Too Little Too Late?
As Microsoft enters the mobile hardware market with its first tablet, ‘surface’, my first thought is; ‘why are they here?’ At a glance there’s nothing wrong with their offer – it looks pretty cool (kind of like an iPad), the built-in kickstand and cover that doubles as a snap-on keyboard are smart and functional – but all of that misses the most important point. Apple owns the tablet category – full-stop, end of story. For most consumers the category is the iPad and every other offer is an iPad copy. I find myself questioning the size of the category available to the me-too brands. I believe a big chunk of the market is only available for Apple – there are ‘iPad buyers’ and then there are ‘tablet buyers’ and I know which of those horses I’d want to back.
This is a tough place to play for any brand wishing to forge their own position in the minds of the market. There’s a strong case to make that if you are a technology brand with a genuine desire to build long-term differentiated brand equity, the tablet horse has bolted and you should look elsewhere to make your mark. This is even more relevant for Microsoft. In the minds of the market, Apple stand for ‘technology that makes life cool’ (my consumer-centric summary of their brand promise not theirs), Microsoft still stands for ‘Software‘ – and even more specifically ‘Windows Software‘. A little while back we compared brand perceptions of Apple and Microsoft in an interesting post you can find here: Apple Vs Microsoft. Beyond the question of whether the consumer will see Microsoft as a relevant player in this space, the launch of their first, generic looking tablet so far after the mark, can only reinforce perceptions of the brand as a follower.
For mine, the race for supremacy in the tablet space is all but over, and Microsoft have done their brand little favor by jumping into the game in the fourth quarter.