Microsoft says it has no plans for a 7-inch Surface. Microsoft needs to develop such plans. The “mini” space, of course, was created not by Apple but by Asian companies selling Android-based tablets, and by Amazon.com.
Apple succeeds in part because it has “gateway drug” products that gradually lure people into the platform. The original was the iPod, which millions of Windows users enjoyed before eventually migrating to Macs.
A low-cost, small Surface tablet would be one such gateway drug to earn people’s loyalty to the Microsoft brand.
Although Microsoft’s “ClearType” sub-pixel rendering technology is nice, it’s no substitute for more pixels. We live in a visual online world now where pictures rules, and whichever tablet has the best visuals will be perceived as being the highest quality. Microsoft needs to at least match Apple’s pixel density and screen quality.
If Microsoft is to succeed with the Surface, it will probably come out with multiple sizes. If so, it needs to avoid the pitfalls of fragmentation, and make sure that developer efforts are rewarded by making sure their apps run natively and beautifully on all Surface models.
Apple’s approach to pricing appears to be: Set a price and stick with it. The cheapest full-size iPad has always been $499. They keep shipping newer and better and higher-resolution devices, and each one starts at the pre-set price.
Remember: Part of Microsoft’s goal here is to give the Windows RT world a high-end model to improve its image. Microsoft should stick to the current pricing for Surface, and let other companies sell cheaper ones.
Inevitably, Microsoft’s Surface tablet is going to have a rough start. But if Microsoft is good at anything, it’s championing a product or technology and sticking with it. And the Surface initiative needs a long-term strategy.
Microsoft did the right thing by not copying anything about the iPad. But Microsoft should definitely copy Apple in all these other ways.