The Microsoft Surface has been a massive success. Although it might not have the biggest sales volumes, it defined the desktop-tablet computer product category and put the company on the map as a maker of premium hardware. But, at the same time, Apple's iPad has remained the leader in the 9-inch tablet space. That's set to change with a smaller, low cost Surface expected later this year.
A Bloomberg report says Microsoft will be making a US$400 tablet that will look similar to the iPad with a 10-inch display and rounded corners. Unlike the current Surface portables, it will have USB-C ports for external connectivity and charging. It's expected to run on Intel silicon.
One of the barometers I use to understand what devices people are using is to observe what devices people are using on planes and in airport lounges. In those places, I see a lot of Surface Pro devices and other similar tablets. That's a big shift from a couple of years ago when I'd see a lot more Macs.
What I don't see are a lot of people using iPads for work or business - Microsoft's sweet sport when it comes to computer hardware. Similarly, my observations in schools, particularly secondary and beyond, is that iPads are no longer the flavour of the month with Surface Pro and similar devices also favoured.
That begs the question - why would Microsoft bother? Perhaps, given they have done all the hard technical work in designing the larger Surface Pro, they figure the effort to add another option to their range is a relatively low cost and low risk. It will likely run one of the current versions of Windows 10 so there's so special software to develop and the company has their hardware supply chain in order.
So, it looks like a relatively easy addition for the company to add and it will give them another entry point by engaging customers at a lower price point.
My feeling is this is part of a longer-term strategy to create life-long customers. If they can get customers using and liking their products earlier by offering a low cost device that kids can get their hands on then it potentially creates a lifelong association.