Surface vs. UltraBooks

on June 26, 2012

Last week I pointed out the competitive dilemma for OEMs when it comes to Surface. A key point in my mind is how tablets are becoming the next generation computers for the mass market. What I pointed out in my column about notebooks becoming history is that the notebook will remain relevant but it will do so for only a segment of the market rather than the market as a whole, which has historically been the case.

When we started doing consumer research with the late adopters (anyone not an early adopter) we started realizing that for a large majority of consumers a notebook was overkill with respect to what they did with the product on a daily basis. We discovered that many consumers purchased notebooks due to their convenience around portability more than anything else. It is this fundamental point which leads me to be convinced of the tablet form factor. This is also why the tablet + desktop solution becomes even more interesting.

Further Reading: Notebooks are the Past, Tablets are the Future

With that context in mind, I am beginning to wonder if Microsoft launching their own line of tablets hurts the OEMs in a much more important area than just competing with them –namely with their notebook products. If this industry is headed in the direction I think then more interest may be given to Surface like products, by the masses, than notebooks in 2013 particularly. I am wondering if by launching Surface Microsoft has not just potentially hurt interest in their partners notebooks over the short term.

If what we write here on our site as well as feedback I have received from many media outlets is an indication of market interest, then what I am proposing would be on track. Our content on tablets and recently Surface far exceeds the amount of reads than we write about notebooks and UltraBooks in particular. I have heard similar things from other media that tablet content does better than notebook content in terms of interest.

Intel is trying to inject life into the notebook category with their UltraBook campaign and Microsoft has just injected life into tablets built for Windows 8. Surface’s form factor is different enough from what most consumers are used to with a notebook that I believe there will be serious consideration for it by anyone who is in the market for Windows notebook. Time will tell how many will buy surface but I believe it matches up with enough trends we are seeing to at least generate interest.

However, if there is enough interest, Surface may very well impact notebook sales for Microsoft partners which will hurt OEMs more in the short term than Microsoft competing with them in a segment. In this case Surface is more disruptive to OEMs notebook strategy than their tablet strategy.

Of course another scenario could be that Surface plays the spoiler for both Win 8 tablets and Windows notebook. It may be that the wide array of differences in the Windows 8 ecosystem may be confusing for customers who then turn and consider the Apple ecosystem. In fact 2013 will be a very interesting year because the feedback we are getting from both tablet and notebook intenders will heavily evaluate both ecosystems before making a decision. Consumers will choose with their wallet and perhaps more importantly with their loyalty and it will make 2013 and fascinating year.