Business Insider Surface “Flop” Linkbait: Point by Point

Jay Yarow from Business Insider claims that the Microsoft Surface tablet is “going to be a total flop”.  He writes this as though it is fact, despite that many questions, including price, remain unknown.  Through the use of faulty arguments, his blog post becomes a fail of epic proportions.  Normally I don’t write much about things like this, but this one astounded me.  How are articles like this even published?

His two main points (two? really??) are as follows:

  • “The premise is flawed. Microsoft’s appeal … is that the iPad can’t do enough. … Consumers are happy with the iPad as an additive product… Trying to be two things at once will lead to Surface being neither.”  First, he admits that iPad is largely a consumption device, and that Surface is aiming to be something more.  Yet he completely fails to describe why Surface will fail at both consumption and creation.  Nice job.  Let me describe why I think Surface might succeed.  First there is the Windows 8 UI, built around exposing information to the user without having to always go into a siloed application.  This does not exist on iPad.  In addition, this UI will be replicated across desktops and laptops that the user may sign into.  Surface is built specifically to do more than iPad, which is why the keyboards that will ship with it matter.  This is also why there are two versions of Surface.  For those that require significantly more power (Core i5) for document or media creation, the Intel version provides many times the power of an iPad, with storage options that best the iPad.  In terms of creation, there are multiple options for input, storage expansion, video output for use with monitors, enterprise management, and cloud integration for sharing and syncing across systems.
  • “It will start at $600. Why pay more for an inferior product?”  First of all, who says $600?  The rumor-mill?  Why not wait for an actual price announcement before declaring failure?  Here, once again, he completely fails to describe why Surface is inferior.  The iPad 2 at $400 is apparently “great”, and the iPad 3 at $500 is “really great”.  Um, ok.  Clearly outstanding reasoning there, but let’s go with that: those are great products at their price points.  Surface for RT is starting at 32GB, thus at the rumored price would provide the same storage at the same price.  Give the iPad credit for the awesome screen. But Yarow fails to consider the keyboard/touchpad, the expansion options, inclusion of Office, and other benefits of Surface for RT.  Then he jumps the shark with mention of the Kindle.  Say what?  Kindle and Nook are different classes of device.  I wouldn’t compare either with Surface or iPad directly.  Excellent points by @manan on Twitter show how iPad ends up more expensive for less.

Then he follows with other specious arguments as to why Surface will fail:

  • “Microsoft is only selling Surface at it’s stores” – So? They do have an online presence as well.  Does he have access to marketing material that shows Surface will never be sold elsewhere?
  • “the battery life might be worse” – Might be.  So without hard data, we are going to make the assumption that because it’s Windows, it must suck.  Brilliant argument.  I could say that Surface for RT will have better battery life than iOS, and the statement would be just as accurate.  But reasonable people would wait for hard data.
  • “it has a kickstand” – Yeah, it does.  Not seeing how the kickstand will drive the product to fail.  Oh, because Apple hasn’t put one on the iPad, so therefore consumers and businesses have no use for it?  That must be it.
  • “consumers don’t think of Microsoft as a great, hip, cool brand” – Years ago, true.  Now?  Given much of the Surface and WP8 coverage, and the success of the Xbox brand, the tide appears to be shifting.
  • “the Zune” – Xbox 360.  Point?
  • “a keyboard almost no one has used” – never mind that the hardware, drivers, and OS may not be final.  Apparently we should just assume the keyboard will suck.  Again, why wait to actually try it?

After all that, he misses the point on Microsoft and their hardware partners.  Microsoft doesn’t have to take down the iPad by itself.  Partners were going to build Windows 8 tablets anyway.  Microsoft is leading the way in producing a Windows tablet that consumers and businesses might actually want, setting the bar higher than it likely would have been without Surface in the market.

Points that he completely and utterly fails to address include Surface for Windows 8 Pro (i.e. Intel Surface), and business demand for manageable Windows based tablets.  In fact, he never once made a distinction between Surface for Windows RT and Surface for Windows Pro.

One thing he finally gets right, is at the end of the post: “That’s a lot of ifs.”  Yeah, it is. Yet, I’m not going to declare it as fact that Surface will succeed or fail, like some other people.  It looks nice.  I’d like to see it success, as I’d like more real tablet competition in the market.  Frankly, it may not even matter if Surface moves a huge number of units, as long as this swift kick in the rear of hardware vendors such as Asus, Acer, HP, Dell, and others prompts them to produce some desirable, unique hardware at good prices.

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