How Microsoft Killed The Surface

More from the gang that can't shoot straight – Black Friday Sales at Microsoft will feature the Surface RT at $199 as executives drop hints about dropping RT from Windows

Microsoft Surface is the gang that couldn't shoot straight of tablet marketing (illustration MGM Pictures)

Watching the Microsoft Surface team in action reminds me of the crazy comedy called "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" only in this version its about a product launch that never gets going and then fizzles out.

The death final scene for the Microsoft Surface RT is being played out right now in stores across the nation as Microsoft tries to flog the failed Surface RT reminding consumers that the Surface is a bad choice and will soon be abandoned.

During the hot selling season between Thanksgiving and Christmas when people buy consumer electronics on whim and instinct, the Executive Vice-President of the Surface group at Microsoft, Julie Larson-Green said she is planning on getting rid of Windows RT version used by the Surface RT and Surface 2.  She should be packing her bags with Steve Ballmer.

The Surface RT and Surface 2 are not bad tablets. They use a RISC or ARM processor that means they don't run Windows 8.  Apple uses ARM chips in the iPhone and iPad products and has great success. So does everyone else making smartphones and tablets from Samsung to Nokia.  I like the Surface 2 and consider it my top candidate his Christmas, that is until Larson-Green told me I was making a mistake.  Holiday Tablet Gift Guide – Microsoft Surface 2

Customers need apps designed for those ARM processors and at first Microsoft was behind the 8-ball without many apps. Somebody on the Surface team should have figured that out and spent some of the $900 million written off this summer on the Surface convincing developers to port the most popular apps to the Surface RT before it launched last year. That would have taken planning, like stocking up on bullets before a bank robbery.

Windows Surface RT going away soon at $199 to be followed by the almost awesome Surface 2

This year Microsoft knew it had a dog with the Surface RT so it wrote off $900 of inventory. They tried clearing out the Surface RT at $199 to schools and educators during the summer when they are not at work.

Did Microsoft offer a discount to the public?

On July 19, 2013 I wrote Microsoft Should Discount Surface RT to $199.  With typical chutzpah, I emailed a copy of my column to Microsoft marketing executives.

Microsoft held off on clearing out the RT stink bomb until the first day of the holiday shopping season, November 29 when you can pick up a Surface RT for $199. So instead of the new Surface 2 (RT) selling at hotcakes with a free keyboard for $449 during the Black Friday sales, shoppers will be staring at a very cheap competitor that looks almost the same.

That marketing strategy works if your last year's model was popular like the Apple iPad 2. Customers love the iPad and have no hesitation buying any model.  Staples will be selling the iPad 2 for $299 and it has more than 5 times the number of apps compared with the Surface RT.

Killing the RT line

Julie Larsen-Green Microsoft VP in charge of the Surface will kill it (Computerworld illustration)

All the trade press and blogs are reporting the gaffe by Larson-Green.

Speaking at the UBS Global Technology conference Larson-Green telegraphed the end of RT when she said "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three."

"We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path."  Windows 8, Windows Phone and Windows RT: one faces the chop,

"Most journalists are taking this to mean that Windows RT is at the end of its short and pitiful life," wrote Extremetech.com

ComputerWorld titled the story  Microsoft to kill Windows Phone and Windows RT?

In another ComputerWorld story, Windows watched Preston Gralla predicted "Windows RT will die. There's no doubt now that it's in the cards. Most likely, there will be one Windows to rule them all. And that means based on full-blown Windows, not half-baked Windows RT. There's a chance that Microsoft could reduce the number of Windows operating systems to two. But in that case as well Windows RT is the odd man out. Windows RT will be missed by no one the market has already voted. "

So get your cheap Surface RT before Christmas and your even cheaper Surface 2 soon afterwards.

Only a company as big and cash rich as Microsoft can afford to make so many expensive marketing mistakes.

By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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