Are Product Marketers Changing Direction on Tablet Computers?

Anyone watching the webcast of Microsoft’s debut, late in May, 2014, of the Surface 3 Pro computer would think tablet consumers are really after more traditional computers, but with an enhanced set of features for mobile work. But this view isn’t consistent with the opinion of some analysts, at least up to now.

In a review of this new hardware device from Microsoft®, titled Microsoft Surface Pro 3: A Tablet That Desperately Wants to be a Laptop, which was written by Joanna Stern, and published on the Wall Street Journal website on May 27, 2014, Ms. Stern expresses her opinion on tablet computer product marketing. Pointing to the Apple iPad, she notes: “Microsoft is clearly going after its original vision of the tablet here (stylus and all), rather than Apple’s more limited—but more successful—approach”.

While her review does not include a clear statement about tablets, and why they should provide consumers with a superior electronic reading experience, and a great method of viewing movies, she does state: “You can’t hold the Surface Pro 3 for hours, reading in bed. Its weight and cumbersome size wear out your arm, and the back corners of the tablet can get quite warm.” So, perhaps it’s safe to surmise she’s content with the tablet benefits statement Panos Panay summed up at the Surface Pro 3 debut – tablets are great for reading ebooks and great for watching movies, but not much more.

But, if these are the sole benefits consumers realize from their tablet computer purchases, manufacturers should plan on selling fewer of them, going forward. Once again, anyone following IDC’s periodic forecast for global tablet sales will note a recent revision downwards: IDC Lowers Global Tablet Shipment Outlook by 5.9%.

Since there are few PC manufacturers who would be pleased about the future prospects of a progressively diminishing world wide market for hardware, like the IDC report on tablets presents, Microsoft’s product strategy for the Surface Pro 3 may make a lot of sense.

In fact, anyone reviewing the press releases coming out of Apple’s world wide Developers’ Conference, 2014, will note efforts to closer align Mac OS X Yosemite with the iOS experience, kind of like the Surface product strategy, but in reverse.

As to the remaining major player in the tablet O/S arena, Android, clearly Chrome is Chrome, is it not? Whether one consumes the Chrome computing experience on a Chromebook, or on a Nexus tablet, or even a Samsung smart phone (but Tizen may be just around the corner), the bottom line is still the same — a lot of Apps and a set of variants on the same browser (Chrome).

So, in my opinion, Tablet product marketers are looking for opportunities to win market share from laptops, and vice versa. If they cannot succeed in this effort, there really isn’t much of a future for them, unless they plan on going head-to-head with the television set.

Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft and do not have a position in either Google or Apple

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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