Member since: Aug 12, 2011

I can't decide between Surface and Surface Pro? Microsoft Surface is only 9.3mm thick but the Pro version is 13.5mm thick. The matter is that the thinner version runs Windows RT whereas the Pro one runs full Windows 8. The only problem the Pro one has is its thickness. It is very thick compared to today's tablets. On the other hand I don't want to be limited to Windows Store apps that are the only apps available for Windows RT users. Help me decide please. Should i focus on the 13.5mm thickness or it's nothing to worry about?

23. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

my suggestion is wait for windows OEM,atleast one of them will be able to reduce the thickness and weight,of course you also have to wait for 3 mon after the win8 release for the pro version...

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