So farewell then, Microsoft Surface RT. The last rites may be some way off, but we've seen the first clear signs that Microsoft's Surface RT, the firm's would-be iPad killer, is mortally wounded. We seem to be back to a duopoly, with tablet buyers facing a straight choice between Apple's iPad and lower-priced Android-based tablets.
(Actually, Microsoft will still technically have a horse in the tablet race even if the RT disappears; its Surface Pro sibling is a more popular option and shows no signs of distress. But that device offers more of a laptop/tablet hybrid experience.)
A one-two punch came last week, with Microsoft first announcing that it was slashing the price of the Surface RT by up to 30 percent, and then admitting that it had overestimated demand for the device so seriously that it had taken a $900m charge for "inventory adjustments". It's hard to see the Surface RT coming back from that, even though Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has made optimistic noises about a new model.
Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad: the key battles
As my colleague theMacalope pointed out gleefully this morning, certain tech journalists greeted the Surface RT's launch with joyous optimism, praising Microsoft for its strategic savvy and anticipating a ding-dong battle with Apple. And almost everyone agreed that the build quality was at least solid; Chris Martin on our sister site PC Advisor opined that the Surface RT "feels every bit a premium product when you take it out of the box. Attention to detail and build quality is reminiscent of Apple's iPad."
Nope, the problem wasn't the hardware. It was the software. I've written before about the importance of iOS itself to Apple's mobile strategy, but here we have another demonstration of the principle that while a beautiful device may convince a user to buy, a beautiful software platform can turn them into a lifelong supporter.
For a start, Microsoft's mobile software strategy was confusing, and confused. When Windows 8 was being developed, the message was that this was Microsoft's OS for tablets; if it was optimised for tablets, why did the company feel the need to create a cut-down version, Windows RT, for (part of) its tablet line-up? And that's without taking Windows Phone into account. Compare that to Apple iOS, a single (flexible) operating system for all of its mobile devices.
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