Price Microsoft’s tablet Achilles’ heel

Acer W series tablet

Finally Apple has tablet competition.

Microsoft Windows 8 devices will soon appear. Based on what we’ve seen to date, they could challenge the iPad.

Microsoft’s success is by no means certain. The technology looks good, but Apple has already carved out all the easy sales and has a three-year lead in building up the support structures and networks needed to sustain a product like the iPad. Apple is also established as THE brand.

Bring your own iPad

Apple has keen prices. The iPad is cheap enough for most white-collar workers to afford to buy their own without too much hardship. Some companies buy them by the container load. Others have bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies which have seen their workers buy iPads by the container-load.

Many commentators fret that Microsoft and its partners won’t compete with Apple unless their devices are considerably lower than the iPad.

Ever met someone who aspires to own an Android tablet?

That’s certainly been the case with Android tablets. The Android tablet experience is distinctly inferior to using an iPad and yet the companies making those devices have asked customers to pay at least as much as the price of an iPad for similarly specified devices. No wonder they haven’t sold.

Windows tablets are different. While they can be fun and personal, they are more likely to be purchased as work tools where different price rules apply. Their ease of integration with Windows desktops and servers is important to business customers. So will be their ability to run Windows apps. Most of all, some Windows tablets will sell bundled with Microsoft Office.

Not just about price

So long as Microsoft doesn’t do something silly, price is not its biggest barrier. The main problem the company faces is the overwhelming power of Apple’s first-mover advantage. Even companies that are closely tied to Microsoft in the workplace and server rooms have deployed iPads and they will have noticed their infrastructures have not collapsed.

Microsoft will have to sell its tablet on its functionality and productivity benefits. If it can show Windows 8 helps people get things done quicker or better, businesses will open their cheque books. Customers will happily pay a premium if there’s a clear justification.

And anyway the price isn’t bad

Hat’s off to New Zealand’s own Paul Spain for getting a worldwide exclusive on Acer’s Windows 8 tablet pricing. Spain reports on his Tech Jungle site:

 Acer’s Iconia W510 Windows 8 tablet runs on a dual core Intel Atom and 64GB storage starts at NZ$999 incl tax (NZ$868+tax). A direct conversion would make this US$712 excluding tax.

In other words Acer’s Windows tablets cost as much as their Apple counterparts. That’s a start.

Fleet sales are crucial

While some people will choose a Windows 8 tablet, given a choice most will opt for an iPad. When companies give workers a budget to choose their own BYOD device, Apple will win most of the time. Companies that still keep control of buying the technology their workers use will be more likely to choose a Windows tablet. So fleet sales will be the crucial market for Microsoft.

Depending on the size of the deal, Microsoft and its partners can sharpen the pencil when selling large quantities of tablets. I guess these deals will include bundles of software and cloud services. You might see Microsoft give tablet customers extra SkyDrive storage.

Microsoft’s challenge will be to whip up a corp of enthusiasts to champion its tablets and then convince fleet buyers there’s more value embedded in their tablet than in a rival device.

7 thoughts on “Price Microsoft’s tablet Achilles’ heel

  1. I’m personally a bit of an Apple fanboy, but I’d have to disagree with the statement that Android tablets are inferior to iPads. Most of them are on the same level as an iPad performance wise and have more uses than the iPad because the operating system and store aren’t tightly locked down like Apple’s is.

    I personally use a Kindle Fire right now and it does everything I need it to. I read newspapers, magazines and books, watch movies (streaming through Amazon and Netflix), and play games. It’s also a nice device for browsing the web and even blogging. The Fire is of course limited with its special Android OS and hardware, but it’s not so bad.

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  2. All the Android tablets I’ve seen – and I admit that’s only a few – had serious user interface gaps and stutters. They never seem to work quite as expected. I’ve not seen the Kindle Fire, in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a new Android tablet in the last six months. Have they improved recently?

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    • Well yes you’re right if you mean the horrible Android tablets I see at JB Hifi. But the world has moved on from those dungers. I’ve had the new Google Nexus 7 tablet for a couple of weeks now and in that time I’ve barely touched my once-loved iPad 1.

      I love the seven inch factor. Much nicer for most non-work related activities, I think people are going to love the new smaller iPad that’s supposed to be coming.

      The Nexus’s Jellybean OS is a pleasure to use and it is fast and fluid. Totally walks all over my iPad in that respect. Of course I do have the slowest iPad.

      Perhaps the thing that’s the greatest improvement over the iPad is the keyboard. Just about any Android keyboard runs rings around the iPad, but with Swype, it is in another league. I’m now almost as fast and accurate as I am on my desktop keyboard.

      The only things I’m using the iPad for now are a music application called iRealTunes and a house design app. Oh – and Zite. The iOS version is far nicer.

      The Nexus isn’t available here yet, but I got it through a friend in the USA and my total cost including US sales tax and postage was just over NZ$300. I paid more than three times as much for my iPad.

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      • Admittedly I haven’t seen the latest Android tablets with the updated OS. And my iPad is the newer 2nd generation model, we also have a 3rd generation model. So I may be getting a different impression of these devices.

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  3. Pingback: Is price Microsoft's tablet Achilles' heel? | Bill Bennett - Monitor Urbano | Monitor Urbano

  4. As it has been since Moses invented the snorkel, the key is Office. I wonder if there is a gold statue of Daniel Petrie in the Redmond foyer ….

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  5. Pingback: How Apple keeps the bastards honest on tablet prices | Bill Bennett

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