Sometimes I see a headline akin to “Microsoft is cool again” and wonder if that could really be true. Then I think about how Windows 8/Windows Phone 8/Surface advertising has replaced campaign ads as the reason I need to fast forward my DVR. (Though I like the ads, I get bored after seeing any one ad a couple of times.) But I’m always wondering, is this for real? Are the ads and other promotion activities (and yes, courting bloggers and reporters is a promotion activity) reaching the general public? Yesterday I had another experience that made me believe Microsoft is breaking through.
My wife and I were having lunch when the teenage waiter came by and (noticing our phones and tablets) said “How cute, she is all Apple and you are all Microsoft”. Now the fact that he even knew what my phone (Nokia Lumia 900) was and, likely having caught a glimpse of the Start screen, knew I had a Windows 8 tablet of some kind, is a huge victory for Microsoft. And Nokia by the way, since their iconic Lumia look must be sinking in. Of course it gets better.
The next thing out of his mouth was “Is that the new Surface?” followed by “How do you like it?”. Now as any early adopter of the Kindle or iPad knows, that very question is how the steam rollers that became those product families began. We early adopters told people how we loved the devices, and they went from interested to the next generation of buyers. And this kid is aware of and interested in the Surface. Another point to Microsoft.
I was using the Surface in full-on tablet mode, the Touch Cover folded behind the device. Seeing his interest I flipped the cover around and opened the stand so he could see the Surface in its most unique glory. He looked like he was going to wet himself. Give Microsoft another point.
Having a teenager recognize and be interested in their products is an amazing step forward for Microsoft. The demographic cliff they face is that the under 30 crowd is distinctly Apple-centric. Not only are they buying consumer products from Apple, but as they enter the workforce and then become its leaders they are bringing their technology preferences with them. This is a key reason Microsoft can’t simply follow the advice of many pundits and drop its attempts to court consumers in favor of focusing exclusively on enterprise customers.
But for me the best was yet to come. You see, I was in for quite a shock.
My iPad-loving wife pointed at my Surface, then at her iPad, and said “That is more useful than this“.
I was in shock because I’ve made minimal effort to interest my wife in the Surface. Of course I rubbed the Touch Cover and built-in hinge in when I first got the Surface. But otherwise I see no point, since she’s one of those people who hates to buy new technology before her current technology is obsolete. That iPad is probably with us at least another year, unless she decides to test the Gorilla Glass by handing it to an actual Gorilla.
My wife’s comment about the Surface is simply the result of observing me using it. Of seeing me easily complete tasks with the Surface that she finds tedious on her iPad. She apparently hasn’t noticed that most of the apps on the Surface are less mature than the versions she uses on the iPad. Or if she has, she expects (as I do) that it is a situation that will correct itself in reasonably short order. What her observation suggests is that Microsoft’s design center for the Surface (and of course Windows 8) resonates with the public, even the iPad loving public. Give Microsoft another point.
Sure this evidence is of the limited anecdotal variety, though it builds on and supports my earlier experiences. It doesn’t mean that Windows 8 tablets, or the Surface specifically, are going to succeed. It just suggests that Microsoft is getting through to consumers and striking a nerve with its new product offerings. And that is something they absolutely had to do to have a chance of succeeding.