It looks like the worm has turned — the worm in the Apple, that is. Pathetic attempt at clever word-play aside, has anyone else noticed that Microsoft is trying to become more Apple-like? From its Surface RT pricing, to its "boutique" marketing strategy for said tablet, can Microsoft effectively realign its brand with that of the Cupertino giant?
Microsoft Surface RT for $499Last week the world was given its first look at the pricing structure of Microsoft's Windows Surface RT tablet. We also learned that when Steve Ballmer said that the tablet would be priced in line with the competition, he meant that Surface RT would mimic the pricing tiers of Apple's iPad. An interesting strategy indeed, because there are plenty of cheaper tablets on the market that are actually in competition with the Surface RT. But that's not the point. The point is that Microsoft will be selling their Windows Surface RT tablets for a base price of $499, in step with Apple's iPad.
Is the Microsoft tablet going to be as popular and profitable as the iPad? Microsoft can only hope so. But a kink in the manufacturer's plans will likely come in the form of the iPad 2, which is still available for $399. Sure, the iPad 2 is last year's model, and the specs on the Surface are way better, but how many consumers look past the price point when it comes to buying non-essential electronics?
The Microsoft Store as the New Apple Store
And speaking of profits, it has come to light that Microsoft intends to sell its new tablet only in their stores, both online and brick-and-mortar. Sounds very Apple-esque, eh? The big difference, though, is that in addition to its 31 current Microsoft Stores, the company plans on opening an additional 32 "pop-up" stores for the holiday season. (Combined, that's a whopping 62 locations in which to buy the RT tablet!) However, much like the Surface RT's color scheme, pop-up stores are not something Apple would indulge in.
Apples to Apples, Discounts to DiscountsWhat will Microsoft's restrictive sales methods mean to the consumer? If we compare the new Windows Surface RT to the original iPad, which was at first carried by Apple only, the outlook for discounts is not good. The original iPad didn't see a discount until seven months after its release, and even then, it was a mere 5% off. All in all, it's likely that we'll see very similar discounts on the Surface RT, meaning: None at all. With Microsoft controlling the supply and boutiquing the product, they're unlikely to lower the price — at least, not at first. If sales are weak, don't be surprised to see the Surface RT price come down marginally.
Despite a lack of initial deals, consumers might still be able to obtain some plush perks when ordering. The Microsoft Store is particularly gift card-happy, and several deals we list from the Microsoft Store come bundled with an gift credit. We anticipate seeing similar credits bundled with Windows Surface RT tablets too, which will be particularly valuable, given the utility of the device; tablets are without apps and media to start, and a gift card could cover that initial onslaught of downloads. Plus, the Surface RT tablet will only be able to obtain apps through Microsoft's App Store, so that bundled $50 eGift could easily translate into 50 free apps.
Consumer approval of the Surface RT tablet will likely confirm or destroy Microsoft's marketing, branding, and pricing strategy. So what do you think? Is this a good direction for Microsoft to head in, to "boutique" their flagship products and become more Apple-like? Or is this just going to frustrate and confuse consumers who are used to getting their Windows products any-old-place? Sound off in the comments below.