Is Microsoft’s Surface its Version of New Coke?

In 1985 the Coca Cola company attempted to introduce a new formula for its soft drink, dubbed “New Coke.” This introduction proved to be a product marketing disaster that ultimately resulted in the complete withdrawal of this product from the market by the manufacturer. It has only been days since the introduction of the Microsoft® Surface, but we are already getting the sense that we are likely watching a “new coke” in the making for Microsoft.

The reviews that we have read in the industry press publications — the online ZDNet Blogs, Computerworld, Network World, etc — have, at best expressed luke warm praise for the features of the product. At worst these reviews have focused on several points of uncertainty about the product; specifically, “why was a release date not announced?” “Does the product actually work (no one was allowed to touch the device)?” “What will be the retail price for the product?” But the most pressing uncertainty for all of these publications has been a pressing question: “How will OEMs and Channel Partners react to the direct sales plan for the product?”

We smell a new coke in the making as we grapple with how Microsoft should best answer this last question. Having spent the better part of the last year working extensively within the enterprise market for Microsoft SharePoint, (we are working directly with Rehmani Consulting Inc on their terrific set of video tutorials on SharePoint, which can be found on SharePoint-Videos dot com) speaking with lots of large end users in the private, public and not for profit sectors, we have noted the very deep interconnection of a highly complex partner/channel distribution strategy, and Microsoft’s own direct efforts, which has resulted in the remarkable ubiquity for SharePoint across almost any large enterprise that one can imagine.

The launch of a product with a radically different distribution strategy that is, nonetheless, more an important component of enterprise computing, than it is a consumer device, could prove to be a product marketing armageddon for Microsoft.

It is worth taking a moment to clarify this last point, whether Surface is as much a consumer device as it is a component of an enterprise computing strategy. We think the latter. This product is Microsoft’s answer to BYOD, which is to enter the market with its own product, and, therefore, this product is critically important as a hedge against further penetration of the BYOD market by either Google or Apple. Enterprise computing is a cash rich kingdom that is presently very much a Microsoft property. Losing control through a BYOD “back door” would be a shame.

If you agree with our take and would like to explore the product marketing challenges facing an enterprise computing offer that you are contemplating, then please contact us. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

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