Get real, Microsoft: If the Surface Pro is a laptop, bundle it with a Type Cover – PCWorld
If Microsoft sold cars like itâs trying to sell its Surface Pro (2017), it would charge extra for wheelsâand would be laughed out of the market. But Microsoftâs using this tactic to sell its new Windows tablet as a âlaptop,â and weâre still trying to figure out why.
Microsoftâs Surface Pro is clearly a Windows tablet, just like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4. Nevertheless, devices chief Panos Panay calls it a âlaptopâ no fewer than three times in his blog post, including the very first sentence. No âlaptopâ or notebook PC forgoes a keyboard, however, as the Surface Pro does. Long-time Surface fans may know that Microsoft charges $129 to $159 more for that accessory, but does the average buyer get it? Thatâs where the confusion starts.
In fact, the whole thing smells faintly of a bait-and-switch. Consider the hero image on Microsoftâs Store page. Keyboard? Check. Mouse? Check. Pen? Check. Yet none of these peripherals are included with the Surface Pro, and purchasing all of them would cost you $340 more. In fact, three out of the four images associated with the Surface Pro include peripherals that are sold separately.
Thereâs an easy answer to this problem: Bundle the Type Cover with the Surface Proâsomething that should have been done long ago.
Overselling the product
Microsoftâs insistence that the keyboard-less Surface Pro is a laptop brings to mind the âreality distortion fieldâ that Appleâs former CEO, Steve Jobs, famously created around himself. Jobs used the sheer force of his personality to transform aluminum, plastic and glass into some of the most coveted objects in the world. Microsoft’s Panay, too, is blessed with the Jobs gift of showmanship, vividly describing why customers would want to shell out thousands of dollars for category-defining products.
In virtually every case, heâs succeeded: ushering in a new category of Windows tablets with the Surface Pro; designing a massive collaboration tool with the Surface Hub; and redefining the creative workspace and all-in-one PC with the Surface Studio.Â This time, though, he overshot.Â
The reason appears to be marketing. According to Moor Insights analyst Patrick Moorhead, Microsoft wants to distance the Surface Pro from the struggling Windows tablet category. Aligning it with PCs wouldn’t have seemed much better when that market was in free-fall, but things have changed. IDC reported a slight uptick in PC sales during the first quarter, and HP saw sales growth in its PC and printer businesses. PCs have more life in them than they have in yearsâthanks, in part,Â to Microsoft.
Nevertheless, calling the Surface Pro a âlaptopâ makes no sense. Yesterday, I used my Surface Pro 4 to take notes on a conference call, and Iâm typing this story on a Surface Book. On a desk, typing on the Surface Pro 4 feels similar to typing on the Surface Book. On a lap, the differences in âlapabilityâ are stark. As well-designed as the Surface Pro 4âs kickstand is, it still digs into your thighs, and it simply doesnât feel quite as stable as the Surface Book or any other traditional notebook does.
A question of semantics? Not this time
However you feel about Microsoft’s wording, though, you canât deny that consumers are fed up with being told that the quoted price isnât what theyâll actually pay. Thatâs why the government requires airlines to fold fees and other costs into airline prices, and why T-Mobile does the same for its cellular plans.
If you buy the cheapest $799 Core m3 Surface Pro, youâll still have to pay an additional $129 to $159 for a Type Cover keyboard to make it into a âlaptop.â Thatâs almost a 20-percent upcharge.Â
Calling the Surface Pro a âlaptopâ also preys upon the idea consumers have of a single, unified device, with a keyboard attached to a display. While the Surface Proâs âwhatâs in the boxâ section doesnât mention a Type Cover, Microsoftâs site doesn’t mention anywhere that the pen, Type Cover, and Surface Mouse are sold separately. Meanwhile, advertising that says âlaptop,â with imagery that suggests that the tablet, keyboard, pen and mouse come bundled together, is confusing, if not deceptive.Â
Â Regardless of whether Microsoft continues to refer to the Surface Pro (2017) as a âlaptop,â the company should encourage buyers to start thinking of buying at least a Type Cover, and perhaps also the Surface Pen, in a single purchase. Virtually every PC supplierâs Web site already does this, often with a price that dynamically updates as you go. Microsoft rather weakly suggests that a Type Cover is âfrequently bought togetherâ with a Surface Pro, and buries that suggestion halfway down the page. Thatâs not good enough.
Microsoft says it chose not to bundle a Type Cover and other accessories, so that customers can make their own decisions.Â âWe appreciate that our customers value choice,â the company said in a statement. âAs we expand our Type Cover and pen options, we want to give customers the option to select the best option for them.â
Iâm not sure I buy that response. Itâs past time for Microsoft to sell the Surface Pro tablet and Type Cover in a single bundle, and it makes even more sense to do so when Microsoft is calling the new Surface Pro a âlaptop.â The price for the bundle will be higher, but Iâm comfortable with Microsoft selling its Surface lineup as premium products, with a premium price tag. It’s this wishy-washy approach that feels cheap.