Surface Pro or Surface No?

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor — February 14, 2013

For any new product to succeed, it has to fulfill two requirements: Is there a need? Does it adequately meet that need?

In its sixth attempt to penetrate the tablet market, Microsoft's Surface Pro became available on Feb. 9. The Windows 8 hybrid actually acts as both a notebook and a tablet, but will it become the next replacement for either device?

Some analysts say no.

Leslie Fiering, vice president in the Mobile and Client Computing Team at Gartner, said in a phone interview with Mobile Enterprise that the Surface Pro does appeal to a very strong requirement in the enterprise, that a device work as a tablet. The problem, she noted, is that the hybrid involves compromises.

"I don’t want to take away anything from the remarkable performance," she stressed, explaining that the Surface Pro has good engineering and is definitely speedy, with power for apps, and a snap-on keyboard. However, the 10.6 inch tablet is a little bigger and bulkier than current tablets. And the notebook screen is a little small for large spreadsheets or content creation, Fiering said.

In essence, it's almost a really good notebook, and almost a really good tablet, but there are trade-offs on both sides.

Still, with the different usage patterns prevalent today, there will be users willing to make the compromise. Some, of course, will find it fits the bill perfectly, but it's questionable whether it will meet the needs of the enterpise.
In fact, as a category, it is too early to early to distribute the hybrid as either mainstream notebook or tablet replacements, Fiering concluded.
Windows 7 Still Rules
Windows 7, launched in mid- 2009 and hailed as a success, sold more than 90 million copies in its first five months, maintaining desktop dominance for Microsoft. Will Windows 8, and the new Surface Pro hybrid, have the same stratospheric rise?

"No, very unlikely," said Bob O'Donnell, Program VP, Clients and Displays, IDC.
The challenge with Surface Pro, he said in a phone interview with Mobile Enterprise, is that a lot of people consider it a "tweener" — literally something between the tablet and notebook, and not good enough for either/or.

Besides that, the enterprise is just not interested in Windows 8, O'Donnell said, mostly because the new OS does not offer any serious or distinct advantages versus using Version 7. The costs involved, including user training and other complexity, makes it not worth the hassle, he explained.

A small percentage of businesses will move to Windows 8, however, just as they did with Vista, he continued. However, the real issue for 2013 is the migration to Windows 7. Yes, more than 40% of commercial enterprises are still running XP according to O'Donnell. "It's a much less sexy story, much less exciting," he said. "But it's much more relevant."

Demand or Illusion?
Both the 64 GB and 128 GB models of the Surface Pro were listed as out of stock on the Microsoft online store, shortly after the device went on sale.

“In its launch planning, Microsoft had to choose the lesser of two mobile device manufacturing evils. If it stocked too many in stores, Surface Pro would be perceived as selling poorly. If it stocked too few, Surface would sell out fast, and the press would pillory Microsoft for not making enough. Clearly, it chose the latter course," said Carl Howe, VP of Research, Yankee Group.

In the end, perception might not matter. The reality is, IT. departments are not eager to replace company-wide infrastructure that is currently considered more than adequate.


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