The Microsoft Surface Is A Yachting Cap, Not A Yacht

Following Microsoft’s Earnings, a lot of people started talking about how “successful” the Surface 2-in-1 computer was becoming. That reminded me of the following anecdote:

    Tristan Bernard (1866–1947), was a French dramatist and novelist.

    A friend saw Tristan Bernard on the promenade at Deauville wearing a jaunty new yachting cap. When he remarked on it, Bernard replied that he had just bought it with his winnings from the previous night’s play at the casino. The friend congratulated him.

    “Ah,” said Bernard, “but what I lost would have bought me the yacht.” ((Excerpt From: Andre Bernard. “Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.” iBooks.

When we find ourselves tempted to congratulate Microsoft on the success of its Surface 2-in-1, let us remember that it is but a yachting cap, not a yacht.

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John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

14 thoughts on “The Microsoft Surface Is A Yachting Cap, Not A Yacht”

  1. We need to see how this plays out, but from a profit point of view, you’re currently correct.
    Since none of those profits are coming my way (I’m a contributor), my SP3 is the yacht, and any tablet (iOS or Android, including mine) are a cap. 🙂

  2. I’m sure not-quite-schadenfreude seems appropriate on the surface (sorry). Deep down though, the Surface is neither a yacht nor a cap (nor a bird, nor a plane, nor Superman), it’s a trial balloon, and MS are kind of proving that they’re able to do nice hardware on top of a nice-ish OS (in spite of that OS being VERY encumbered by backwards compatibility and non-updating devs), and to find customers for the resulting device. On the 3rd try, after blowing a few billions, but still, they’ve managed to persevere (unlike for Metro) and not drop the ball (unlike for xbox and Metro), so it seems that when survival’s at stake, some Microsofties can think of customers over managers for a stretch of several months. Which at this stage of the game is unexpected, but encouraging.
    I’m extremelly curious to see if MS will widen their efforts, to which formats (laptop, desptops…), and markets (consumer or corp)

    1. I agree that Microsoft is doing some great hardware. It has always been my contention that they should not be doing hardware — that hardware is a strategic mistake. However, Microsoft seems bound and determined to pursue their own hardware, even after the CEO switch from Ballmer to Nadella.

      1. I really don’t know.
        OEMs bring choice for disparate needs (rugged, cheap, flashy, modular…), sourcing security, and the ability to single-shop for hardware and software and service (if not OS); but OEMs seem to have a knack for racing to the bottom: “this $2k model does the same things, but better, then this $0.5k model -and it looks better and is lighter too-” is a harder sell than “shell out $2k or you’re not getting nothing” (barbarism intentional). That leaves very little room at the high end, maybe Microsoft’s imprimatur (and promise of better service ?) is what’s needed to resurrect the premium Windows segment.
        This is even worse in the consumer market, where design is more important.
        The only OEMs that seem to have found a distinctive design voice are Nokia, Lenovo, and Sony… well, only Lenovo lives on to enjoy their voice, and it is “nice workaday”, not “premium” the way Sony’s was.
        Edit: I’m a bit surprised that MS are not doing a Nexus, and involving OEMs in their MS-branded lines. I’d have thought MS would pamper their OEMs even more than Google, both for cultural and strategic reasons.

      2. Well, at least their marketing is hitting the right notes, finally. My small sampling of SP3 owners say they are using it mostly as a laptop replacement, almost no tablet use because few are writing their software to take advantage of the touch interface. That may change over time and if it does no doubt we will see ads pitting the SP3 against the iPad. Until then to call it a 2-in-1 is being very generous.

        I agree with obarthelemy below that using the Google/Nexus model would have made more sense. Yet, here we are.


        1. “My small sampling of SP3 owners say they are using it mostly as a laptop replacement,…”

          Not only your small sampling but mine as well.

        1. Well, that pretty much is the only competition they have in hardware. They make more from Android than most Android OEMs and probably more than Google (and currently probably more than they make from their own mobile brand). No need to compete against Android. They can’t target the rest of the non-Apple hardware space without targeting partners. So Apple is all they have left to position against. Who else? Blackberry?


          1. How can Microsoft made more money on Android than Google.

            do you take into account the Play store, YouTube, Music and all the data that make their Ads more effective

          2. Last I read, Microsoft makes $2billion a year from Android from patents. Since e don’t ever really get a breakout of what Google makes from Android in any fashion, my comment about them was more tongue in cheek. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the case. The bulk of Google’s revenue still is from PC search.


          3. i don’t think you can really compare revenue from both company that way since Android provide Data that make Desktop Add more effective, also those who use android are also more likely to use the web more.

          4. Considering my point wasn’t about comparing the revenue (that was just an added bonus) but more about who there is for MS to position the SP3 against. Apple hardware is all there is.


          5. Microsoft will do better providing the best integrated Hardware and solution to the enterprise and compete with Apple in my opinion

            it’s hard to see them compete with Google Free service without advertising similar to Google and Facebook

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