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BLOG: Wishful thinking won't reverse Microsoft's misfortune

Galen Gruman | Aug. 19, 2013
Microsoft advocates ignore new power of users in believing Surface tablet will improve with better marketing or in phantom update

Wishful thinking won't reverse Microsoft's misfortune
Credit: iStockphoto

I had an argument on Twitter this week with ZDnet's biggest Microsoft advocate, Ed Bott, as well as with U.K. tech journalist Mary Branscombe and a Windows 8 developer. The subject, more or less, involved the Microsoft Surface tablet -- you know, the tablet that is hard to use and almost no one is buying but because it comes from Microsoft and runs Windows, it gets taken seriously.

They were suggesting that a new version of the Surface reportedly under development at Microsoft will change the game, transforming this lame mutt into a winning greyhound. It's possible -- Microsoft has a history of doing a product wrong several times until it finally gets it right, such as Windows itself and, well, Windows. The truth is that its best products were good from the get-go; Word, Excel, and the Xbox come to mind. In any event, to count on a future version bringing a product back from the edge is dumb. Microsoft has had more products that didn't finally get it right than have.

As is typical on Twitter, the argument was sloppy and eventually devolved: With 140 characters, minus the handles in the replies, you can only make a blanket assertion or state a fact, not craft a coherent argument. But the pro-Surface arguments boiled down to "the next version will get it right," "it's actually good and some real marketing effort would reveal that truth to the world," and "if only a bunch of hardware makers sold Windows tablets." Never mind that Microsoft has spent several hundred million dollars marketing the Surface, to no effect, so the problem is not a failure of publicity. It had most PC makers creating Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets, too, but most have given up in (often public) frustration and disgust. Scratch that theory as well.

The truth is that both the Surface RT and Surface Pro are badly inferior products compared to iPads and the premium Android tablets, which also cost less. Users are being rational in picking the better products. Yes, there are tunnel-vision IT folks who want only to deal with Windows, so they keep hoping for Microsoft to pull a rabbit out of it tattered hat, but users rightfully ignore them. And there are fanboys who only see good in the companies they love. Love is indeed blind.

Passion for a product is great, but not when it blinds you. Bott and Branscombe are smart people, and I respect them. But it's also clear that Bott is blindly in love with Microsoft, so he can't see the world as it really is. (Branscombe's experience is broader, despite her current Microsoft infatuation.)


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