Why Microsoft’s Surface utterly failed and Apple’s iPad succeeded wildly

“On Thursday Microsoft announced that it was taking a $900 million write-down to reflect unsold inventory of the Surface RT,” Nick Bilton writes for The New York Times. “That’s a stark comparison to Apple’s iPad, which continues to break record sales and has sold more than 100 million devices.”

“So why is one still succeeding while the other has failed? I have a theory,” Bilton writes. “When Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, announced the Surface tablets last year, he stood on stage and touted a number of new and exciting features to try to separate the company’s offerings from the iPad. Among the new gizmos were additional ports, a USB drive, a microSD memory card slot, the ability to use a pen and a built-in flip-up stand. Just thinking about all those options is enough to make your head spin.”

Bilton writes, “Today’s consumers don’t want options. They are impatient. They want to tear their new shiny gadget from the box and immediately start using it. They don’t have time to think about SD cards or USB drives or pens or flip stands. The surface RT didn’t allow that. Customers had to think about it.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Steve Ballmer, big dummyAs we wrote last October:

That dumbass kickstand is yet another ill-considered, misguided, corporate committee-driven “differentiation” squirted out of Microsoft’s back door unbidden onto the public.

Microsoft is staffed with stupid and/or lazy people. There’s no other explanation besides crippling narcissism – which is a very real possibility. Most people use iPads while lounging around. All Microsoft’s Surface “team” had to do was buy some real iPads and use them for a few weeks. Steve Jobs himself even demonstrated the iPad while reclining in a comfy leather chair, not sitting upright at a friggin’ desk. Microsoft was shown the way and, once again, they failed to properly follow Apple’s lead. By now, that’s just stupid and/or lazy.

Microsoft suffers from delusions of grandeur. They think they matter and that people will buy their pretend iPad over other pretend iPads because it’s from Microsoft. Microsoft does not matter. Microsoft no longer has the power to sell superfluous products. The world already has iPad. The thinking world finally woke up and moved on from Microsoft’s soul-sapping dreck. That clueless Microsoft haven’t figured this out years ago (Zune, Kin, how many total face-plants do they need?) is illustrative of the depths of their delusions.

As with Zune, Kin, and Surface, Microsoft is unnecessary in today’s world. Their rapidly retiring/expiring IT Doofus firewall is the only thing keeping them around today.

And that’s not going to last much longer, either:
Gartner: By 2014, Apple will be as accepted by enterprise IT as Microsoft is today – February 4, 2013

Related articles:
Microsoft massively discounts anemic-selling Surface RT tablets to schools worldwide – June 18, 2013
Microsoft gives away 10,000 Surface RT tablets at education conference – June 17, 2013
Microsoft’s Surface tablets said to fall far short of predictions – March 15, 2013
Analyst: Microsoft’s Surface RT on track to join Zune and Kin in the great consumer electronics discount rack in the sky – March 13, 2013
Microsoft’s ‘Surface Pro’ tablet slammed by negative reviews – February 7, 2013
9 out of 10 businesses support Apple iPhones and iPads – February 6, 2013
Apple’s iPad dominates tablets with 81% Web usage share; Amazon Kindle Fire distant 2nd with 7.7% – February 6, 2013
The Verge reviews Microsoft’s Surface Pro: Too big, too fat, frustratingly poor battery life; it just feels limiting – February 6, 2013
Microsoft’s Windows RT: Circling the bowl – February 5, 2013
Windows 8 bloat: Microsoft’s 64GB Surface Pro will offer users only 23GB of available storage space – January 29, 2013
Microsoft doesn’t reveal Surface sales, and probably never will – January 24, 2013
Microsoft blames PC makers for Windows 8 flop – January 24, 2013
Fujitsu President: Weak demand for Microsoft’s Windows 8 killing PC Sales – December 28, 2012
Philip Greenspun: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is a Christmas gift for someone you hate – December 7, 2012
MKM Partners cuts Microsoft price target, estimates on lower than expected Surface, Windows 8 sales – December 5, 2012
Why Microsoft’s Surface tablet is doomed – December 5, 2012
App developers shun Microsoft’s Surface tablet – December 4, 2012
Microsoft Surface Pro to offer only half the battery life of Apple’s latest iPad with Retina display – November 30, 2012
Microsoft’s Surface Pro iPad killer to start at $899 – November 29, 2012
Microsoft’s Surface tablet flops, orders reportedly cut in half – November 29, 2012
TechCrunch’s Siegler reviews Microsoft Surface RT: ‘It’s time for a drop test – right into the garbage can’ – November 19, 2012
Slate reviews Microsoft’s Surface tablet: Too slow, mercilessly buggy; why is it so bad? – November 6, 2012
InfoWorld reviews Microsoft Surface RT: A disappointment; you’re better off with Apple’s iPad – October 31, 2012
Gizmodo reviews Microsoft Surface RT: Do not buy; inferior to Apple’s iPad; the worst of both worlds – October 25, 2012
The Verge reviews Microsoft Surface RT tablet: ‘The whole thing is honestly perplexing; who is this for?’ – October 24, 2012
ZDNet’s Kingsley-Hughes: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is an awful, horrible, painful design disaster – June 8, 2012
Analyst meets with big computer maker, finds ‘general lack of enthusiasm’ for Windows 8 – June 8, 2012
Dvorak: Windows 8 an unmitigated disaster; unusable and annoying; it makes your teeth itch – June 3, 2012
The Guardian: Microsoft’s Windows 8 is confusing as hell; an appalling user experience – March 5, 2012
More good news for Apple: Microsoft previews Windows 8 (with video) – June 1, 2011


    1. I don’t think they’ve figured that out at all. I’m sure there are several meetings taking place in Redmond today to show people a better way to polish turds!

    2. You cant polish a turd but you can sprinkle glitter on it.

      No, RT 32GB is actually a 16GB of useable real estate so you cant compare them on price. The only way MS was going to break through was to sell the thing at a serious loss and include a fully featured mobile version of Office. Is it better to write down $900m of inventory or give it away as subsidy to adopters? MS have the same issue with their phone OS and Nokia are in danger of joining them down the same plug hole because their pockets arent that deep.

  1. I think it has more to do with the OS.

    iPad offers and expanded version of iOS, a large display for a mobile operating system; whereas Surface RT offers a watered down version of Windows 8, a desktop operating system on a very small screen.

    iPad is the biggest and best way to experience iOS, while Surface RT is a cramped and offers little value in the Windows experience.

    1. Exactly. I laughed at the opening when was saying the iPad is a consumption device but the surface is a creation device. Couldn’t help but think I have no interest in creating anything on a device of that size and a bigger tablet is pointless, desktops are for creating, tablets are for the couch.

      1. well i agree to a point,
        but iPad can be used for creation, it doesn’t have the robust pro level space or power to do creation like a desktop – yet creation is very possible and very useful on iPad.

        iPad mini seems fine too and better suited for travel… so yes, the iPad seems the home computer comfort in every room – roaming freely without wires – does the family the job needed – tie it to a airplay Apple TV – enabled tv and share the family highlights and fun.

    2. it’s also the confusion of SurfaceRT versus SurfacePro. SurfaceRT has lack of apps and SurfacePro has lack of battery life.

      And both suffer from a 16:9 mentality, which is exactly the wrong aspect ratio for a big tablet (it’s okay for tiny glorified ebook readers)

  2. The Surface RT was a Windows 8 tablet, except that it really didn’t really run Windows. The pen and the kickstand might have detracted from the value, but the reason it failed was that Microsoft chose to lead its entry into tablet computing with a disingenuous product.

      1. I have to congratulate MS for at least trying:

        – to think complexity would appeal to people
        – to think a touch interface combined with the old environment of windows would be exciting
        – to believe, living moving tiles as a start/home page benefited users
        – though all this was not radicle thinking or truly innovating from the ground up, as Apple did, it was a great attempt by MS.

    1. I was in the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu last Monday: the customers outnumbered the Apple people about 2 to 1; the MS people outnumbered the customers about 2 to 1. Other than that, the stores looked quite similar. Hm…

      1. yes – similar in layout too, Microsoft has no class, and they don’t know how to leave customers alone to ticker and play with the merchandise first – then wait until customers ask for help. They jump in and want to show everything and try to cover the confusion.

  3. Kickstand and MicroSD were not the reasons the Surface failed. Most people would LOVE to have those features on the iPad instead of paying $100 for $10 (16GB) or $200 for $40 (48GB) of storage.

    Kickstand keyboard with trackpad is also better than flimsy Smart Cover.

    The real problem was calling it “Windows RT”, which drew attention to what it was not (real Windows), not giving a free Office app at the start and not marketing great 3rd party apps.

    They really needed to give away the farm and market the heck out of the business advantages.

    That still may not have been enough given how much people love their iPads.

    1. Yes of course because the quality of the cheap MicroDS is the same as the memory Apple uses in their devices, Heck even Google isn’t supporting MicroSD anymore. The new Nexus 7 won’t come with it.

    2. I will admit this, the Surface seems to be built rather well.
      Lets be fair here, the kick stand is metal and supports the device rather quite good – its not a piece of crap.
      The device is solid. The quality is good. The OS sucks. Metro has some nice features however it is built on the prior OS. And is far too complicated for the average user. And lacks power for the pro user.

      I would not buy one, merely for the reason it is still Windows. And it is proven that a simple OS like Apples iOS can do fantastic things without all the complication.

      Microsofts’ FAILURE helps Apple realize that people do not need a combination OSX and iOS system. Say on a a iPad Pro. It seems this may never happen. As iOS gets cleansed and changed it starts looking like OSX remains the look and feel it always was. This might be a great blessing after all for Apple. Microsoft lesson can be useful for Apple.

      1. I own a Surface Pro. Needed it for my business because I have an app that runs only on Windows (x86). The Surface Pro (not RT) isn’t a bad ultralight Windows machine at all (well, other than Windows 8 which is a crock…).

        I actually find the kickstand to be a rather nice feature of the device. Not sure I’d want it on the iPad, as the thickness it would add (which is irrelevant for the mondo-thick SP) wouldn’t be worth it.

        The SP (and, I assume RT) does have its share of (real) problems to complain about (not Apple fanboi generated problems). First of all, the “type cover” (the one with real keys that you can really type on) is total crap. The keys keep falling off and you need to get a cover to protect the cover. The application that I use doesn’t require typing; I would have been much better off with the touch cover (membrane keyboard). I also don’t like that the keyboard has to make an electrical connection to the SP to work (why not use Bluetooth like everyone else?).

        Second, they have no realistic way to store the stylus away. When I first got it and saw how it attached to the SP magnetically, my first though was “We should start a pool to determine how long it will be before the stylus winds up missing.” Sure enough, on the 3rd outing it was gone; $29.95 to buy a new one (which will get lost again). Ouch!

        Say what you will about the USB port and how it’s not needed. Let me tell you that being able to plug in a mouse to the USB port saved my butt when the stylus was lost and I had a show to do.

        The thing is heavier than an iPad and much thicker. But the screen is great (mostly viewable in sunlight, which is important for my application).

        I’d never get one for use as a “tablet”; but it does make a good small Windows machine for those who need one.

        1. ah come on, people have a right to express their opinions john

          as i said, Apple benefits from Microsofts attempt at entering the market and failing.

          I love my iPad and I don’t need anyone to pay me to say it

    3. ok rob,
      you hit it on the head of the nail with,
      “people love their iPads”

      why, because of its simplicity – any age can use it
      it does what it was made to do – people love the simplicity most

  4. Perhaps it’s because many many consumers are just flat out tired and frustrated with Windows. IT folks still more or less have to buy into Windows (it’s all they’ve ever known) to keep their paychecks coming, so that’s propping up Windows sales. When the consumer is making the decisions they see something new and easy to use and go for it.

  5. I will tell you why:

    Apple produced the most simplest OS ever for a child of the age 2 to be able to use to some degree… POINTING is the most natural command. POINTING with our own fingers is magic compared to pointing with a virtual arrow and a tool to interface with. Yet Apples simplicity also extended to the older people who never used a computer also. Age 90 still able to function perfectly using and iPad.

    Windows FAILS because it is OVERLY complicated.

    Apple distilled the design and process and user interface down as ONE would in any design situation. Starting from SCRATCH and providing a better experience for the masses.

    And the fact that Apple did it first was why they succeeded. The right solution at the right time even thought there was a serious clone from Android… Apple has won this simply because it appeals to the masses based on SIMPLICITY.

    I fear iOS7 may become more complicated.

    1. You are exactly right. consumers want simplicity. businesses want productivity.
      Business have adopted the iPad because they found ways to combine productivity with simplicity with it.

    2. Good points (!!) DDD.

      My only quibble is that Apple did not do it first.
      Microsoft had their doddering, kludgy, stylus-pads out for a decade before Apple released the iPad.

      Apple didn’t produce the first tablet. Apple produced the correct Tablet.

      1. Ah but there was Newton and IBMs smartphone before Microsoft tablet.

        Even the Palm tried to simplify – however Apple made it all happen far more smoothly… see Apple studies the landscape first and sees where to stick handle the puck to the goal.

        It doesn’t really matter who made what first really, but Apples First was the UI input with the Natural index finger on a multi-touch screen that was mass produceable — no matter how advance the MS Surface was or pen computing – it was not intended for the masses.

        You know how beautiful the iPad is when it looks so innocent and simple – no keyboard, no ports or switches.
        It doesn’t intimidate — it invites !!!!

        Its all about who made WHAT WORK SIMPLER for the masses to love.

        This will be the same reason why Android fails. The masses just want it to work. And work well without complication and work with a high level of reliability and security.

        iPad. iPad mini. iPhone. iTouch.

        the “i” is no longer internet but you me and her oh and him too.

        us is the “i” — can i say that? oops I just did.

  6. Or how about the most obvious answer, it was a piece of crap, confusing and difficult to operate. Whereas the iPad was a delight to operate.
    It is amazing that again and again for at least a dozen years they keep attempting (different iterations) to force feed consumers “windows on a tablet” and consumers have rebuffed them every time (because it is a piece of crap)
    Will they ever figure it out?

  7. The ZunePad RT was supposed to be the iPad killer because it came with Microsoft Office Suite, the software package all consumers need to get anything useful done.

    1. the world Needs to learn Office Suite is no longer the best choice or only choice to do business or useful things.

      the best applications iPhoto, iMovie, Numbers, Keynotes, Pages — all on the desktop, laptop and iDevices — and now in iCloud… Apple offers an unbelievable SUITE that is eradicating MS Office and Google Docs online.

  8. Wow. Surface failed. Windows 8 failed. Windows phone failed. XBOne failed to impress before the backtrack and still isn’t anticipated as much as PS4, but a killer title could change that (ref. Halo in 2001). Where do they go from here ? Further down the toilet bowl ?

  9. The Surface RT is a heavy, thick, power hungry, memory-starved device priced at or above iPad prices which has very little for apps and a screen format which is not as useful. It’s a pretty simple decision for consumers.

  10. Ok, so many angles this guy could be corrected. No time to do so. But, let us compare this dizzying array of options, USB, SD Card, kick stand…. Well, that was simple and yet not dizzy. Yet, fire up the OS for the Windows RT and speak of getting dizzy. All those flipping tiles, info changing, scrolling, and application menus with tabs. This is where the baby was thrown out with the water. The whole concept was to blend the complexity of a desktop with the simplicity of the iPad. Well, the hybrid is the problem. Not a USB or SD Card. If the Microsoft customer is confused by those options; I would venture to guest the OS was the knock out blow.

    Give credit to the customer for having the ability to choose a reliable, easy to use, and product product. Not belittling consumers and maybe a little retrospective on this theory may prove to be enlightening for the author.

  11. That article is totally wrong. Nick Bilton is literally saying that the Surface utterly failed because the Surface had an SD slot, USB port, the ability to use a pen, and kickstand, while the iPad succeeded wildly because it lacked all these things.


    Somehow the 3rd party touch pens, kickstand cases, camera connection kit, and wireless SD card readers, hard drive adapters, and all the other endless things that have built up the ecosystem haven’t bothered iPad users.

    The iPad succeeded because while it wasn’t first to market, it was best to market… by far. By the time Microsoft and others shifted strategies it was far to late. The iPad had a HUGE ecosystem with TONS of apps and accessories, while the Surface had a version of MS Office, and even that sucked compared to the Office compatible apps for the iPad.

    There were a bunch of other really bad decisions like releasing the RT instead of focusing on the Pro and catering to a smaller niche market that thought they wanted a “full PC on a tablet”.

    In addition to the bad decisions, there were other more user-subjective issues regarding the OS.

    1. I read the article differently.
      He isn’t saying that the Surface failed due to those extra “features”, and that the iPad succeeded because it didn’t have them.

      He was saying that MS got caught up in touting those features as the primary reason to get a Surface, and lost sight of what Apple stressed about the iPad: it is intuitive and easy to use.

      When someone primarily wants to visit web sites or check e-mail, MS has to spend time to explain why a pen or a kickstand are the primary reason to buy a Surface.

      1. Ya, I could see how it could be interpreted that way. I don’t think he’s entirely clear either way in the article. He does state: “Apple gets this, and limits options to connectivity, storage and black… or white. Maybe it’s time for Microsoft to do the same thing. It could even skip the black or white option.”

        So I do think he’s seriously suggesting not just no longer touting the options, but removing the options as a remedy moving forward.

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