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Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet follows faithfully in the footsteps of failure

Brad Chacos | Sept. 25, 2013
Yes, the Surface 2 is a truly impressive hardware specimen. But as always, it's what's inside that counts.

The original version of Windows RT (and hence the Surface RT) had some glaring interface issues. The impending Windows RT 8.1 update found in the Surface 2 corrects most of those, but it can't address Windows RT's biggest problem: a lack of useful apps.


PHOTO: CAITLIN MCGARRY. That's a lot of useful apps, but the number of notable no-shows is just as impressive.

Panay tried painting a rosy picture of the Windows Store on Monday, declaring that Microsoft's platform now offers more than 100,000 apps.

Unfortunately, we examined the state of the Windows Store in depth when Microsoft first trumpeted its breaking the 100,000-app barrier in July, and while we found the game and streaming-video genres to be well represented, the rest of the ecosystem is woefully underdeveloped. That isn't such a big deal on Windows 8 devices, which can use traditional desktop apps, but it's a massive problem for Windows RT. Worse, some of the big-name apps promised at July's Build conference—most notably Facebook and Flipboard—have yet to appear in the Windows Store.

Yes, the Surface 2 will have some appeal to niche users who thirst for portable productivity, largely because it bundles the Office suite in a long-lasting package. But that alone won't win over the masses, as the failure of the first Surface RT proved—especially considering the next factor.

Shallow use, steep price
The Surface 2 is $450—a cost that represents a $50 discount off the original iteration, but still puts the tablet in the pricing stratosphere alongside the iPad.

surface
Adding insult to wallet injury, the $450 starting price for the Surface 2 doesn't even include a Touch Cover or Type Cover.

"Lowering that price by $50 certainly helps Microsoft, but I'm not sure it's enough to change buyer's minds," IDC analyst Tom Mainelli told Computerworld.

When PCWorld ran down the list of what we need to see in the Surface 2, a reduced price tag was the emphatic first item. Although there's no question that the Surface is beautifully designed, it simply doesn't have anywhere near the robust app ecosystem or basic value proposition of the iPad. Asking $450 for the Surface 2 is sheer madness, especially since that price doesn't even include the must-have Touch Cover or Type Cover so integral to the Surface experience. (The cost for a cover is an extra $120 or $130, respectively.) Great Android tablets, meanwhile, can be had for around $200.

"I understand Microsoft thinks they are making Surface 2 more valuable with Office RT and other interesting services, but they are in a market competing with $200 Android tablets and even the $329 iPad mini," Mainelli said.

 

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