When the iPad was first released a lot of people, myself included, asked who was going to pay $600 for a large phone. Well we know the answer now. But let’s remember at the time there were no alternatives. For that price you could get a garbage notebook or a heavy laptop, but none of them even competed on battery life. So none of them were competing in the all day tablet space. So I could preach all day about how a $600 web browser was crazy but you either paid that or you were not getting a tablet.
Since then a lot more ARM tablets have dropped. The Kindle, Nexus, Note, etc are all players in this space now and compete at a range of price points and sizes. But whether you are using an Android device or iPad they share a similar fate – they’re still large web browsers. Well fine you can Facebook with them too and play some casual games but let’s be real – none of them replace a PC. They’re generally too small and lack too many productive features (ok, they lack Office and if you don’t know why you need that, read this). So in came Windows RT and it was nice but lacked mass appeal and was somewhat slow in use relative to the leaders. Now we’re on a second wave of Surfaces and they feel overpriced…but maybe they’re not.
See, there’s finally a market shift underway and within a month we’ll have Windows 8.1 available and Haswells shipping with general availability (as well as Bay Trail). This starts a new phase for the tablet industry. For the first time, at the $600 price point (and even below) you can choose between an ARM tablet and a full PC and if you take the PC route then you aren’t giving up anything – you will get an all day battery, slim form factor and finally productivity. So now you have the option at buying an oversized iPhone or buying a portable PC and if you go PC, then instead of compromising you get the benefits of a PC with support for USB, Flash, full Office and all the desktop apps you have been using for years.
In fact looking at the ARM tablets you finally can see why the Surface 2 is "cheap". See, we view it as overpriced because we compare it to a PC but we don’t do that to an iPad. That’s where Microsoft’s ads have been hitting home. So yes, a $450 ARM based Surface is expensive relative to a $450 Windows convertible, but it is cheap relative to a Note (at $550) or iPad. In fact if someone tells me they want an iPad for business use, I can finally suggest they get a Surface 2 for productivity. But I’ll always be thinking about all of the new Haswell tablets and convertibles.
This is a huge market shift. Microsoft finally released the platform they promised and Intel delivered on the chip. It is their game to lose at this point. Let’s see what they actually get out the door now.