Surface debacle shows Microsoft still struggling to keep it simple

Microsoft Surface Failure Analysis

One of the reasons that Apple has been so successful has been its obsession with keeping its products as simple as possible so that computing novices have no problems with using them right out of the box. Microsoft has long understood that this has been a key part of Apple’s appeal, but as The New York Times’ Nick Bilton notes, the company is still having trouble resisting the urge to overwhelm consumers with specifications and features that they don’t immediately understand. The poster boy for this approach, writes Bilton, is the Surface tablet, which the company confusingly marketed with two different operating systems: Windows 8 and Windows RT.

“Just thinking about the Microsoft Surface tablets is a head-scratcher,” Bilton says. “The company offered two products, the Surface RT and the Surface Pro. One came with a pen. They both had USB ports, microSDXC card slots, HD video ports, flip-back stands, different screen resolutions and two types of Windows software. If all that confused you, you are not alone. While the technologically savvy most likely lapped up those features, average consumers did not.”

What it all boils down to, says Bilton, is that Microsoft is still built around selling products to IT departments that covet the latest specs and the newest features. If it wants to succeed in the consumer market, however, it may need to tell a simpler story.

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