WASHINGTON – The initial buzz around Surface — Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iPad — is not the stuff tech legends are made of.
“Surface is a mess,” said David Morgenstern, technology writer for online trade magazine ZDnet.com. “For all the years that Microsoft had to manage this transition, the Surface machines and OS don’t have all the little bits and pieces nailed down and polished. It’s all very first generation.”
“Black Friday”, the day after the USThanksgiving holiday, often serves as a sales bonanza for the hottest new IT devices has gone, however, so far the Surface appears to be sticking to store shelves, industry experts say.
Microsoft is not yet divulging sales data for its new product and analysts caution that it is still too early to say whether the software giant’s big foray into touchscreen hardware is on the ropes.
But anecdotal information suggests that while consumers have shown some interest in the Surface, that “interest was not necessarily leading to sales”, said Trip Chowdhry, analyst with Global Equities Research.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a French newspaper that Surface sales were off to a “modest start”, a choice of words followed quickly by a two percent drop in Microsoft shares – and a swift damage control scramble by the company’s public relations teams.
One bit of anecdotal evidence widely reported by US tech blogs was a report from researchers with the investment firm Piper Jaffray who monitored foot traffic – literally the numbers of people entering and exiting – at one Microsoft retail store in the sprawling Mall of America in the US state of Minnesota.
According to that report, there was 47 per cent less customer traffic at the Microsoft store than at the Apple outlet situated directly across the hall.
Reviews of the Surface have been mixed so far. While critics praise the look and the design, they were less than thrilled about the software, functionality, and the retail price starting at $500.
Another gripe is the Window’s app store that has only a fraction of the applications unlike Apple’s App Store that has millions of them. Notably missing are applications for popular social networks Facebook and Twitter.
But the Redmond-based Microsoft has heavily invested in the Surface’s, launched an aggressive marketing campaign that reportedly cost more than $1 billion to generate positive, youthful mojo and prepare the ground for early sales.
And while Microsoft has resorted to pop-up stores, billboards, and splashy TV ads with big name US celebrities including actress Jessica Alba and singer Gwen Stefani, apparently even some of the firm’s hired big guns still prefer Apple products.
For instance, media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of the Surface raised eyebrows when she tweeted her love for Microsoft’s new tablet, from her iPad.
Still, tech experts point out that it has not yet been even one month since the Surface hit stores and say it is too early to discern the fate Microsoft’s latest creation.
“Microsoft still has a huge market share advantage in desktops and laptops: more than 93 per cent. Yes, it’s made mistakes in mobile computing and tablets. And perhaps again with its latest Windows release. But Microsoft isn’t going anywhere and its problems may turn around,” said Morgenstern in a blog post.
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