Who is the Target Customer for Surface Windows 8 Pro?

The embargo lifted on Surface Windows 8 Pro or as I will call it, Surface Pro, reviews and out of the gate, most tech news sites had a “meh” conclusion. The device, they claimed, is neither a great tablet nor a great Ultrabook. Hence, their take away was that it is not a good device for either use case. A few sites mentioned that it is not for all, but for those who need such a device, it is a great one for them.

Who is the target customer for such a device? Is it a big enough market for Microsoft to pursue, or is it a niche that may explode in the future?

First, let’s remove the obvious non-market. This device is not for those who have truly moved into the “post-PC era” and are ok using just a tablet for their computing needs. It means they either don’t need programs that need a “computer”, or they have decent alternatives available in the tablet’s app marketplace to accomplish all their computing on the tablet. For such a market (many of the tech writers may be in this category, since most of their work is writing and with decent keyboard attachments, they can somehow make it work), a tablet like the iPad with a much lower cost and a much better battery life may easily be a better choice than the Surface Pro.

Surface Pro is also not for those who don’t mind carrying two devices around, or having two devices in general. They have a computer, perhaps even an actual desktop PC, where they do all their work. In addition, they have a tablet where they do most of their “play”, and have some sort of connectivity established to their workplace email so they can keep on top of email while they are away from the office. These folks are perfectly ok with two separate devices because they may not be carrying both around much.

There is an important market though, which many/most of the reviewers failed to recognize, either due to ignorance or oversight. The typical office worker. Millions of employees around the world are handed a laptop when they join a company. Earlier, it used to be dull Windows PCs from a single supplier. Nowadays the choice has expanded to include Macs as well. However, many of these office workers also carry tablets around the office because they don’t want to or they don’t need to carry their PCs around to conference rooms and to meetings. These folks will absolutely love the Surface Pro (especially the ones who did not choose a Mac :-)).

For the office worker, the Surface Pro provides a powerful PC for all they do at their desk, but instead of leaving the PC at the desk and carrying a separate tablet to meetings, or to use at home for “play”, they can have the same device for both those purposes. Since the “work PC” is normally plugged in, the lower battery life of Surface Pro compared to the iPad would not be a big factor. Also, since the device won’t be used purely as a tablet, the slightly higher weight compared to most tablets would also not be a concern.

On the other hand, having one device instead of two would be a benefit in favor of the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro would weigh less than the combined weight of a PC and a tablet, and because it is one machine, the office worker would not need to keep shuttling files between the two devices with or without the cloud. Also, there would be no issues about apps and application compatibility and maintaining document fidelity. All these are important considerations for many, many employees around the world.  Needless to say, there were many on the Surface Pro team’s Reddit Ask Me Anything thread who claimed that they would be getting a Surface Pro (or their company is testing the device for mass deployment, or as one person said, it would be great to load Linux and use it!).

From the CIO’s perspective, the Surface Pro offers an ideal solution to the BYOD movement. Since it runs Windows, it is a highly manageable device, and it would work with all the existing management infrastructure. The CIO gets to sleep at night, and the employees get something that is thin, light and works for work and works for play.

There may be other scenarios too, where the Surface Pro may work quite well, but I focused mostly on the biggest piece of the pie, the enterprise worker.

What’s your take? Let me know in the comments!



5 Reasons to BYOD to Work

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the new frontier for companies, who after outsourcing low-level and non-core business activities elsewhere, moved to outsourcing their office hardware to their employees. The productivity gains of mobile working using BYOD from any place, provides a practical solution to the more tech-savvy employees who put in more hours of work as a result.

Reason 1: Save costs

The costs borne by the employee are not limited to the device cost, but also extend to the cost of the data plan and voice services. These costs are substantial when the company takes care of it. However, given the growing number of unlimited data and voice calling plans, a more cost-friendly BYOD culture can be implemented. Using new innovations like virtualization, companies can extend their services to their employee’s smartphones as well. For example, DaaS (Desktop as a Service) provides an employee access to their desktop virtually on their personal hand-held device.

Reasons 2: No one minds

The best part of it for companies is that employees are not complaining. In fact, think about the times you reply to mails from your personal BlackBerry using your data plan. You don’t mind because of the convenience it brings you. Perhaps our digital addiction has an added advantage for the corporate here. In addition, wouldn’t you prefer using your ultra-amazing Mac over the IT-department issued laptop? A report by Good Technology State states that half of those surveyed for a BYOD paper match a recent Forrester report finding.

“More than half of US information workers pay for their smartphones and monthly plans, and three‐quarters pick the smartphone they want rather than accept IT’s choice.”

Reason 3: Better devices

The advantages are not limited to just costs. The employee’s device would also be more cutting edge as they would have invested considerable thought and research into their decision to buy that device. With the economic down turn looking to take more time to move into recovery mode,  the motivation for companies to start using BYOD has just begun.

Reason 4: Easy on-boarding

The employee will not have to spend time getting used to a new device and environment. The IT department is also spared time and expense carting equipment all over the work place. After the network connection and  credentials are provided, the employee should be ready to hit the ground running. In addition, companies have started using MDM (Mobile Device Management) to manage governance and privacy of data.

Reason 5: Era of Tablets and Smartphones

The era of tablets and smartphones has just begun. As they permeate into our personal lives stronger than ever, we can be certain that it is just a matter of time before they become fixtures at work as well. They might actually be the precipice of the BYOD culture going main stream.