Surface Pro, Surface RT, Windows 8, Windows Phone – Confused Yet?

Windows, huh?

Windows, huh?

According to a CNET article, an IDC analyst states the Surface RT – Microsoft’s tablet/laptop – is too confusing to succeed like the Surface Pro might. There’s an interesting point made that sustains this viewpoint.

“Android scaled from smartphones to tablets. Apple scaled iOS from smartphones to tablets. But Microsoft decided to have a smartphone OS, then have Windows RT and Windows 8. I think the distinctions get lost on folks. I think they might be better served by putting more muscle behind Windows 8. Try to make that successful rather than trying to do three OSes.”

This is a very valid point, particularly when folks who already have a smartphone and tablet are used to this scaled approach created by Apple and Google. You pretty much have to be perfect at changing it and it seems the “three OSes” approach hasn’t been perfect. Even if you are educated at the limitations of Surface RT compared to the greater capabilities of Surface Pro, the limitations of the RT version are too much at too high a price point for too many people.

Perhaps if RT is made on smaller screens at a couple of hundred dollars less, it will be an easier sell – money still talks a lot. From a PR perspective, it’s difficult to promote the Surface RT over other options at such a price point. Then, toss in the confusion of three flavors of OSes across three platforms and it compounds the PR problem. One more point on this is made.

“I think the Pro is more interesting,” he said — despite its higher price and shorter battery life — because consumers understand the value inherent in Windows 8.

Clarity in a product is critical. The Surface RT was confusing to many consumers – in terms of capabilities – from the start. Introducing the Surface Pro just furthered confusion. Microsoft might be better off going after the high-end market with Pro alone and leave RT out of anything. Perhaps somehow Surface Pro – down the road – can be scaled down to a lower price point to enter that part of the tablet market. But, right now, Surface RT just causes unnecessary confusion and distraction from Surface Pro, which is seemingly already the more popular choice.

Ditch Surface RT. Publicly acknowledge RT was a mistake. Focus on Windows 8 for tablets and desktops. The use of RT may even be causing confusion for Windows 8 on desktops. I’m sure there are some consumers out there that believe it may be available on desktops too – and not desired. As for the smartphone, that’s a bit more complicated but, Microsoft would do better to at least have tighter integration between the smartphone OS and Surface Pro and Windows 8 desktops. All your desktop data – from Outlook to music, photos and files, should be easily accessible and easy to sync whether you’re on your Windows phone, tablet or desktop. And the accessibility and syncing should come from Microsoft software – not 3rd party apps – that keep it “one button” simple.

It’s all too confusing for too many consumers. Using PR to educate them – or technical support – is asking too much in a generation where simple is supreme. Start with a simple innovative product that allows for simplified PR. If you don’t then be prepared to change course.

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