Dear Microsoft, is everything OK in Redmond?


Hello Microsoft, I hear you have announced that on the 20th of June 2014 you’ll release a new version of your tablet device, the Surface Pro 3.

At first I thought those auto-completed search results were generated by fanboys looking ahead into 2015. It couldn’t be true, and it didn’t make sense I thought. Because the last Surface just came out a few months ago. But then I searched myself and found it was true. Press Release and everything. Microsoft are serious about it.

Confused I read a “preview review”: Surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter (both in weight and colour), it’s faster and it’s even cheaper than the previous model. It also no longer features Wacom digitizer technology. Instead it has some other non-brand thing built in that makes touch input less accurate, but makes for more natural handwriting from what I understand. You probably know this better than I do.

What I couldn’t quite understand is why? Why replace a solid device so soon after it’s been released?

By my count that gives the Surface Pro an 8 month release cycle!

Correct me if I’m wrong here: The original Surface came out in October 2012, followed by the Surface Pro in February 2013. Later that year we saw the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 in June 2013. That was already shocking, but I guess we all thought, “oh great, they’re serious about this – and they’re just getting started”.

Now in June 2014 we’ll get the Surface Pro 3. Really?

This reminds me of my experience with the first HTC Mobile Devices in the early naughties. The whole Orange SPV disaster, the Compaq handhelds, the O2 “thing”. You remember? The really really bad ones that never worked. HTC would never fix or address hardware issues with software patches – they just released new devices every couple of months. You couldn’t really use these things, and I’m not sure if we were supposed to either. They were all just beta prototypes that should have never been mass produced.

And I can’t help but feel that way with the Surfaces now. What’s weird is though that – unlike anything HTC has ever produced between 1995 and 2010 – the original Surface Pro was already a very good device. Granted, you were a little late to the whole Tablet Party, but making up for it by flooding your own portfolio with “new versions” twice a year isn’t going to make up for it.

I even feel reminded of companies that have learnt that without a “fire sale”, there is no sale at all. You know? Those weekly newsletters telling you that everything is 50% off. Every week. Forever. But it only lasts until the end of this week.

What I hear is not “thanks for investing in our product”, but instead “what you bought last week sucks – you should buy our NEW product, which sucks less”. Very much like the washing powder adverts: “THIS version of Persil/Tide/Ariel REALLY makes your clothes bright”. Wait… you said that about the last one – were you lying to me then? And are you perhaps lying to me now?

Here’s my question: Where is this all going? Where is Microsoft going? Will we see both Surface Pro 4 and 5 in 2015? Or shall we just rename them into Surface Pro, followed by the month and year? Much like Apple identify their computers already.

I’m just a little worried, that’s all – and I thought I’d check in with you.

While we’re having this little chat, I’m also concerned about Windows. Remember? The thing that made you great when you had someone like Bill Gates call the shots? Remember him? The guy who could actually write the code you’re still maintaining today?

I’m running Windows 8.1 on my (original) Surface Pro, and it’s doing a good job. Mostly. But I also use Windows 7 in a virtual machine, and on another Samsung Laptop. I don’t see a reason to update to Windows 8.1 – but I must admit that it frazzles my brain to use so many different types of interfaces. So I seriously looked into it.

A quick search on Amazon tells me that it would cost me just under $100 per machine to upgrade to Windows 8.1. And quite frankly – here’s the thing: I just will not spend that kind of money. No way. At all. Not in a million years. Why would I? It’s not like I’m getting drastically new features – and Windows 7 is still supported too. For Twenty Bucks we can talk – but $100? You could buy a used car for that in the late sixties!

You see, if I think like this – Mr. Doesntmatter from Nowhere, FL – imagine what happens on a larger scale with the rest of your (former) customers. Tim Cook was kind enough to show us a (perhaps slightly colourful) pie chart of the Windows User Base at WWDC last week – and it looked like this:


Maybe you should re-evaluate if selling more devices is going to fix this problem, or if perhaps a small price reduction in your operating system could do the trick.

It really depends on what you want to do, where you want to go today – and where you see yourself tomorrow: would you like users to install Windows 8.1 and benefit from your own App Store Revenue? Or make new devices every 8 months and hope we all spend $2000 per year upgrading to those? Are you more interested in personal or business customers? Or are you still thinking about it?

Well let us know when you’ve figured it out. Until then, I’ll stick with my Surface Pro 1 and Windows 7 on those old laptops.

And of course my 6 iOS devices and the 3yr old Mac hardware – which runs the latest OS X for free.

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